Hormonal Birth Control: How it started, How it Works, and Side Effects

Hormonal Birth Control: How it started, How it Works, and Side Effects

Welcome to our quick crash course on hormonal birth control – Let's dive into contraceptive options, uncovering the ins and outs of how they work and what to expect!

The History

The journey of hormonal birth control dates back to the early 20th century when scientists began exploring synthetic hormones' potential. In 1960, the landmark approval of the first oral contraceptive pill, Enovid, marked a monumental moment in contraceptive history. Since then, continuous research has led to the development of various hormonal contraceptives, offering a spectrum of choices catering to diverse needs and preferences including patches, injections, implants, and intrauterine devices (IUDs). Each option varies in administration, duration of effectiveness, and potential side effects, giving individuals to choose the most suitable method aligned with their lifestyle and health needs.

How it Works

Hormonal birth control ("the pill") operates through synthetic hormones, predominantly estrogen and progestin, which mimic the body's natural hormones to prevent ovulation. By inhibiting ovulation, hormonal contraceptives create an environment in which conception becomes unlikely. Additionally, they thicken cervical mucus, making it more difficult for sperm to reach the egg.

The conventional oral contraceptive pill typically comprises active hormone pills taken daily for three weeks, followed by a week of placebo or "sugar pills." These sugar pill days serve as a hormone-free interval, mimicking the natural menstrual cycle. Withdrawal bleeding, akin to a period, often occurs during this phase. However, it's crucial to note that this bleeding doesn't signify ovulation; rather, it's a response to the sudden drop in hormone levels.

Side Effects

While hormonal birth control offers the benefit of not having to worry about pregnancy, it also has certain side effects that warrant attention. Common symptoms of being on, and coming off the pill, include nausea, headaches, breast tenderness, and irregular bleeding, especially during the initial adjustment phase. Additional symptoms like anxiety, depression, weight gain and hormonal acne are also common. However, those with severe symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, severe headaches, or vision changes should seek immediate medical evaluation. Consulting your healthcare provider is imperative to address concerns, adjust dosage, and to explore alternative contraceptive methods.


How to Support Your Body On the Pill 

Studies show that hormonal birth control plays a role in the depletion of key nutrients such as B-vitamins (specifically B12 and folate), zinc, selenium and magnesium. Because of the depletion of nutrients, an imbalance can also occur in the gut. Here are our favorite ways to support your body, and hormones, both on or off the pill. 

1. Get yourself a good probiotic. Gut health is the cornerstone of hormonal health and creating a diverse microbiome is key to supportive hormonal function. 

2. Limit cortisol spiking activities and stress! This helps keep your cortisol in balance which is needed to keep the rest of your hormones in check. We love Insight timer for daily meditations, stimulating our vagus nerve via breathwork, low impact workouts during our luteal phase and supportive supplements to promote calm and relaxation. 

3. Supplement with key nutrients like B vitamins, minerals and liver support. This will help your body fill the gaps that the pill can cause 

4. Focus on a whole, healthy diet filled with fiber, protein, fats and healthy pre and probiotic rich foods!

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