You probably heard a lot of different takes on birth control. There are people who swear by it, saying it’s God’s send, and it changed their life. And there are people, who are completely against it no matter what.

Where does the truth lay, though? Well, it really depends. But before we dive into who should and shouldn’t be using birth control, let’s dive into the basics and start with understanding what periods are and how they work in general. It only makes sense considering that on average a women with a period would menstruate for 3000 days during their lifetime.

How does your period work?

To better understand how birth control works on the body, we should first really understand how the body works in the first place.

Usually, the menstrual cycle lasts 29 days in 10 to 15 percent of women and can be as short as 26 and as long as 36 days.

Day 1 of the cycle is the first day of your period/ first day when you see the blood. What happens during this time is estrogen and progesterone drop, which in turn makes the lining of the uterus begins to shed and that is what causes your period.

This hormonal dip causes the brain to release follicle stimulating hormone that triggers growth of the follicles in the ovaries and prepared the egg for ovulation.

Day 8 is around the time estrogen begins to rise.

Day 9-10 you may notice higher sex drive, that’s due to testosterone rising during that time. With that testosterone increase your libido also increases about 5 days before ovulation, while the egg only lives for 24 hours, you are fertile for 5-6 days out of the month.

During days 12-14, elevated estrogen triggers luteinizing hormone, that in its turn starts the ovulation phase. This is the time when the egg travels down the fallopian tube and from there either gets fertilized by sperm or starts to dissolve to leave the body during your period. The first half of the cycle is known as follicular phase.

Days 15-28 are what’s known as a luteal phase, and during that time progesterone is the leading hormone.

Why was it important to go over this? To have understanding of what hormones are at play and what they do to your body. 

What is birth control and how the hell does it actually work? 

Since we are talking about birth control, this question is the most important one that can help you have full information about the pill and how it affects your hormones and endocrine system as a whole. 

There are two main types of the pill. There’s a combination kind and progestin kind.

The combination pill contains both estrogen and progestin and is considered to be more effective, as well as has less breakthrough bleeding. What it does, it suppresses ovulation, thickens cervical mucus to block sperm from getting through, changes your tubal mobility as well as thins the uterine lining.

Progestin-only pill is recommended for women who have reactions to synthetic estrogen, that is in a combination pill or the ones who are breastfeeding. While it does stop the ovulation, it’s only in about 60% of women.

The goal of birth control in general is to break the communication between your ovaries and your brain. By cutting this communication, though, other hormones can be affected as a side effect.

What are the benefits?

There are many benefits to birth control. When it first came out, women graduated from college at higher rates, were able to get better jobs and make more money. There are currently more female CEOs than there ever has been before. In the medical field, about 75% are female providers, whether it’s doctors, nurse practitioners, physicians’ assistants.

And that’s on top of the physical benefits of controlling pain levels, managing endometriosis or extremely heavy periods, keeping acne at bay and even being able to skip your period all together.

What are the side effects?

While the benefits of birth control are huge, and can even be considered life changing for some, we shouldn’t forget about the side effects either.

For instance, did you know that the pill is associated with higher risk of autoimmune disease, heart attack as well as thyroid and adrenal disorders.

If you ever actually read the paperwork that comes with your prescription, you might’ve seen that there are quite a few side effects, some of them being:



-Sore breasts

-Changes in the periods


 These side effects are pretty well-known and if you’ve used birth control your provider must’ve told you about these. There are more side effects, though, that are not often discussed, though. Those come after you stop using birth control. 

This is called post-birth control syndrome, and it comes with a pool filled with potential complications. Again, not to say that everybody who’s off birth control will get those, not in the slightest, but knowing about them is important nonetheless, especially if you’re getting off birth control with a desire to get pregnant as quickly as possible.

Who shouldn’t be using hormonal birth control?

There are multiple conditions and reasons to skip on hormonal birth control. For example, if you are over the age of 35 and are a smoker, using combination pills might not be safe for you. That is something that should be discussed with your provider.

Combination pills are not recommended for people who had:

  • Diabetes
  • Liver Disease
  • Breast Cancer
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Migraine headaches with aura (seeing flashes or lines)
  • Heart attack, stroke, or other serious heart condition
  • Blood clots

Progestin-only pills are not recommended for people who had

  • Breast Cancer
  • Certain forms of lupus

The truth is, the majority of the people will not have any issues on the pill. However, there are situations where complications do arise and when these happen it’s dire to contact and speak to a doctor or a nurse. 

– noticing chest pain or discomfort

– experiencing severe pain in the abdominal area

– headaches that come out of nowhere

– aura migraines, where you see flashes

– back or jaw pain that’s accompanied by nausea, sweating and troubled breathing

– skin or eyes becoming yellow  

On top of that it’s also important to keep in mind birth control method while breastfeeding. Combination pills are ok to start at the earliest 3 weeks after giving birth, and they might leave traces of hormones from the pill in breast milk. On the other hand, progestin-only pills are safe to use while breastfeeding. 

The main message here is to have a gynecologist to discuss all those things with to make sure that you are choosing the best and, more importantly, the safest route for yourself, and that might not even be the pill at all. 

How to make the decision?

Truth is, the decision is solely up to you. We believe that the most essential part is to have full information about the benefits and side effects and go based on whether that is something that can benefit you the way you need it to. Reading this post, the best thing to do would be to see what information is true for you specifically and make that choice based off that.

Another great tool would be to read a book by Dr. Jolene Brighten where she goes more in depth into the hormones, understanding if you have an imbalance and ways and nutrition to help you on that journey.


And while this book became highly controversial with people labeling Dr. Jolene as an anti-pill person, which is not the case, and this book can be a great tool to have in your toolbox.

If you don’t want to commit to reading a book, we are all busy, after all, here’s a link to the podcast episode that talks more about birth control, the book itself and is something that you can listen to while doing day to day activities.

Master Your Health Podcast with Dr. Jolene Brighten