Updated: Jan 22, 2022
I’m going to tell you something that probably no other woman has ever told you: I wouldn’t trade having a period for anything! Yes, you read that correctly. I don’t dread my cycle, I’m grateful for it-- but I haven't always felt that way. I remember the first time I got on the pill. I was in high school and was experiencing some bothersome symptoms with my cycle, like acne, bloating, and almost 2 weeks of mood swings, anxiety, and depression. I had plenty of friends who were on it “to regulate their cycles,” so without any explanation, my doctor wrote me a script. While on the pill, I experienced cramping, continued moodiness, bloating, and other side effects that I just could not live with. I might as well have not been on it at all, but I was told that sometimes it just takes “finding the right kind of birth control" so I tried again... This time, I started the Depo shot and experienced major side effects, including nonstop bleeding for 3 months, which severely depleted my iron. I took a break for about a year and then I tried NuvaRing, which after several months, also rebelled and caused problems.
I decided then, after three different hormonal contraceptives, that I was ready to throw in the towel-- and I’m thankful to this day that I did!
Hormonal contraceptives have been critically important for the social and economic advancement of women and I fully support having access to them so that each woman is allowed to make that decision for herself, but I also believe they’re a drug that is overprescribed and women are often undereducated on.
Due to stigma on the menstrual cycle, many women take hormonal birth control just because having a period is inconvenient-- when we do this, we treat fertility as a sign of disease instead of a sign of health. Other women take birth control because they’re experiencing hormonal imbalance symptoms and are also told the pill will “regulate their period.” The problem is that hormonal birth control doesn’t regulate your cycle-- it stops it altogether. I never had a birth control deficiency, so why was this being pushed to me?
Hormonal birth control works by dosing your body with synthetic hormones (which are different molecules than the natural hormones your body makes). This stops the communication between your brain (because your cycle really starts in your brain when your hypothalamus causes your pituitary gland to release hormones) and your ovaries, which stops ovulation. Since having a period is a result of ovulation, that means you’re not having a period even if you still have a monthly withdrawal bleed from the changing levels of synthetic hormones.
Interesting fact: When hormonal birth control was first being developed, there was no withdrawal bleed. This was very controversial, especially to the Catholic Church, so doctors started telling women to skip their medication for 5 days. Eventually, because of the controversy, placebo pills and dial packs were invented so that women would feel like they were having a period (or so that their partners would think they were). Even hormonal IUDs and implants change the amount of synthetic hormones released throughout the month the create this mirage.
Hormonal birth control depletes important nutrients from the body, such as zinc, magnesium, folate, and B-vitamins. It also alters the gut microbiome, which plays a big role in your immune system, mood, and metabolism. I know how much I benefit from probiotics and healthy micronutrients, so I don't want to take something that alters and depletes them. There is also a strong relationship between the gut and the brain, and as a woman who has a history of depression, anxiety, and ADHD, and although I still have to manage that, I think that healing my hormones has greatly improved my symptoms. Now that I've addressed the imbalances my body experiences, I actually look forward to each phase of my menstrual cycle! I no longer have a gaurunteed two weeks of mood swings that lead me to feel like a bad partner, an imposter, or like I'm failing.
I love that I feel grounded and reflective during my period, which builds my self-awareness. I can always count of feeling social, energized, and strong during ovulation. The communication centers of my brain are lit up by estrogen and I can confidently express myself. Now that I'm not battling PMS, progesterone also helps me handle fine details... This isn't weakness, it's strength. My cycle makes me a great partner, friend, and businesswoman.
If I were on hormonal birth control, that would suppress the hormones that cause these different phases and I wouldn’t get to enjoy the full benefits of balancing my hormones. I respect any woman's decision, but this has been the best choice for me and so many other women are deciding to get off the pill and take a more holistic approach!
Instead of hormonal contraceptives, I've been using Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) for several years now to prevent pregnancy. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, fewer than 1-5 women out of 100 will get pregnant within the first year of perfect and consistent use. The knowledge that you gain from FAM can also help plan for pregnancy.
I also use the exact program I teach to my clients to balance my hormones, break free from burn out, boost my energy and mood, clear my skin, and end PMS!
My journey off hormonal birth control has allowed me to learn more about my health, improve my mental and emotional well-being, improve my gut health, and understand the underlying causes of my breakouts. Through this process, I learned to have so much empathy and respect for what we go through as women. That's why I became a High-Performance Women's Wellness Coach! I think there is a huge opportunity now for women to deconstruct many of the myths and stigma that has caused us to hate our hormones, and to learn to love and care for our bodies instead.
Hormonal birth control may be an option, but it's not the only option! Many of my clients also have decided that hormonal birth control isn’t for them. With natural hormone balance, you can enjoy all the benefits of your hormones without the side effects of imbalance or synthetic hormones.
Images of Synthetic Estrogen Molecules & Natural Estrogen Molecules: (Panel A are the 3 types of natural estrogen & B is synthetic estrogen, which are what we're paying attention to. Notice the difference in these molecules. B is not the same as A1, A2, or A3. Just to note what the other panels are, panel C shows selective estrogen receptor modulators & D shows cis-and trans-stereoisomers of clomiphene citrate, which is a class of drugs used to induce ovulation-- that is an entirely different topic, but since I don't own this image, I cannot crop the bottoms rows out.)
(Source: ResearchGate Sexual Medicine Reviews)
Images of Synthetic Progesterone Molecule vs. Natural Progesterone Molecule: