How does birth control impact health?


Birth control has a variety of impacts on health, both positive and negative. Here are some effects particularly related to hormonal contraceptives:

Negative Impacts:

  1. Nutrient Depletion and Inflammation:

    • Hormonal contraceptives can deplete essential micronutrients like magnesium and certain B vitamins. They may also affect the microbiome and increase the risk of inflammatory conditions like inflammatory bowel disease 1.
    • They can make the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis more rigid, which can affect thyroid function and increase inflammation markers like CRP 1.
  2. Menstrual and Sexual Health:

    • Continuous use of hormonal contraceptives can lead to changes in vaginal health, such as increased sensitivity, decreased elasticity, and discomfort during intercourse. These factors can also contribute to an increased risk of yeast infections 2.
    • There is evidence associating oral contraceptives with sexual dysfunction, potentially due to low-dose estrogen in contraceptives 3.

      Risks of Oral Contraceptives

      Sara discusses the risks associated with oral contraceptives, including depleted micronutrients, effects on the microbiome, and increased risk of inflammatory bowel disease and autoimmune conditions. She also mentions the rigidity of the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis and its effect on thyroid function.

      Huberman Lab

      Dr. Sara Gottfried: How to Optimize Female Hormone Health for Vitality & Longevity | Huberman Lab
  3. Mental Health:

    • Some users experience mental health issues such as mood swings or depression, linked to hormonal fluctuations from birth control use 4.

Positive Impacts:

  1. Cancer Risks:

    • Long-term use (approximately ten years) of oral contraceptives significantly reduces the risk of ovarian cancer by up to 50% 5.
    • They can also reduce risks related to incessant ovulation, which has been linked to ovarian cancer 5.
  2. Menstrual Benefits and PCOS Management:

    • Hormonal contraceptives can aid in managing conditions like PCOS, reducing symptoms like excessive androgen and irregular ovulation 4.
    • They help in reducing the occurrence of heavy periods and related anemia, and in managing fibroids and PCOS symptoms 4.
  3. General Hormonal Stability:

    • For some individuals, the stable hormone levels provided by birth control can have mental health benefits and improve overall hormonal stability 4.

While hormonal contraceptives can have several benefits, including cancer risk reduction and menstrual regulation, they also carry risks such as nutrient depletion, increased inflammatory conditions, and potential sexual dysfunction. As such, it's important for users to discuss their health history and concerns with a healthcare provider to choose the most appropriate method of contraception.