The pill is the most commonly prescribed form of hormonal management, not only for birth control purposes, but for period problems as well.
Girls as young as 14 are missing school and suffering from decreased quality of life due to painful period symptoms. To help alleviate these symptoms, teens and adult women with PCOS, endometriosis, fibroids, cramps, and heavy bleeding are being prescribed the pill.
1. Low sex drive
The pill essentially replaces your sex hormones, so it’s not surprising if you’re losing that loving feeling3. When you ovulate naturally without the pill, your body makes 50% of the testosterone you’ll have available that month, which is a big part of your sex drive. When you’re taking the pill, however, you don’t ovulate and you’re not making that testosterone. Testosterone is important because it initiates blood flow to your sex organs, which means more sensitivity and lubrication and therefore better orgasms.
2. Headaches or migraines
If you experience headaches or migraines for the first time after going on the pill, it’s a sign that you’re sensitive to estrogen. The increasing amounts of estrogen delivered by the pill are not going to be your best option.
3. Weight gain or inability to lose weight easily
A small study found that women on the pill gain 60% less muscle mass than women who are not taking oral contraceptives. In a 10-week weight training program, half the participants were on the pill and half were not. By the end of the program, women who were not on the pill had gained significantly more muscle mass, had higher levels of muscle-building hormones, and lower levels of muscle-breaking hormones like cortisol. Women on the pill have a harder time gaining muscle and experience higher levels of cortisol, which makes it harder to lose the pounds.
5. Low energy
The pill depletes your body’s reserve of B vitamins (especially B6), which can cause fatigue, nausea and mood swings when you first go on the pill. In the long-term, depleting the body of essential vitamins and nutrients puts your whole endocrine system at risk, as many of the glands require B vitamins to function properly.
6. Being attracted to the wrong guys over and over again
Guess what? The pill may also be wreaking havoc on your relationships. In one small study conducted at the University of Bern in Switzerland, women were asked to smell t-shirts worn by anonymous men and then pick the one that appealed to them most.
The results showed that they chose the ones with a certain gene set that were very different from their own, making them genetically compatible. When this set of genes is too similar, the risk of pregnancy loss increases. Women who were on the pill in this study chose the t-shirts with genes that were very similar to their own, suggesting5 that the pill might alter odor preference and disrupt disassortative mating preferences.
What to do instead?
Here’s what I know after 20 years of working with women on these issues: If you have a hormonal problem, you can begin by addressing the underlying causes through food and lifestyle. The pill is simply not a sustainable answer. So the solution is two-fold:
- If you’re relying on the pill for birth control purposes, start tracking your cycle and looking into highly effective6 non-hormonal options for birth control. Condoms and the sponge are two of my favorites
- Address your diet and lifestyle to heal the root causes of your hormonal issues. What we eat becomes the building blocks of our hormonal chemistry.
If you're ready for more support with your hormones and moods, take my Hormonal Evaluation Quiz now and learn exactly what your body and hormones are trying to communicate to you.
Alisa Vitti is a women's hormone and functional nutrition expert and pioneer in female biohacking. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Vitti has been featured on The Dr. Oz Show, Lifetime, and has been a regular contributor for Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, and Women’s Health. She is the founder of The FLO Living Hormone Center, the world's first menstrual healthcare platform that has helped hundreds of thousands of women around the world put their period issues like PCOS, Fibroids, Endometriosis, and PMS into remission naturally using her highly effective FLO Protocol and the FLO Balance Period Supplements, and the creator the MyFLO period app—the first and only functional medicine period tracker. She is also the author of the best-selling book WomenCode. She has presented at SXSW, TEDx, Talks@Google, Summit Series Outside, and SHE Summit and regularly trains women in the workplace on how to use her Cycle Syncing Method for greater creativity, productivity, and wellbeing at work.