Birth control is the most commonly used drug in the world, with over 100 million women currently taking “the pill” and millions of women using alternative methods such as “the patch,” injectables, and implants. In the US, pharmaceutical companies generate $2.8 billion in annual sales from the pill (source). Medical doctors prescribe birth control to females as young as 12 and fail to mention the potential side effects. Years later, once these children become women and learn about the threats the pill poses to their health, it can be equally as terrifying to come off the pill as it is to continue taking it due to the potential side effects.

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If you’re unfamiliar with the dangers of taking the pill, here’s how it can harm your body:

  • It depletes your body of essential nutrients
  • Suppresses testosterone and thus your sex-drive
  • Your risk of depression doubles
  • Heightens your risk of specific cancers (breast, ovarian, and cervical), osteoporosis, stroke, heart disease, migraines, and blood clots (source)
  • Increases mood swings, discolouration of skin, bleeding and spotting, hair loss, fibroids, fatigue, and cellulite. (source)

Why I went on (and then off) the pill

At the age of 13, my doctor gave me a prescription for the pill, explaining that it would help regulate my menstrual cycle and mitigate my acne and painful cramps. As a young, impressionable child, I took my doctor’s advice. My body quickly changed after that (because of the spike in my estrogen levels), but my doctor assured me my new-found curves were a “natural” side effect. Nine years later, I discovered that nothing about birth control is natural, yet I continued to take it out of fear of how my body would react. Medical doctors told me I shouldn’t stop taking it, society told me I would disrupt my menstrual cycle or get pregnant, but I refused to continue to damage my body.

Six months ago I stopped taking my birth control pills and here’s what happened:

My moon cycle completely stopped for 3 months (no, I was not pregnant). I eventually got extremely painful cramps 2 weeks prior to my first period, which was likely during ovulation. Once my period finally came, I experienced a regular cycle, although it is slightly heavier and occasionally syncs with other females’ (which is kind of cool). My already thick head of hair got even thicker and I experienced acne for the first time in 10 years. I lost weight, particularly from my breasts. My mood became more stable (I was already an overly cheerful individual, but now that is more constant) and my sex-drive increased. These are all symptoms that many other women detoxing from the pill reported, so I wasn’t concerned. Other common side effects I luckily didn’t experience include: weight gain, sensitivity in breasts, intense cravings, and nausea.

Tips to help your body detox and return to a normal menstrual cycle:

  • Birth control contains hormones that often affect your ability to absorb nutrients; a diet high in iron and vitamin B6 is crucial
  • Eat more cruciferous vegetables because they can aid in detoxifying the body from harmful estrogens and they are high in calcium
  • Cleanse the liver and the gallbladder to detox from any excess hormones (there are a variety of liver-gallbladder supporting herbs; I purchased burdock root and milk thistle)
  • Consume maca to support the endocrine system, which controls and produces many of our hormones (if you have a sensitive stomach like myself, beware of consuming too much of this)
  • Take evening primrose oil to promote healthy cervical mucous production (I experienced other benefits such as increased hair and nail growth)
  • Massage the abdomen to improve circulation
  • Reduce your intake of xenoestrogens such as conventional meat and dairy products, soy, beer, and much more, as they can interrupt your normal hormone balance
  • Increase your intake of saturated fats, as this is what the body uses to make hormones by the liver (I blend ½ tbsp of coconut oil in coffee every morning, which also jump starts my metabolism and gives me a boost of energy)
  • Jasmine essential oil can help regulate your period (I diffuse it while menstruating and/or while experiencing cramps. I also dilute some with water and spray it on my body daily)
  • When I have cramps, I apply a blend of lavender, rosewood, geranium, roman chamomile and some carrier oil on my abdomen and lower back, which helps to soothe the pain and balance my emotions
  • Bioflavonoids (such as bee pollen and flower pollens) can aid in hormone production and the herb vitex can help regulate ovulation

Given the negative side effects and difficulty in coming off the pill, how did it become so popular?

When the pill was commercialized in 1960, it represented a landmark in the feminism movement. Although there were strict regulations surrounding prescriptions, including having to be married to obtain one, it fuelled positive changes within society and the workplace. The average number of children women had decreased and women started earning more money. The pill was viewed as a step toward gender equality; women would leave pharmacies feeling empowered. Little did they know, the FDA approved the pill despite the life-threatening side effects it could have on users (source).

Now that further research has shed light on the dangers of birth control, I would argue that taking the pill is anything but empowering. Young, sexually active women are shamed into taking the pill because society deems us irresponsible if we choose not to. Isn’t it more irresponsible to jeopardize our health, just to conform to societal views and social norms? The responsible choice would be to use a safer form of contraception such as condoms, natural fertility, barrier methods, spermicides, and sterilization.

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