Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D.
Some 30 years ago, birth control pills were the be-all and end-all
of the sexual revolution. Freed from the worries of pregnancy, women
explored their sexuality, perhaps for the first time in history.
Only a few years passed before the "magic" pill began
to lose its luster. Discoveries that high-estrogen birth control
pills contributed to breast cancer, embolisms and stroke made women
begin to think twice.
Today, newer lower dosage birth control pills maintain high popularity,
despite their continued serious health risks for women.
Let me give you my opinion in a straightforward manner: I don't
advocate the use of birth control pills. Yes, they are effective
at preventing unwanted pregnancies, but the risks far outweigh those
If you are currently using birth control pills of any kind, I cannot
urge you strongly enough to stop taking them as soon as possible.
Presently, 16 million American women are using birth control pills,
fueling a $2.8 billion industry. Many of us became familiar with
the Pill in adolescence either because of a desire for sexual intimacy
or due to painful or irregular periods. Both reasons are fundamentally
flawed. There are numerous safe and effective ways to prevent pregnancy.
Cramping, painful and irregular periods are often due to a deficiency
of progesterone and an excess of estrogen. So estrogen-alone birth
control pills -- as are the most commonly prescribed pills on the
market now -- often compound the problem.
That's why some women have intolerable estrogen-induced side effects
when they are on birth control pills like:
- Weight gain
- Mood swings
- Breast tenderness
What's Wrong With the Pill?
In simple terms, what's wrong with the pill (by the way birth control
shots and patches are essentially the same thing) is it promotes
continuous high levels of estrogen in a woman's body.
Science tells us this is dangerous.
A woman's natural cycle is composed of rising and falling levels
of estrogen and progesterone. Birth control pills work by keeping
estrogen at a sufficiently high level that they fool the body into
thinking it is pregnant, therefore another pregnancy cannot occur.
They work by one or a combination of methods:
- Some pills prevent ovulation.
- Others prevent implantation of a fertilized egg in the endometrium
or lining of the uterus.
- Still others thicken the mucus around the cervix, making it
difficult for sperm to penetrate.
There is even a new brand of birth control pill on the market that
boasts woman can safely have a period only four times a year or
they can avoid having periods altogether for years at a time without
a break from the estrogen blast.
We certainly don't know everything about estrogen or estrogen dominance,
as it is called when estrogen levels remain high without being balanced
by progesterone, but among the effects we do know are:
- Increased risk of breast cancer
- Increased risk of blood clotting,
heart attack and stroke
- Gall bladder disease
- Increased blood pressure
- Weight gain
- Mood changes
- Nausea Irregular bleeding or spotting
- Benign liver tumors
- Breast tenderness
In addition, the use of antibiotics has been shown to decrease
the effectiveness of birth control pills.
What is not usually mentioned, or even known, is the metabolism
of birth control pills by the liver requires extra amounts of the
B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium and zinc. That means if
you're taking birth control pills for years at a time, as are most
American women, you're creating nutrient deficiencies. Weight gain,
fluid retention, mood changes, depression and even heart disease
can all arise from nutrient imbalance.
For example, we now know high levels of an amino acid called homocysteine
cause heart disease. And high homocysteine occurs when there is
a deficiency of B vitamins and magnesium.
In addition to all this misery, the continuous use of birth control
pills like the new no-period pill has not been sufficiently studied.
Women who use these methods -- that may be you -- are the "test
subjects," if you will, for an ongoing experiment. We have
no idea what the long-term effects of daily hormones will do to
fertility or other aspects of our health.
The Pill and Yeast Overgrowth
The insidious yeast, candida albicans, generally makes its home
in the human digestive tract. But, in a modern society where common
lifestyle choices for women include birth control pills, antibiotics,
a highly refined bread and sugar diet, coupled with high stress
levels, candida overgrowth can have wide-ranging effects.
When the right set of risk factors occur, toxins from yeast overgrowth
and their byproducts can adversely affect the entire body, causing
problems far beyond the common vaginal infection.
Symptoms ranging from migraines to infertility, endometriosis,
psoriasis, PMS, depression, fibromyalgia, digestive disorders and
many other seemingly unrelated health problems have been attributed
to yeast overgrowth. And evidence-based results show that treating
the yeast overgrowth often alleviates these symptoms.
These symptoms can be so widespread that it is difficult for patients
and most doctors to comprehend that this is a complex of indicators
that could be related to one underlying cause.
The use of birth control pills is a major risk factor for developing
yeast overgrowth because it promotes estrogen dominance. Because
birth control pills give a woman's hormonal system a continual stream
of estrogen, an imbalance is created, Science has shown us that
there is a close link between estrogen dominance and yeast overgrowth.
Yeast Connection Web site can help you learn about yeast and
decide if you might have an overgrowth and give you tools to treat
What are the Alternatives?
I'm very aware that women (and their partners) want to avoid unplanned
pregnancies. I concede that birth control pills have provided an
easy -- but not safe -- way to accomplish this goal. There are numerous
safe and effective ways to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
Here are a few options to consider:
Male condoms: Most of us are familiar with male condoms,
which, at a 98 percent effectiveness rate when used correctly,
are nearly as effective as birth control pills. However, be
sure to purchase lubricated condoms or use water-based lubricants
like K-Y jelly or spermicidal creams to increase your protection.
Many couples are unaware that lubricants like petroleum jelly
actually cause the latex in the condoms to break down and increase
the risk of pregnancy. An added bonus of condoms: They help
protect against sexually transmitted diseases.
Female condoms: Most of us are unfamiliar with female
condoms, but these thin, soft polyurethane pouches fitted inside
the vagina before sex are 95 percent effective. Again, the rate
of effectiveness is increased if a spermicidal jelly is used.
The female condom has an inner ring that goes into the upper
part of the vagina and an outer one, which should be visible
outside the vagina. Female condoms are less likely to tear than
Diaphragm: Diaphragms, which must be fitted by a doctor,
are thin soft rubber mounted on a ring. When inserted into the
upper part of the vagina to cover the cervix, they act as a
barrier to sperm. If used correctly with spermicidal jellies,
they are 92 to 98 percent effective in preventing pregnancy.
Cervical cap: This effective (91 percent), but underutilized,
form of birth control has been available in the U.S. for decades.
The heavy rubber cap fits tightly against the cervix and can
be left in place for 48 hours. Like the diaphragm, a doctor
must fit the cap. Proper fitting enhances the effectiveness
above 91 percent.
Spermicides: Creams, jellies and suppositories contain
chemicals that kill sperm. While they can increase the effectiveness
of other forms of contraception, I don't recommend using them
Finally, I highly recommend the Creighton Model Fertility Care
System (CrM). It uses the science-based modality of NaPro Technology
(NaPro), a women's health science that evolved from interpreting
the biomarkers of the menstrual and fertility cycle, mainly, all
the stages of cervical mucus and the length and intensity of the
menstrual flow. (I'll write about this method in the future.)
Working with a trained doctor, a woman has many options with
- Identify times of fertility to either get pregnant or
- Identify chronic discharges
- Evaluate hormones and apply appropriate
hormonal treatment (with bio-identical hormones)
- Identify functional ovarian cysts and treat them non-surgically
by using the appropriate bio-Identical hormone
- Evaluate the effects of stress
- Treat premenstrual syndrome
- Evaluate, treat and/or prevent reproductive abnormalities
such as infertility, miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth,
- Identify and treat perimenopause
- Evaluate and treat heavy uterine bleeding
- Help avoid hysterectomy by applying the appropriate hormonal
You can learn more about NaPro Technology at their Web
Dean, M.D., N.D., is health advisor to Woman's Health Connection
Yeast Connection and is featured on the Web site's "Ask
A Pro" page. Her latest books are The Miracle of Magnesium
and Natural Prescriptions for Common Ailments.