Hidden Dangers of Hormonal Contraception

12 min read (3008 words)

My intention

Having taken The Pill for 14 years, I acknowledge that the topic of hormonal contraceptives is highly emotive. Some take it for birth control and some take it to help alleviate severe menstrual cycle symptoms. I understand that for some, hormonal contraceptives appear to be the best option. However, this article Hidden Dangers of Hormonal Contraception aims to highlight that they do far more damage than good.

I developed a number of health issues in my 20s and early 30s. These ranged from heart palpitations, digestive problems, loss of sex drive and depression. Over the course of 14 months, my smear tests were coming back with abnormalities and showing pre-cancerous cells. This resulted in me having surgery to have a small part of my cervix removed where the abnormal cells were located.

It was only years after coming off The Pill coupled with my health studies did I start to learn how detrimental hormonal contraception is. I started to see how many of my health issues may have been because of The Pill. When I visited the GP or hospital, no nurse or doctor suggested that hormonal contraception may have been causing my health issues despite all the evidence.

My intention with this article is to highlight the negative impact hormonal contraceptives have on us. It’s my hope that you have the correct information to make a conscious and informed decision about ​whether ​taking hormonal contraceptives​ is worth it​. This is information I wish I had before I was prescribed the Pill at 18. 

Hormonal contraceptives

Hormonal contraceptives have been cited as a symbol of the sexual revolution and women’s liberation. The Pill was a welcome addition in the 1960s because for the first time, preventing pregnancy was in a woman’s hands. She had full control over if, and when she wanted to have a child. The Pill meant that women could embrace their sexuality in a way that had never been experienced before. Without the worry of becoming pregnant, women had more freedom to choose their partners. They too were able to decide when and how often they wanted to have sex.

Condoms and diaphragms were widely available since the 1840s, but no method was as simple and effective as the Pill. The Pill has almost become a Rite of Passage in our modern society. It’s often credited as the thing that has enabled women to do everything that they couldn’t do before. On the other side of the coin, hormonal contraceptives stop the natural working order of our physiology. This article asks us to pause and think about this; is this really a good thing for our overall health and wellbeing?

How do hormonal contraceptives work?

The Pill, injections, implants, vaginal ring and the patch, are made up of synthetic hormones estrogen (estradiol) and progestogen (progestin). They suppress the signals from our brain to our ovaries and are replaced with approximately four times the natural estrogen and progestogen that we create. Therefore altering the natural function of our reproductive system. Hormonal contraceptives changes the cervical mucus to make it difficult for sperm to go through the cervix to find an egg. They also change the lining of the womb, which makes it unlikely the egg will be fertilised. Hormonal contraceptives lower the amount of testosterone produced by the ovaries and adrenal glands, which may impact our libido. Vaginal lubrication can be reduced, therefore making sexual intercourse painful.

From a biochemical point of view, hormonal contraceptives induce a state similar to pregnancy in order for women not to become pregnant. These contraceptives prevent us from creating your own hormones which means that ovulation doesn’t occur. If ovulation doesn’t occur, a true menstruation doesn’t happen. The bleed we experience when on hormonal contraception isn’t out unfertilised egg leaving our body but a withdrawal from the drug. When The Pill was first made available in the 1960s, pharmaceutical companies decided that in order for women to trust it, it should mimic the menstrual cycle but in reality, while on hormonal contraceptives, there is no reason for us to bleed.

Side effects, risks and long term effects

Unfortunately, there are many short and long term side effects of taking hormonal contraceptives which I’ve highlighted below.


Jayashri Kulkarni is the Professor of Psychiatry and Director of Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre. During a 2017 study, she said that “Depression is one of the most prevalent and debilitating illnesses affecting the female population today. Many times we have seen young women come in with depression who have not had any other changes in their life particularly. She will say things like ‘it wasn’t until I started this particular brand of pill that things started to fall apart.

A review of multiple studies into the Pill found that depression was a side effect of taking oral contraceptives. In addition, an ongoing study into 23,000 oral contraceptive users found that over a third of the women stopped taking it because of depression.

Liver Cancer

Our liver is our largest internal organ which detoxifies our blood. It synthesises proteins, processes nutrients and produces biochemicals necessary for digestion and growth. Hormonal contraceptives put a lot of strain on our liver as it’s the liver’s job to break down the synthetic hormones before they’re sent to the rest of our body. Online tool the LIver Doctor states “It is known by doctors that long term use of the Oral Contraceptive Pill (OCP) can increase the incidence of liver tumors such as adenomas and hemangiomas. Hemangiomas are tumors made from blood vessels and adenomas are round shaped tumors. These are usually benign (non- malignant) tumors, but occasionally can become cancerous.”


Barbara Seaman is a women’s health expert and author of The Doctors’ Case Against The Pill. She said “The Pill also has serious adverse effects on the gallbladder, and women who take the Pill face an increased risk of someday facing surgery for gallstones. Pill use causes higher levels of cholesterol saturation in the bile, according to a study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1976. This high level of fate in the bile is considered ‘an early chemical stage of gallstone disease,” according to Dr. Donald Small of the Boston University School of Medicine. The risk of gallbladder disease rises with the length of time a woman has been on the Pill. In some studies, Pill users are two and a half times as likely to suffer from gallstones as comparable women who were not on the Pill.”

Weight gain, mood swings, headaches/migraines, fluid retention, nausea ad brittle bones.

Due to the added strain that processing hormonal contraceptives place on our liver, various symptoms can occur. Weight gain, mood swings and migraines can start to appear. If we already suffered from them prior to taking hormonal contraceptives, they could become exacerbated.

Alexandra Pope, co-founder of the Red School and author of The Pill: Are you sure it’s for you? said “Studies have shown that some hormonal contraceptives cause significant loss of bone mineral density which may not be completely reversible when a woman stops taking hormonal contraceptives. Research has found that ‘third-generation’ oral contraceptives that have been available since 1985 carry a higher risk of blood clots.”

Cancer, stroke and blood clots

In 2002, the US government published a report on carcinogens; cancer-causing substances. Synthesised estrogen used in hormonal contraceptives and estrogen replacement therapy was added to the official list of known human carcinogens. A large study on hormone-replacement therapy discovered that taking synthetic estrogen increased incidences of breast and uterine cancer, stroke and blood clots.

The brain

In 2014, the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health published a report: 50 years of hormonal contraception — time to find out what it does to our brain. Literature suggests that synthetic steroids in hormonal contraceptives may affect brain structure, function and behaviour. Hormonal contraceptives have been linked to masculinising as well as feminizing effects on brain and behaviour.

At the time of this publication, hormonal contraceptives had been on the market for more than 50 years. At this point, 100 million women were on hormonal contraceptives worldwide. Hormonal contraception is being made readily available to girls as young as 10 years old. The aforementioned behavioural changes could cause a shift in society dynamics. Researchers have recommended further studies should be carried out to find out more.

Fertility Issues

One of the ways in which hormonal contraception prevents pregnancy is through its effect on the production of your cervical mucus. Hormonal contraception suppresses your natural cycle, stopping ovulation from taking place. Additionally, it continuously thickens your cervical mucus, which provides an additional barrier against pregnancy in case ovulation still takes place. 

In order for sperm to survive more than a few hours in the vagina, and then have the energy reserves to travel through the uterus all the way to the fallopian tubes and wait for the egg to arrive, it needs good quality, fertile cervical mucus. Cervical mucus also does the important job of filtering out “bad” sperm, i.e., sperm with poor morphology (shape) or motility (movement), to maximise your chances of having a healthy pregnancy and baby. 

Dr. Eric Odeblad, a Swedish OB/GYN found that hormonal contraception actually diminishes the quality of the cervical mucus. His findings concluded that “for each year the Pill is taken, the cervix ages by an extra year.” He suggested that long-term use of hormonal contraception may impair a woman’s chances of conceiving, because of the degradation of her cervix.

Microbiome issues

Birth control kills microbial diversity, contributes to leaky gut, and creates an environment where yeast grows. Many women have been on hormonal contraceptives for years are left with the nasty side effects of a leaky gut and other digestive issues.

One of the best ways to repair the damage to the gut is by doing a 24-hour water fast. When you are in a fasted state for 24-hours or more, it’s long enough to get a burst of stem cells released into your gut to repair the mucosal lining and to reset your microbiome. If you can practice a 24-hour water fast once a week, you will really begin to heal gut issues (any many other health issues) that hormonal contraceptives have caused.

‘Imbalanced hormones’, regulating the cycle and reproductive health issues

More girls and women are being prescribed the Pill to ‘balance’ their hormones or to ‘regulate’ their cycle. Women diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are being prescribed the Pill as a way to alleviate symptoms. Although the Pill can help to reduce symptoms, it will only mask the issue and won’t get to the root cause. If and when we stop taking the Pill, our symptoms are likely to reappear and could potentially be worse than before. Despite what we are told, the Pill does not balance or regulate your hormones and it isn’t a real treatment for any type of reproductive health issue.

Getting the right support you need

When we suffer with menstrual cycle problems, it can often feel like nothing will help to alleviate the physical and emotional pain. We may feel a sense of hopelessness which I understand and empathise with. I’ve been there too. Experience has taught me that women feel less than satisfied with the support and guidance they receive from health professionals. Many say that it’s just something women have to live with for the rest of their life and prescribe hormonal therapy. This doesn’t have to be the case and there are ways to heal though natural methods.

Learning about your body on a deeper level and knowing, practising menstrual cycle awareness and knowing what food and herbs are best for your body is your best way to assist the natural healing processes. It’s by no means a quick fix. But with effort and dedication, it will be possible to restore balance to your hormones and live a normal life.

Much of our menstrual cycle problems could be due to our cycle having been shamed and suppressed for many years. When we ignore our cycle, it can put psychological and physical stress on us. Lisa Higgins is a fellow Menstruality Mentor and trainee Counsellor. She said “Removing the shame [around the menstrual cycle] would save lives.” This is one of the most powerful and truthful statements I’ve ever heard. When we bring awareness to our cycle, we re-establish a relationship with it. In time, we’re able to transform our experience of our cycle for the better.

Alternative methods of birth control

You may feel you are ready to come off hormonal contraceptives. There are many effective non-hormonal contraceptives available. Methods such as condoms, and the diaphragm. Alisa Vitti is a women’s Hormonal Health Specialist. She provides a breakdown of seven non-hormonal birth control options should you wish to learn more. Natural fertility awareness is something that is becoming increasingly popular but understandably, can seem a little daunting at first. In theory, there is only a short time when you can become pregnant. Natural fertility awareness teaches you to recognise your body’s natural signal of fertility — cervical mucus.

While our reproductive system is complex, it does provide us with signals to indicate the fertile and infertile times in our cycle. Natural fertility awareness calls for us to become very aware of what our body is doing on any given day. As well as being empowering, it really is so much fun learning about and innerstanding your body on such an intimate level. I recommend Billings Life to learn more about natural fertility awareness.

Coming off hormonal contraceptives 

Transition period

When you come off hormonal contraceptives, there may be a transitioning period for your cycle to return to a rhythm that is normal for you. In most cases, it can take around three months or more for your cycle to return so be patient and let your body come back into balance in it’s own time.


As well as your physical cycle returning, you may also have to contend with how it affects you on an emotional and spiritual level. I spent three years noticing the rush of excitement, self-love, and sexual energy and the downward spiral of low energy, sadness, and self-criticism. I thought this was just a part of my personality and something I would have to contend with throughout my life.

However, once I started to track my cycle on a daily basis, I noticed these very clear patterns coincided with the first and second half of my cycle. Through this awareness, I was able to transform my relationship with my cycle by practicing radical self care. I’m delighted to say that I no longer suffer with those extreme moods and I’m learning how to navigate my life with more innerstanding and compassion. Read my article Menstrual Cycle = Magic to learn more about my menstrual cycle awareness journey.

Hormonal Contraceptives: The Hidden Dangers

I’m brought back to the title of this article: ‘Hormonal Contraceptives: The Hidden Dangers’. I acknowledge that hormonal contraceptives have had a major impact on the liberation and the freedom of women. However, hormonal contraceptives are designed to shut down the natural working order of our cycle. This has a knock on effect on other essential bodily functions which creates a myriad of short and long term health issues. When taking hormonal contraceptives, we are denied our natural rhythm which stops us from innerstanding ourselves on a deeper level.

Just by hormonal contraceptives being in existence, they can subconsciously make us believe there is something wrong with us. The problem lies not with us, but with the way in which we and society relate to us and our menstrual cycle. Our menstrual cycle is not a problem that needs to be fixed. What is calling to be changed is is society’s perception of the menstrual cycle and the relationship we have with our own cycle.

A vision for the future

Having a healthy and intimate relationship results in us having a healthy and intimate relationship with ourselves. When we fully love all parts of us, we are at ease in our own skin. When we are content in our own being, this has a tremendously positive effect on our loved ones. Becoming acutely and intimately aware of our cycle has infinite benefits. We begin to understand the multi-layered, biological, psychological, and spiritual system of evolution that lies within our body which sparks a journey of self-discovery, intimacy and healing.

Our body is magnificently intelligent and at any given moment, it’s giving us messages about how we’re feeling. Whether this be emotionally, physically and spiritually. It’s just a matter of tuning in and becoming aware of what it’s saying to us. When we listen, we learn how to optimise our life depending on where we are in our cycle and we’re able to truly take control of all aspects of our life.

Since time immemorial, women have been conditioned to disconnect from their bodies. As a result, many feel that being able to connect with their bodies in this way is not something that they can achieve and that it sounds like a challenging spiritual journey that only few are destined to experience. This is not so. This is accessible to every single woman and once we take that first step, in time, our body will show us how incredible it is.

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