Women's Health

Is Hormonal Contraception Really Safe?

Written by
Dr. Sujata Mittal
and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.

Published on Aug 25, 2017 and last reviewed on Sep 07, 2018   -  3 min read

Abstract

Abstract

Menstruation is regulated by a very delicate balance by the proper functioning of the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis and is affected by every aspect of life including sleep, exercise, season, weather, and diet. The modern life which relies more on physicality has pressed into the minds of women that monthly cycles are a burden and health can be achieved by suppressing the cycles with the help of hormonal pills. They are synthetic preparations which cause artificial bleeding and have detrimental side effects.

Is Hormonal Contraception Really Safe?

Introduction:

According to WHO (world health organization), at least 214 million women in the reproductive age group belonging to developing nations, want to avoid pregnancy but are either unaware of the different methods of contraception or do not have proper access to it. It is a well-known fact that the appropriate and timely use of contraception prevents the need for unsafe abortions, thereby saving the lives of the women and adolescent girls. The choice of contraception should be given to the women after a comprehensive counseling session. This is necessary for maintaining the autonomy and well-being of the women. But, at the same time, it is widely felt that hormonal contraception is not only misused but also harms the woman's body.

Newer hormonal contraceptives in the form of tablets, plugs, patches, implants, intravaginal rings, and intrauterine devices are now available in the market. All the hormones are synthetically prepared. They are an efficient and convenient way of preventing pregnancy but, the risks involved outweigh the benefits particularly in the case of combination pills of estrogen and progesterone.

Combination pills are used for other varied conditions in gynecology like endometriosis, DUB (dysfunctional uterine bleeding), PCOD (polycystic ovarian disease), but for a limited time. They are also used unconventionally in menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea), for the suppression of ovulation to avoid cycles and premenstrual tension. Today’s adolescent girls consider menstruation as a problematic phenomenon like they would a disease.

Many are acutely aware of the changes in their body during the premenstrual phase and hence take pills to postpone or avoid menstruation. This is a very alarming trend as menstruation is the barometer of health for a woman. Pulse, blood pressure, respiration, and skin color are indicators of health. Similarly, women are gifted with another indicator of health. That is the regular menstrual cycles which reflect the intricate balance of hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis. We all know that the pituitary hormones are interlinked and affect as well as control all the parts of our body. So, suppressing the sexual hormones will, without fail, affect all the systems of our body.

Absolute Contraindications:

It is a well-known fact that the pills and implants have numerous side-effects, openly mentioned in the brochure that comes with it. It is to be certainly avoided by women having the following conditions.

  1. Liver diseases.
  2. Uncontrolled diabetes.
  3. A family history of breast cancer.
  4. A history of stroke, angina or heart disease.
  5. A history of migraine.
  6. A clotting disorder, vein inflammation or thrombosis.

Further, it can cause numerous side effects such as endogenous depression, mood swings, weight gain, acne, breast tenderness and a decreased amount of bleeding. This reduced bleeding is not a physiological (normal) bleeding but, is a sort of withdrawal bleeding which is perceived as convenient by youngsters as they feel it is hassle-free. It is now a known-fact in the medical community that the return of ovulation, after stopping these combined hormonal contraceptives, take a long time especially if they have been taken for quite a while.

Teenagers are more vulnerable to this side effect if they had been on these pills soon after attaining menarche. This is because the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis is trying to establish its pattern and rhythm at this age. It is falsely believed that ovulation occurs immediately after stopping the pills. This is far from the truth, especially if you have been taking the hormones for more than a year. As a result, it takes even longer to establish fertility. Also, the hormones are detrimental to bone health, as they can alter the bone mineral density.

Summary:

So, summarizing the detrimental effects of combined pills will be a long and frightening list. Progesterone-only pills are comparatively safer but nevertheless, they also have serious repercussions.

  1. Increased risk for breast cancer, fatty liver, liver diseases and gallbladder problems including gallstones.
  2. Changes in the liver enzymes leading to changes in the clotting mechanism, thereby increasing the risk of deep vein thrombosis, clot formation, and stroke.
  3. Changes in the lipid metabolism leading to an increased risk of angina and heart attack.
  4. High blood pressure.
  5. Migraines and headaches.
  6. Osteoporosis.
  7. Marked mood swings and depression.
  8. Nausea and vomiting.
  9. Intermenstrual bleeding or spotting.
  10. The suppression of pituitary axis leading to the suppression of ovulation.
  11. Weight gain.
  12. Water retention with bloating.
  13. Breast tenderness.
  14. Decreased libido.
  15. An alteration in the vaginal flora.
  16. Vaginal dryness.
  17. Worsening of existing vaginal infections, especially candidiasis.
  18. Blurring of vision.
  19. Late return of ovulation and hence decreased fertility.
  20. Secondary infertility.
  21. Zinc and magnesium deficiencies.

The Bottom Line:

Your cycles are your internal clock. Every woman and young girl need to choose if she wants an artificial rhythm or a natural rhythm. Remember, you are choosing health over diseases. Life is about choices. So, choose wisely.

For more information consult a Obstetrician And Gynaecologists online --> https://www.icliniq.com/ask-a-doctor-online/obstetrician-and-gynaecologist

Last reviewed at:
07 Sep 2018  -  3 min read

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