If You’re On "Hormonal" Birth Control, Read This.

Photo by  Annie Spratt  on  Unsplash

For millions of women around the world, taking the birth control pill every day is as ordinary as brushing their teeth. They start at a very young age, for all kinds of reasons that don’t necessarily involve contraception, and just stay on it indefinitely.

Too many of these women spend most of their lives on this medication. They withstand unbearable headaches, weight issues, depression, muscle loss, dropping libido, and tons of other ridiculous effects, without a clue that their birth control might actually be causing all of it.

Here are three ABSURD yet little-known facts about being on the birth control pill:

  1. It stops ovulation, an essential process of your body.

  2. It inhibits hormone production (your body no longer makes progesterone and estrogen).

  3. Pill bleeds aren't real periods.

If you’re like most women, you probably have no idea why those things are absurd. The body literacy gap is a real thing.

Thankfully, there are trailblazers like Naturopathic Doctor Lara Briden a.k.a “The Period Revolutionary,” who are leading the change. Her book “Period Repair Manual” is the #1 Best Seller on Amazon’s Obstetrics & Gynecology list, and has changed tons of women’s lives for the better.

Dr. Briden was kind enough to answer many of the questions on our minds, which we’re guessing are on yours as well, so read on.

Why did you begin this revolution?

From a very young age, we’re told that women’s health is a very complicated subject. Women are told to just leave it to the doctors, don’t worry your little head about this, they say. In reality, my decades of work with patients have taught me first hand that women’s bodies are not complicated at all, and that a woman’s period health is a direct extension of her general health.

Why is “hormonal” birth control a problem?

“Hormonal” birth control drugs, don’t contain real hormones, they contain steroids which have hormonal effects, but they aren’t the same thing. Steroid drugs essentially induce chemical menopause, they shut down women’s ovulatory cycles & hormonal systems and therefore switch off the production of real estrogen and progesterone, which have many benefits, not just for making a baby but way beyond that.

Why do we women need ovulation?

Ovulation is the only way women can make hormones. Our ovulatory cycles are monthly deposits into the bank account of health. Every month that we produce estrogen and progesterone translates into long-term benefits, in, for example, mood, brain, bones, or the cardiovascular system. We know that women who have ovulatory cycles (that is women who aren’t on the pill) are at a lower risk of heart disease, dementia, and potentially breast cancer. In fact, research done by Biopsychologist Nicole Peterson at UCLA shows that these drugs may even have the effect of altering the shape of women’s brains.

If men had periods & the only way they could produce their hormones (testosterone) was by a monthly process like ovulation, then we would never hear the end of it, the subject would be a public health priority, so this is fundamentally a feminist issue.

Photo Courtesy of Lara Briden

Photo Courtesy of Lara Briden

You’ve repeatedly stated in your work that pill bleeds aren’t real periods. What do you mean by that?

I define a period as an ovulatory menstrual cycle, the bleed itself is really just the finale of a hormonal event. A real menstrual cycle revolves around ovulation. A pill bleed is a withdrawal bleed from steroid drugs. The steroid drugs build up the lining of the uterus (the endometrial lining), they thicken that and then when you stop taking the drugs, it sheds, but there’s no medical reason to bleed monthly on “hormonal” birth control. The whole idea of bleeding monthly on those pills is purely just to reassure women the mimicking of a natural process.

What alternative methods do you recommend?

Hormonal birth control set back research into birth control 60 years. So there should be a lot more options by now. For example, there should be a larger focus on male contraception. Men are fertile every single day of the month, while women are only fertile six days of the month, so that paints a clear enough picture of why we should focus on them. That said, there’s a lot of other options like condoms, the copper IUD, hormone-free diaphragms, or Fertility Awareness-Based methods like Daysy or Natural Cycles (this last one was recently approved by the FDA).

If we lived in a world in which women’s wellness and health were valued, what would immediately change?

If women’s health was valued, if the women’s body were seen as a normal human body, which of course it is, then we would appreciate ovulation for its many benefits. That would start to change the whole conversation, and we wouldn't be putting women’s health just into the reproductive basket. There are lots of women out there who don't want babies, and women’s health should not be framed around the idea of fertility.

*None of the information provided in this article serves as a substitute for medical advice. Please visit a doctor before making any decisions regarding your health.

*This interview has been edited & condensed for clarity.