The real reason you should stop taking birth control

To pill or not to pill? Oral contraceptives, aka birth control, may have some obvious bonuses like much lighter periods or pregnancy prevention, but some experts and studies warn that these benefits gained from taking “the Pill” may not outweigh the risk factors. Not to mention, there are dozens of different brands of pills these days, as Healthline lists, and the varying side effects seem to be all over the place. Plus, just because we don’t know the specific potential side effects from the newer drugs, doesn’t mean there won’t be any.

Millions of women may be unaware of what exactly birth control pills may be doing to their bodies, especially after long-term use. Could these pills put you at further risk for certain types of cancers? Can the Pill affect future pregnancy? There’s a lot to know about what happens to your body when you take birth control every day, including that sometimes the Pill can make you feel sick. Read on for reasons you may want to stop taking birth control. Whether you choose to take birth control pills or not, however, be sure to consult with your gynecologist first.

Birth control may cause anxiety

“The Pill” — first approved for use in 1960 – can cause anxiety, according to Science Direct, and, as Healthline points out, if you tend to get anxious in general, birth control may make it even worse. These uncomfortable feelings can occur depending on how your system reacts to the synthetic hormones that you are ingesting. Hormones estrogen and progesterone are proven to affect your emotional state, and, when there is an imbalance in your body, feelings of anxiety are brought on, so you can imagine what synthetic versions of these hormones can do.

However, for those who do not feel increased anxiety, generalized anxiety may actually be improved simply for the fact that you’re no longer worried about getting pregnant when taking the Pill responsibly and not missing doses. In that way, things may get better. Just note that the longer you stay on the Pill, the longer it may take for your body to regulate normally when coming off, as Mayo Clinic noted, since the Pill’s main goal is to stop a woman from producing hormones related to ovulation and menstruation. 

Not sure what’s causing your anxiety? Here are signs you may have an anxiety disorder.

Birth control can cause depression

Not only may birth control cause anxiety, but the Pill may also cause depression. And the two often go hand in hand. A Denmark study published by JAMA Psychiatry looked into over 1 million women between the ages of 15 and 34, and found that subjects on estrogen-progesterone pills were 23 percent more likely to have anti-depressants prescribed to them than those who were not taking the drug, and that was shortly after going on the Pill. Those on pills solely made up of synthetic progesterone were 34 percent more likely to have a depression diagnosis.

It was noted however, that every woman will react differently to every single drug, and it may just be a matter of finding the right contraception, oral or not, to work in sync with your body and not against it. Therefore, it is highly useful to be made aware of these connections so that you can make an educated, informed decision on what works best for you.

If you or anyone you know is depressed and having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Birth control can make you moody AF

Birth control can also make us hormonal and, well, moody AF. Most of us know what PMS feels like, or we have at least heard the stigma associated with it — that’s why we’ve developed hacks for surviving PMS — and birth control can further affect our mental state.

Bustle spoke with psychiatrist Julie Holland, MD — who specializes in psychopharmacology, the study of how drugs affect mood and behavior — about birth control’s influence on mood. “Many of my patients find that they cannot tolerate how emotional the Pill makes them,” Holland said. She explained that her patients are sometimes turned off of using oral contraceptives, as they can make some women “crazy.” She added, “Synthetic progestin is horrible for your mood, and about 10 percent of women really can’t tolerate it at all.” 

Additionally, when the chemical serotonin is depleted, as it is when synthetic estrogen is messing with it, the imbalance can bring on intense feelings of anger. So if you’re frequently highly emotional and relationships are affected, it may be a good idea to come off of birth control. Just be sure to consult with your doctor first.

Can birth control affect future pregnancy?

Although there may be no concrete, direct evidence or acknowledgement that birth control use affects future pregnancy, there are some things we do know. Long-term birth control use may thin the uterine lining, as Mind Body Green explained, which can make it harder to achieve a healthy pregnancy. After all, this thinning of the uterine wall is one of the ways that the Pill prevents implantation. And if this endometrial lining remains thin long after you’ve gone off the Pill, the miscarriage risk is higher, as fertility center University Reproductive Associates noted, since the fertilized egg has a harder time staying attached.

Although there is no proof that a thinner endometrial lining is the result of being on birth control, it is something to consider. If you want to go off of the Pill or to shorten the length of time that you remain on the Pill, be sure to speak with your doctor and voice your concerns.

Using birth control pills may increase your risk of getting breast cancer

According to the National Cancer Institute, women currently taking birth control have an increased risk of about 24 percent in developing breast cancer compared to women not on the Pill. For women who have gone off of birth control, the risk is only 7 percent higher than those who never took birth control. Interestingly enough, after ten years of being off of the Pill, there was zero risk increase for those women, whose heightened chance continued to decline from the 7 percent during the years following the halt of their oral contraceptives. One study found that the women’s risk for breast cancer increased the longer they stayed on the Pill. 

Furthermore, birth control pill users have a higher risk for getting cervical cancer, although the risk for getting ovarian and endometrial cancers is lessened. For cervical cancer, there was a 60 percent chance of increased risk after just five years on the Pill, with ten or more years doubling that risk. 

Again, weighing the risks is the best measure when it comes birth control or other drugs. Speak with your gynecologist when deciding what’s right for you.

Birth control can lower your sex drive

Perhaps one of the biggest enemies as far as birth control side effects go is a lowered sex drive, which can not only affect the user, but obviously the person’s partner as well. Psychology Today noted that there may be a lot of sexual changes associated with taking the Pill, and decreased sexual desire is one of them. For some women, it could take at least a year for these issues to develop, so be sure to pay attention to any changes. 

WebMD explained that many birth control pills, which typically include estrogen and progestin, lower testosterone levels, which controls your sex drive. This is why men are usually more hot to trot than their female counterparts.

Just because you may not have any immediate issues doesn’t mean that these side effects won’t develop somewhere down the road, so, if that’s the case, talk to your doctor about your options. There just might be alternative birth control options you’ll wish you’d known about sooner.

Birth control can increase your risk for stroke, especially if you smoke

Birth control can make it more likely for women to suffer from a stroke. Loyola University Medical Center doctors explained that although the increased risk isn’t very high for young, healthy females, there may be other factors, such as smoking or high blood pressure, that provide a higher risk for stroke. And people with these factors in their lives probably should not be taking oral contraceptives.

Back in 1962, when the first strokes from birth control use were reported, there was four to seven times the amount of synthetic estrogen in birth control pills compared to what is used today, but the risk still remains. To be clear, birth control raises the risk of an ischemic stroke, the type of stroke that can occur due to blood clots, and not those that occur from bleeding in the brain. Still, it is a potential issue to consider when going on (or staying on) the Pill.

Can birth control use increase your risk for heart attack?

Can being on the Pill affect your heart and likelihood for getting heart disease? In a 2007 study out of Belgium’s Ghent University led by Dr. Ernst Rietzschel, researchers found that in their study of over 1,300 women (81 percent of whom were on the Pill for an average of 13 years), there was an increased risk for women who had taken birth control of having plaque in their arteries, as explained to the American Heart Association and reported by Reuters. Plaque build-up could potentially clog arteries and make you a prime candidate for heart disease or heart attack. Additionally, they found that for every ten years, there had been a 20 to 30 percent increase in this artery-clogging plaque in these women.

However, it would make sense that researchers saw an increase in plaque the longer the women were on birth control. WebMD pointed out that the synthetic hormones may indeed affect your heart and even raise your blood pressure. The jury is still out as to whether this is yet another reason to curb the use of birth control pills, as other past studies have come back with insignificant results. This is why it’s important to do your own research and speak with your healthcare professionals.

Birth control use has been linked to memory changes

Birth control use has been found to potentially affect memory in an interesting way. In 2011, there was a study done at the University of California Irvine with women who were on oral contraceptives and those who were not, as reported by Science Daily. The women who were not on the Pill were found to remember more details than those who were taking synthetic hormones. However, Pill users remembered more of the main events of the topics that had been explained to them during the experiment, when they were given surprise memory tests one week later. “It’s a change in the type of information they remember, not a deficit,” a researcher noted.

An article from Health noted that oral contraceptives may “tinker” with your brain. While it does make sense that the brain would be impacted by synthetic hormones, more studies need to be done to find any conclusive evidence about birth control’s affect on memory.

Birth control can cause hair thinning or even hair loss

Perhaps you have heard that a hormonal imbalance can contribute to thinning hair or even hair loss, which some women experience during pregnancy. Well, this is also a side effect from using birth control or from when going off the Pill, as Healthline pointed out, as it’s one of the more physical symptoms since synthetic hormones also affect the hair growth cycle just like natural hormones do. Healthline explained, “Birth control pills cause the hair to move from the growing phase to the resting phase too soon and for too long.” Although hair loss can be devastating, it is more comforting to immediately see how a drug is affecting you, so that you can promptly go off of it.

WebMD specified that hair changes happen more often with women who are more sensitive to hormonal changes. The American Hair Loss Association acknowledged that women with genetic hair loss in their family may be especially susceptible and advised women who prefer to use oral contraceptives to ask for a pill with a lower androgen index or, most favorably, a non-hormonal contraception method.

Birth control can make you retain water

Perhaps the most bothersome side effect of taking birth control is retaining water. This may not be noticeable for everyone, but it is possible to gain a few pounds after going on birth control. As Healthline explained, water retention can occur with higher levels of estrogen. While this water weight isn’t necessarily weight gain, to most women, it doesn’t really matter when they feel or look bigger, and the scale inches to a larger number. 

The good news is that, once your hormones regulate, your fluid retention should follow suit. Water weight may very minor in the grand scheme of things, but it is annoying to look a little more bloated or to have to go up a jeans or dress size. Overall, letting your body do what is natural may be better for you if you want to avoid pesky side effects like bloating.

Going on birth control can mask other health issues

Often when women are having irregular periods, or are experiencing unbearable cramps, doctors will simply prescribe birth control as a temporary or long-term fix-all that doesn’t necessarily pinpoint what may be lurking beneath the surface. The Pill will often regulate your periods, masking whatever your underlying health issue may be, and, in the meantime, it could be getting worse if left undetected due to being on birth control. As MindBodyGreen summarized, it “isn’t a natural cycle-driven period and it’s not fixing what’s causing your period problems.”

Undiagnosed conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), hypothalamic amenorrhea, or thyroid disease can cause issues in the future while you’re popping your daily birth control pill. As we already mentioned, the Pill can potentially cause problems getting pregnant in the future, and these health conditions can all certainly affect fertility. So although the issue may not result directly from taking birth control, it can be a problem worsened by oral contraceptives masking the issue. Be sure to make an annual appointment with your gynecologist, and always disclose your full medical history any time you see a new doctor. Your future self will thank you!

Once you go on birth control, it may be tough to come off

Doctors may be quick to prescribe the Pill. After all, millions of women take it to prevent unwanted pregnancy or for other health reasons. Yet, doctors don’t always discuss what it’s like coming off the Pill. First off, if you went on birth control to reduce period cramps or for another health issue, you might experience those same symptoms when you go off, as Healthline noted. Second, your body is literally stopping synthetic hormones cold turkey, and, for many women, this will not be an easy experience.

Some — but not all — doctors actually refer to this as post-birth control syndrome (as with many “syndromes,” docs are on the fence with giving it an actual name). Discontinuing the use of birth control pills may unveil fertility issues, hair loss, acne, anxiety, depression, and weight gain as potential side effects, not to mention irregular periods. 

Make sure to address any concerns with your doctor. Keep in mind that medical professionals all have varying thoughts about birth control, so it’s best for you to think it through and weigh your options before making a decision to go on — or stay on — the Pill. If you do decided to go off the Pill, be informed of what happens to your body when you stop taking birth control. 

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