After the "pill" was approved in 1960, it quickly became one of the most important social and cultural revolutions in the history of the world. Since that time it is estimated that over 80 percent of women born in the U.S. after 1945 have used oral contraceptives at some time in their lives. Currently an estimated 12-million women in the United States, and over 100-million women worldwide are using oral contraceptives.
Several years ago when I wrote a book titled
The Drug-Induced Nutrient Depletion Handbook, I was amazed to find that oral contraceptives deplete a wide range of nutrients from a woman's body. In fact, oral contraceptives deplete more nutrients than any other class of commonly prescribed drugs.
The health problems that can develop from these nutrient depletions include depression; sleep disorders; anemia; low energy; migraine headaches; heart attacks; strokes; blood clots; diabetes; a weakened immune system; birth defects; cancers of the uterus, colon and breast; and accelerated aging. Actually, studies report that about 50 percent of women who begin using oral contraceptives will discontinue use within the first six to 12 months due to side effects.
The Dangers of Nutrient Depletions Caused by Oral Contraceptives
Generally, side effects from a drug occur relatively quickly. For example, a skin rash or nausea and vomiting generally occur within the first day or two. In such cases, you notify your doctor and stop taking the drug. However, the health problems from drug-induced nutrient depletions are more gradual in their onset and much more difficult to recognize.
Consider the following scenario. A woman has been taking oral contraceptives for the past eight years, seemingly without any problems. However, during the past six months, she has been increasingly complaining to her husband/partner, saying things like, "Honey, I'm so tired I feel like I don't have enough energy to even get out of bed in the morning," or "Honey, by mid-day I'm so exhausted, I'm dragging and can hardly get through the rest of the day."
Oral contraceptives deplete vitamin B12, folic acid, magnesium and coenzyme Q10. Each of these nutrients plays a critical role in energy production and a deficiency of any one of them will cause tiredness, lethargy and overall low energy. However, the woman is not likely to realize that her oral contraceptives are causing nutrient depletions that are resulting in her low energy and exhaustion.
It is also important to realize that many women are taking other drugs that can deplete the same nutrients that are being depleted by her oral contraceptives. For example, NSAIDs, acid-blocking drugs and anticonvulsant medications all deplete folic acid. So, a woman may be taking a PPI medication for her reflux, ibuprofen for headaches and if she has a seizure disorder, she will also be taking an anticonvulsant medication. This can create a serious risk of giving birth to an infant with a birth defect as well as other folic acid deficiency health problems.
Oral contraceptive nutrient depletions also increase risks for future cardiovascular problems. For example, women taking
oral contraceptives have lower levels of vitamin B6, B12 and
folic acid. This can cause elevated blood levels of homocysteine,
which accelerates plaque buildup in the arteries. Years later, this
can cause a heart attack, stroke or necessitate cardiac bypass
Oral contraceptive-induced depletion of vitamin B6
and the amino acid tyrosine greatly increase a woman's
risk of depression. These nutrients are required for the
production of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and
norepinephrine, which control moods and emotions. A review
of nine clinical trials reported the incidence of depression in
women taking oral contraceptives ranged from 16 to 56 percent.
In addition to depression, low levels of serotonin also increase
the likelihood of developing sleep problems because serotonin
is the precursor for melatonin, which is the chemical in the
brain that triggers sleep.
Several of the nutrients depleted by oral contraceptives are
important antioxidants, which include vitamin C, selenium, zinc
and co-enzyme Q10. When these antioxidants are depleted, a
woman's immune system is significantly compromised.
Oral contraceptives also increase a woman's risk of giving
birth to an infant with birth defects. Folic acid deficiency is
known to be the number one cause of neural tube birth defects
and women taking OCs have lower levels of folic acid compared
Sexual side effects are one of the most common reasons
that women discontinue taking oral contraceptives. To put it
bluntly, the "pill" lowers sex drive. This is because women taking
OCs have lower levels of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and
testosterone. These two hormones regulate sex drive in both
men and women.
Common sexual side effects associated with oral
contraceptives include decreased desire for sex, greater difficulty
becoming aroused, vaginal dryness resulting in painful sex, and
difficulty or inability to achieve orgasms.
Nutritional Supplement Recommendations For Hormone Based Birth Control
If you still insist on hormone based birth control recommended
by your doctor keep this in mind; most health problems caused
by oral contraceptives can be prevented or corrected by taking
adequate nutritional supplementation. However, this is not
accomplished by taking a one-a-day supplement.
In most cases, nutrient intakes substantially greater than
the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDAs) are required
to compensate for the nutrient depletions caused by oral
contraceptives. Here are a couple of examples. The RDAs for
vitamins B1, B2 and B6 are about 1.5 mg to 2 mg daily. I suggest
that women take from 10 mg to 25 mg twice daily. The RDA for
vitamin C for adult women is 75 mg daily. I recommend at least
500 mg twice daily. Numerous companies offer higher potency
nutritional supplements that provide the nutrient intake levels
that I am suggesting.
Nutrients like tyrosine and co-enzyme Q10 are not included
in most multivitamin/mineral formulations so they have to be
purchased individually. I suggest that women take 500 mg of
tyrosine twice daily and 50 mg to 100 mg of co-enzyme Q10 daily.
The Pill Problem is a health manual that devotes 15
short information-packed chapters to the side effects of oral
contraceptives. Each chapter discusses the nutrient depletions
that can result in a particular health problem. The Pill Problem
also contains dosage recommendations for each of the nutrients
that are depleted by oral contraceptives. The Pill Problem is available in eBook and paperback from
all major online booksellers or from www.thepillproblem.com.
Hormone Free Alternative To Birth Control Pills And Devices
Two years ago I was introduced to a product called Smart
Women's Choice (SWC), which is a safe, hormone-free form of
contraception for women. Smart Women's Choice is a vaginal
gel that is made with all-natural ingredients. It works by causing
the entire ejaculate to coagulate. This prevents the sperm from
traveling up the Fallopian tubes, which inhibits fertilization
from taking place.
Smart Women's Choice was invented by Dr. Francoise Farron who is a biochemist by profession. Françoise started her studies at the University of California at Berkeley, got her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from New York University Medical School, and went on to work at Harvard Medical School studying control mechanisms of cell growth in cancer.
In one scientific study on her Smart Women's Choice formula, SWC caused a 100 percent clumping or immobilization of sperm at all concentrations tested. SWC has been on the market now for over three years and there has not been a single reported pregnancy.
All hormone-containing methods of contraception for women produce significant side effects. Thus, I was quite happy to learn about Smart Women's Choice and in October 2105,
I wrote a supportive article about SWC that I posted on my
Natural Pharmacist blog.
SWC comes in a compact 1 oz. tube that you can conveniently carry. It is recommended to store it in your refrigerator to make it easier to apply. It does not have an expiration date.
Instructions: Squeeze approximately one inch of the product
onto your middle finger and insert into the vagina immediately
before each sexual intercourse: afterwards, rinse thoroughly
with tap water.
Each tube has approximately 50 applications.
You can purchase Smart Women's Choice directly from their website: