The Truth About Birth Control Pills and Hormones

Millions of women all over the world use oral contraceptive pills, also known as birth control pills (BCP).

In this article, we will refer to them as BCP’s for short. BCP’s are most often used to prevent pregnancy or to reduce the complications that go along with menstruation such as PMS, cramping, pain, heavy flow, etc.

Many people have misconceptions on how BCP’s affect the body and brain and how they influence overall health:

How BCP’s Work Inside the Body

1. Most are made with synthetic progesterone and estrogen.
2. The synthetic hormones enter the brain.
3. They shut down hormones called gonadotropins, which are responsible for your menstrual cycle.
4. By interfering with these gonadotropins, ovulation is prevented and menstrual irregularities can improve.

In order to feel happy, healthy and feeling overall great it requires having balanced hormones. Here is some important information to note about the type of hormones:

Natural hormones bind to specific receptors and keep your body in balance:
• Testosterone binds to the testosterone receptor and progesterone binds to the progesterone receptor
• There is no cross-reactivity.

Synthetic progesterone (progestins) are much different on the body:
• Progestins do not limit binding with just the progesterone receptor, but many other receptors as well.
• When a synthetic hormone binds to the wrong receptor, that receptor may convey inaccurate signals, which throws the body off balance.
• This is why BCP’s cause so many hormone imbalances and side effects.

Note: Not all women will have these problems, but for those that do side effects can be quite miserable.

Symptoms of Hormone Imbalance

Many women have no idea that their BCP’s are causing the following issues:
• Fatigue
• Depression
• Low libido
• Insomnia
• Anxiety
• Weight gain

How to Find Out if BCP’s Are Causing You Problems

Simple standard blood tests will rarely detect this problem, so I order a 24-hour urine hormone collection which is the gold standard for looking at all the hormones and their metabolic byproducts.

Are You Ready To Stop Taking BCP’s?

Stopping the birth control pills raises its’ own set of problems, namely whatever reason you started them will still need to be addressed.

Contraceptive Purposes: There are non-synthetic, non-hormone options available which can be discussed with your gynecologist.

Menstrual Irregularities: Natural progesterone can be quite effective – without any of the side effects from the synthetic progestin in BCP’s.

How To Get Back Into Hormonal Balance

If you have been on BCP’s for many years:
• It can take several months for the natural hormone levels to balance.
• This is due to the chronic suppression of your own hormone production.
• It is often helpful to supplement hormones during this recovery period.

If you must stay on the pill for any particular reason:
• Consider asking your personal care physician about using natural progesterone and testosterone to improve quality of life issues (while taking BCP’s).

At Amen Clinics, we can help you regain balance of your hormones and feel yourself once again. We offer hormone replacement therapy as part of our Integrative Medicine program that combines conventional medicine with complementary and alternative therapies. If you suffer from hormone imbalance due to BCP’s, connect with us online or call 888-288-9834 today.

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  1. Spot on with this write-up, I absolutely feel this site needs far more attention. I’ll probably be returning to read through
    more, thanks for the information!

    • As a Nutrition and Wellness Coach, I find this to be the most confusing topic for my clients. Foods are also related. Hormonal imbalances are related to many issues with mood and fatigue. How can someone get these hormone tests?
      I would love to learn more from Dr. Amen as he is my trusted “go-to” doctor! Kim Porcelli

    • So says:

      My transgender teen son takes depoprovera to halt menses. He has gained a huge amount of weight and is now sluggish and depressed. Can natural progesterone work for this purpose?? Are there any suppliments or any other way to combat the unwanted side effects?

      • Hugh says:

        Bioidentical progesterone would certainly be better than provera, but I’d have thought the best hormone replacement for a trans man would be testosterone. Depo Provera is nasty stuff, ignorant doctors sometimes give it to trans women, where it has a reputation for causing severe depression and suicides. In our HRT group, some of us have developed a theory that provera (and other progestins) cause depression and other adverse psychological effects by depleting neurosteroids (neurosteroids are steroid hormones produced in the brain, that have anti-anxiolytic, anti-seizure and antidepressant effects, stimulate neurogenesis, and just generally do stuff that keeps your brain and nervous system in good shape). Progestins are known to interfere with some of the key enzymes involved in neurosteroid synthesis (for instance 5 alpha reductase). Also, progesterone itself acts as a raw material from which one of the most important neurosteroids, allopregnanolone, is made. By mimicking the action of progesterone, progestins might be deceiving the body into thinking there’s more progesterone present than their actually is, causing it to downregulate progesterone production and leading to further depletion of allopregnanolone.

        Another effect of progestins is that they block the release of gonadotropins (LH and FSH), which has the effect of shutting down your sex hormone production (this is why progestins are often used as chemical castration agents for sex offenders). Some of the effects of sex hormone deficiency include weight gain, depression, and lack of energy.

  2. pcombs says:

    Glad to see Amen Clinics addresses the role hormones play in mood, memory, anxiety etc. Menopausal women are said to have ADHD symptoms. Is more than just a coincidence? I hope you are looking into this.

    • Alana says:

      Absolutely I feel that I have developed ADHD and many other mood and memory issues as I go through menopause. Would love to get more solid reliable information on how best to deal with this situation for the long term.

  3. Rhea says:

    Is it expensive? Will my insurance cover any of the hormone replacement?

  4. Robbie says:

    Thank you for covering this topic, as hormone imbalances are the origin of many neurochemical imbalances, especially in women. It would be very helpful if you further explored (in detail)this topic to include the major hormones that affect cognitive and emotional wellbeing. For example, Estrogen gets a bad rap from so many health publications yet it influences many biological processes that are essential to cognitive, emotional,& personality stability. (and the liver’s ability to process it) It is the Xenoestrogens in our environment that are wreaking havoc. Much of the research out there does not differentiate natural vs. bioidentical as you did in your article. It is also interesting that the depression rate is statistically higher for women than men… looking forward to further articles!

  5. Susan Davila says:

    What do you recommend for my daughter (19 years old) who suffers from moderate to severe cramps each month, PMS symptoms like irritability, mild depression/sadness, and just feeling miserable for about a week or more….?

  6. Teresa says:

    Most Synthetic BCP’s are also classified as Class 1 carcinogens by FDA … wish that was a required disclosure before I polluted my body for 20 years …

  7. Ellen says:

    Great article. Women need to know that birth control pills do not “regulate” anything- they essentially turn off a cycle when actually what a woman needs is smart medical care to help figure out the underlying reasons her hormones are imbalanced to begin with.

  8. Miae lee says:

    Is hrt that you are using same as other clinics that are using as bcp?

  9. Miae lee says:

    I mean bio identical hormon. Not bcp

  10. margaret Lehnert says:

    What about post menopause women ? How to balance hormones after 50 and increase libido ?

  11. cheryl ku says:

    Please help with more of woman’s hormonal balancing issues if possible in the future, I do not think that people are aware that your clinic even offers this as an option.
    It is especially important for woman with PMS.induced mood & depression issues. as well as pre and Menopausal issues….Even after a woman gives birth too.

    I feel that after having a Thyroid Crisis-Hashymotos Thyroidosis, at age 41, I could have benefited from this sort of complementary Interventional Medicine…I had night sweats so bad, insomnia/Low Cortisol in AM/Afternoon hrs, and now I have at 57 going on my second hip replacement soon….My mother also has had the same progression too. I have had adrenal fatigue for years as well, and supplement it with a brand of herbs…Your formulas have helped a great deal with stress, anxiety, and insomnia for me. I only wish I could have had the Natro-pathic advice from your clinic at the time I was perimenopausal. Thanks Cheryl

  12. blend says:

    Ꮶeeр this going please, great job!

  13. Emma says:

    Hi.I just wanna know if what contraceptive pill is the very best and effective one? Then after a month of taking it i will get pregnant easily?

  14. Fatima says:

    Great information

  15. Blue says:

    I’ve been taking Levora for years for testosterone-related cystic acne and since it helped only marginally, I went on Norgestimate, and it worked! It dried out my skin, a lot, but I also experienced weight gain and water retention. These side effects only got worse over time so I went off of it after 5 months and back on Levora. It’s been 9 months and these side effects still haven’t gone away. When I wake up in the morning, my stomach is smaller but right after drinking some room temp water, it gets bigger and stays bloated throughout the day no matter what I eat or drink. I tried dandelion pills but they gave me hives, as did hibiscus. I don’t know what else to do at this point. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


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