Hormones vs Hormonal Birth Control - some truth bombs!
I had to smile the other day, when my patient told me how her life changed for the better after her Mirena (hormonal IUD) was taken out. Since she had the Mirena in, her periods were heavy, she was suffering with agitation, overwhelm and episodes of depression. She is the kindest, sweetest and happy girl who just wasn’t feeling herself. She was at her wits end when she marched up to her gynaecologist’s office and demanded she take out her Mirena. The gyno gave her 2 weeks to think it through and consider taking anti-depressants for 2 weeks during the stressful times and 2 weeks off (I got this special offer too, politely denied it!!). She had already decided this wasn’t for her and in her cute rage said. “I’m not leaving your office till you take this thing out”.
Love it, and big high fives, after 4 weeks she was back to her gorgeous self. Her periods weren’t heavy anymore and is on the road to self-care town.
Why do Women take Hormonal Birth Control?
Millions of women take hormonal birth control for hormonal imbalances and for contraception. These can be in the form of pills, IUD (intrauterine device - coil), injection, or an implant. Birth control pills block ovulation and thicken the cervical mucus so that sperm have a lower chance of meeting up with an egg. They contain synthetic forms of oestrogen and progesterone. Synthetic progestins are included and these are similar to hormone progesterone however may have the opposite effect of natural progesterone. These may include inflammation, depressed moods, increase the risk of blood clots by 7 times, and hair loss. According to Lara Briden ND, the pill does not regulate hormones, it switches them off.
The Mirena IUD is a little bit different as it may not switch off ovulation, can reduce heavy bleeding, pain however can still come with it's side effects, as we saw in my client.
What’s the point of having a period?
When you have regular periods, this is a sign of good health. According to American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, a regular period is a vital sign of health. More importantly for period health is ovulation, where you can use the magic of your female hormones for greater good. If you ovulate then you are making oestrogen and progesterone, these are amazing for fertility, but for overall health. Let’s dive deeper into these lovely hormones.
Eostrogen and progesterone in harmony are besties. Oestrogen is your happy, outgoing hormone that boosts your moods and self-confidence. The type of oestrogen is oestrodial (we have 3 types) and it improves your own body’s ability to release serotonin (happy vibes), oxytocin (love eyes), and dopamine (pleasure switch). Progesterone is released after ovulation so usually just after mid cycle and this hormone is responsible for being chilled out. Progesterone calms you down and helps you sleep, by releasing GABA a calming neurotransmitter. (You want this).
Have you ever noticed extra bloating the week before your period? As we age, after 35 years it is more difficult to produce progesterone. Often symptoms of higher oestrogen levels can push lower levels of progesterone down. If we have too much oestrogen we can feel wound up and tight and even feel it in out digestive system. If are bowels are wound up, then chances are we are not absorbing nutrients, and not moving our bowels as easily as the first part of our cycle.
Kickstarts your Metabolism
When in balance these hormones help you stay at your optimum weight. Oestrogen helps to keep your blood sugar stable, by helping insulin move into cells for energy and easier carbohydrate breakdown (a good thing for weight), is more of an appetite suppressant. Progesterone warms you up and supports your thyroid hormones, which is very supportive for a healthy metabolism. Ever noticed you are hungrier the lead up to your period? That is progesterone asking for more nutrients, and is clever as your metabolic rate is increased so you can burn more weight, while eating more healthy food.
Where has my libido gone?
Most common reason for going on the pill is because you are madly in love and use it for contraception. However down the track, people have commented that they don’t find any attraction to their partner anymore, and don’t understand what is going on with their libido. Unfortunately, the pill switches off testosterone the hormone essential for libido, yes us ladies need this hormone in small doses for libido, energy, and happy mood. While the pill turns off testosterone and increases SHBG sex hormone binding globulin a protein that binds testosterone. Women had around 4 times higher SHBG on the pill and can last 6 months after stopping it. Which is often when women report acne, hair thinning, and male pattern hair growth. Luckily most patients have reported their libido back to normal and the electric attraction to their partner back.
Coming off the pill.
Most common experience is feeling better after stopping birth control. Your moods lift, women have said that their emotions come back to life and feel happier and in control. More energy and libido comes back to town. However there are things to watch out for when stopping the pill. Post pill acne, PMS or Amenorrhea (lack of periods).
Post Pill Acne
The pill stops sebum production the oil in your skin. So this is great for acne sufferers and is why some people take the pill. However once you stop taking the pill, your body needs to start making sebum again and can go into overdrive.
There is even more chance of acne as your ovaries start waking up again and producing and abundance of androgens responsible for acne. Luckily this is usually temporary once your cycle gets back into action.
You may notice acne worsen around 6 months after stopping the pill. If you plan to stop birth control, then chat about this with myself in a Naturopathy consultation so we can start treating for this a few months before. Makes for a much smoother transition.
When I stopped taking the pill in my 20's I had horrendous symptoms. I gained over 10kgs, acne all over my jawline, and anxiety was through the roof, and hadn't had my period in 9 months. It was after I seeked out a Naturopath and Acupuncturist, that my periods came back, and I started to manage my post pill PCOS symptoms.
Has this happened to you? I would love to hear your hormonal birth control story.
If you are considering to come off birth control or you have been told that the only option is hormonal birth control for painful periods, endometriosis, or heavy bleeding, then know that there is other help out there for you. Especially during perimenopause when hormones can go on a rollercoaster of emotions.
If you are seeking help with hormones and you would prefer a more natural approach, then please book in for a one on one Naturopathic consultation on the link below.