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how is my birth control changing my body?

Millions of women take birth control across the United States, and it’s a good thing. We are lucky enough to have access to products that enable us to decide when we are ready (if ever) to become mothers. We have the right to choose what we put in our bodies to regulate our systems. That’s something to celebrate, as over 222 million women worldwide don’t have access to the birth control they need.

 However, hormonal birth control changes our natural hormonal balance. Birth control tricks the body into believing it's pregnant, thus producing unnatural cycles. We’ve been told by doctors and big pharma that this is totally safe for us, but some studies show hormonal birth control is doing some pretty wacky, and sometimes worrying, stuff to our bodies. 

how is my birth control changing my body? 

The right to know all possible side-effects from birth control is just as important as our right to take it. As with all things, an educated choice is an empowered choice. Let’s check out what might be going out beneath the surface when we use prescription birth control. 

 1. birth control can change how you smell

 A study done by researchers at the University of Vienna found that women taking the pill don’t produce pheromones, which are airborne chemical messengers shown to heighten our attractiveness to the opposite sex. "This could have a negative effect on your sexual life,” said Professor Karl Grammar of the study. 

Women naturally produce more of pheromones when they’re most fertile and men produce more testosterone when they smell pheromones. Our bodies have evolved to make us as attractive as possible (thanks, nature)! Yet, hormonal birth control disrupts our body’s production of these helpful pheromones.  

It would be nearly impossible to detect if your pheromones have changed since going on birth control, but it’s good to realize that birth control does affect our natural systems in many ways. If you’re concerned about your bc changing how you smell and attract the opposite sex, think about using a non-hormonal birth control option, such as condoms or the copper IUD. 

2.  birth control can affect your taste in men

 A study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B,  showed that women on the pill are more attracted to men with similar major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes, while women not on the pill are more likely to be attracted to those who have a dissimilar MHC gene profile. 

Scientists think women's natural preference to those with dissimilar MHC gene profiles is due to an evolutionary factor. Mates with dissimilar profiles have children with more varied profiles, giving them a higher immune system. Women are also more sexually satisfied over the long-run with a partner who has a profile different to their own.

So why does your preference shift when you go on the pill? Scientists think this may be because the hormonal birth control tricks your body into thinking it’s pregnant and then you desire more nurturing, familiar relationships.

 Potentially, this means if you find a mate while you’re on the pill, you may become dissatisfied with your partner if you come off of it later in the relationship. Of course, many couples get together and stay together while using birth control, but if you have an unexplained change in feelings as you come off or on your BC, this could be the culprit.  

3. birth control increases your risk of yeast infections  

Combination birth control pills contain both estrogen and progestin (a synthetic form of progesterone). These hormones affect the natural balance of estrogen and progesterone in the body, which can lead to yeast overgrowth.

When your body creates too much Candida, a common form of yeast in the vagina, it attaches to estrogen in your body and drives the production of estrogen down. During this time your progesterone level in your body may rise, and this is the perfect storm for a yeast infection to happen.

 Usually, the birth control pill isn’t enough to start a yeast infection on its own, but it does increase your risk. If you get yeast infections often and are on combination birth control pills, it may be a good idea to talk to your doctor about switching methods. 

 4. birth control can disrupt your sex drive

 Combined oral contraceptives have been shown in some women to lower sex drive, make it harder to achieve in orgasm, and/or make sex painful. Some women have found that while on birth control, their vagina produces less lubricant than before they were on the pill.

 Doctors recommend monitoring these things closely when you go on the pill and consider taking a different form of birth control if you find your sex life is negatively impacted.

 5. you can have an ectopic pregnancy if you have the copper IUD

Copper IUDs do not use hormones to prevent pregnancy, but that doesn’t mean they’re without side-effects. Many women experience discomfort after insertion of IUDs and have them removed within a year of insertion. 

 Copper IUDs do not prevent ectopic pregnancies, which is when a pregnancy develops outside of the womb. Ectopic pregnancies are not that common (about 1 in 1000), but be aware that it is possible when using a copper IUD. 

If you ever experience pain or swelling in the low abdomen when you’re on the IUD, it may be good to ask your doctor if you could be pregnant ectopically.

 the bottom line: stay aware

Birth control is a beautiful thing and for many women, it’s an empowering family planning tool. Many women take it with little to no side-effects noticed.

However, if we’re going to be using anything that affects our natural balance, we need to be aware of its possible effects on our bodies. If you choose to take hormonal birth control, make sure you’re fully informed of the possible side-effects, even those that aren’t listed on the box. 

When you make a decision that’s fully aware, you can keep an eye out for possible adverse side-effects. If you do think your birth control is doing something funky to your body, listen to your intuition and talk to your doctor about switching to a different method. 

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