Mindful Living

All About Birth Control

Written By: Kripa Jalan

All About Birth Control

Oral contraceptives were a game-changer for women when they first came out over half a century ago. Beyond the sweeping social, educational, and economic improvements, they essentially put women in the driver’s seat, as far as birth control was concerned. 

But over the years, we’ve come to realize that there’s no such thing as a free ride. Just like with most prescription medications, there are risks of side effects, both major and minor.

I want to be clear. There’s no judgment from me, if you’re currently on the pill, are considering taking it, or have done so in the past. I strongly believe all women, should have access to all forms of birth control. The purpose of this article is solely to provide you with pertinent information and leave you to decide what’s best for your body or possibly stimulate a new conversation with your doctor.

Let’s dig in.

What are birth control pills?

A typical birth control pill contains a combination of synthetic estrogen and progesterone. In certain cases, progesterone-only versions are available. So, birth control pills are essentially hormones. Over the years, they’ve evolved to contain lower doses of hormones – making them equally effective, but with fewer serious side effects. 

How do they work? They inhibit ovulation i.e. stop the ovaries from releasing eggs into the fallopian tubes each month. The good news is that when taken correctly (no missed doses,) they are extremely effective at preventing pregnancy.

The not-so-good news? They alter your physiology in a very powerful way. Think about it – they chemically alter one of the principal functions in your body. So, although birth control pills are excellent forms of contraception, there are definitely some things to think about health-wise before simply getting the prescription and living with the consequences.

Who are they for?

These hormonal prescriptions aren’t always used exclusively to prevent unwanted pregnancy. In fact, more often than not you see teenage girls being placed on birth control hormones to help regulate menstruation, manage painful periods, endometriosis, or even PCOS. Heck, some are placed on the pill to help control acne!

What are the benefits?

Besides being an effective form of birth control – other potential advantages include lighter, less painful, or more regular periods and even less acne (with particular forms.)

What are the side effects?

But, you’ve probably also heard that the pill can make you gain weight or cause you to be “moody.”

As we always say, bodies are unique. For every “birth control ruined my life” story there’s a “the pill saved my life” one. So, other people’s experiences may not be like yours.

But typically, here are a few of the common side effects:

  • Nausea
  • Spotting
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Breast tenderness
  • Abdominal cramps and bloating
  • Water retention
  • Heavy bleeding or missed period
  • Headaches
  • Migraines
  • Weight gain
  • Insulin resistance
  • Blurred vision or near-sightedness

While some are temporary and last just a few months, others may deserve a little more attention:

  • Yeast infections
  • Digestive problems
  • Depression
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Inflammation
  • Blood clots
  • Decreased sex drive

Final thoughts....

For some women, there are individual and personal reasons that make birth control pills the best choice of birth control for them. But the above information makes it clear that the decision to start or continue using birth control pills for non-contraceptive reasons is a serious one with many potential short and long-term effects. 

I hope this information not only keeps you in the driver’s seat for contraception but also helps you know where you are going.

If you need more assistance in understanding your symptoms or overcoming them, we've got you covered!

Important Note: This article is for educational purposes only. It is not to be used as a substitute for actual medical advice – nor does it intend to diagnose you or suggest a course of treatment. If you are currently on the pill, do not alter your dosage / stop the medication on your own terms. Please consult with a medical practitioner, before altering your usage.