Just Say No to Birth Control Pills

While birth control pills are indeed effective at preventing unwanted pregnancies, the risks far outweigh the benefits as far as your health is concerned. If you are currently using birth control of any kind (the pill, shots, the patch, etc.), I cannot urge you strongly enough to stop using them immediately. There are many other safer ways to prevent pregnancy.

Birth control pill side effects

Many women may also be taking birth control pills to alleviate painful cramping or irregular periods. The pill, however, does nothing to address the cause of the problem, and instead can even compound the problem.

Dr. Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D. explains that “cramping or 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?

Birth control pills, patches and shots promote continuously raised estrogen levels in a woman’s body, something that is neither natural nor safe.

“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,” Dr. Dane reminds us.

The effects of continuously raised estrogen levels in the body include:

  • Increased risk of breast cancer
  • Increased risk of blood clotting, heart attack and stroke
  • Migraines
  • Gall Bladder disease
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Weight gain
  • Mood changes
  • Nausea, Irregular bleeding or spotting
  • Benign liver tumors
  • Breast tenderness

Most people don’t know that in order for the body to metabolize the pill, the liver requires extra amounts of the B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium and zinc. This means that if a woman has been on the pill for years at a time (as most American women are), she is creating a nutrient deficiency in her body–one of the two causes of all disease (the other being toxicity).

Birth Control Causes Candida

While yeast (candida albicans) generally makes its home in the digestive tract, common lifestyle choices like use of birth control pills, antibiotics, a refined grain and sugar diet, and high stress levels often lead to a candida overgrowth.

Toxins from yeast overgrowth can lead to a host of other problems in the body, presenting themselves in a variety of manners far beyond the common vaginal infection.

Symptoms like migraines, infertility, fibromyalgia, endometriosis, psoriasis, PMS, depression and digestive disorders have all been linked to yeast overgrowth. The evidence clearly shows that when you address the yeast overgrowth, the symptoms improve or subside.

Yeast overgrowth has been closely linked to estrogen dominance in a woman’s body caused by the pill.

Birth Control Increases Risk of Cancer

The National Cancer Institute tells us that the risk of developing breast cancer is 1 in 8 for the general public.

But studies done by Chris Kahlenborn, M.D., from Altoona Hospital in Altoona Pennsylvania, indicate that “women who took oral birth control before having their first child have a 44-percent increased risk of developing breast cancer.”

That would bring your risk of developing breast cancer to 1 in 5-staggeringly high.

“There’s tremendous vested interested — drug companies with a lot of money, government agencies who give a lot of money for contraception. It doesn’t make people look good when a study like this comes out,” Dr. Kahlenborn said.

Natural Birth Control Alternatives

There are many safe and effective contraceptives to consider:

  • Male Condoms: At a 98% effectiveness rate, they are nearly as effective as the pill.
  • Female Condoms: While these are not as familiar to most people, female condoms are 95% effective and are less likely to tear than male condoms. It consists of a small pouch that fits inside the vagina before sex.
  • Diaphragms: These must be fitted by a doctor and are 92-98% effective at preventing pregnancy. They are thin, soft rubber mounted on a ring which are inserted into the upper part of the vagina to cover the cervix and act as a barrier to sperm.
  • Cervical Cap: This is a heavy rubber cap that fits tightly over the cervix. It must be put into place by a doctor and can be left in place for 48 hours. These have a 91% effectiveness.
  • Natural Family Planning/Fertility Awareness: A great method for the female to track her natural cycle, identify times of fertility, treat premenstrual symptoms and evaluate the effects of stress.
  • Calendar Method: Abstention from sex during the week the woman is ovulating. This technique works best when a woman’s menstrual cycle is very regular. The calendar method doesn’t work very well for couples who use it by itself (about a 75 percent success rate), but it can be effective when combined with the temperature and mucus methods described below.
  • Temperature method: This is a way to pinpoint the day of ovulation so that sex can be avoided for a few days before and after. It involves taking the basal body temperature (your temperature upon first waking) each morning with an accurate “basal” thermometer, and noting the rise in temperature that occurs after ovulation.
  • Illness or lack of sleep can change body temperature and make this method unreliable by itself, but when it is combined with the mucus method, it can be an accurate way of assessing fertility. The two methods combined can have a success rate as high as 98 percent.
  • Mucus method: This involves tracking changes in the amount and texture of vaginal discharge, which reflect rising levels of estrogen in the body. For the first few days after your period, there is often no discharge, but there will be a cloudy, tacky mucus as estrogen starts to rise. When the discharge starts to increase in volume and becomes clear and stringy, ovulation is near. A return to the tacky, cloudy mucus or no discharge means that ovulation has passed.

The Bottom Line

The risks involved with unnaturally altering a woman’s estrogen levels are far too great to be ignored. The estrogen dominance and nutrient deficiencies created by the pill cause a host of health problems that could easily be prevented by using safer, more natural means of contraceptives, or addressing the cause of irregular periods and cramping.

Josh Axe

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32 comments so far - add yours!

  1. jensen says:

    <p>My daughter was put on birth control for ovarian cysts. She is 19. What do you recommend as an alternative?</p>

  2. Dr. Axe says:

    <p>Evening Primrose Oil is by far the best natural supplement to help with hormone imbalance and PCOS. Reducing grain and sugar intake is very important, as well as following the Healing Foods diet. In addition to the Primrose Oil, taking an Omega-3 supplement is also important.</p>

  3. Jen says:

    <p>Hi, I called tonight and talked to Dr. Axe about why not to take birth control, and it’s side effects. I have read all of the alternatives, but I am scared to start some of these natural methods because they don’t seem full proof. The pill makes me feel like I definately WON’T get pregnant, but the risks are scary. Do you recommend the Mirena and does it also have health risks?? Thank you.</p>

  4. Jennifer says:

    <p>I heard Jen’s question on your show and I have the same feelings. The alternative birth control methods you mentioned in this article scare me. I feel &quot;safe&quot; taking a birth control pill, but the risks do concern me. I am currently on the Nuva Ring. I noticed that you didn’t mention that in your article. I am curious if it is somehow safer than the traditional pill. I am also interested in hearing your feelings on Mirena. Thanks so much!</p>

  5. Kim says:

    <p>I hit you on face book but some how I eased your response. I havenlt had birthcontrol in 18 years. T’he Doctor wanted me to take them because ilm anemic and have heavy cycles. Fibroid tumors also. Thanks</p>

    • kelley says:

      Interesting as these are the same thing my daughter has. What have you used for the last 18 years and what did you do for the ailments?

  6. Hanna says:

    <p>I have been using mirena for the last 6 years and am also interested in hearing about any risks it may have.</p>

  7. Lynn A says:

    <p>I’m looking to buy a natural progesterone cream. I read an article about Arbonne Prolief natural balancing cream….is this a good one?</p>

  8. Kim says:

    Thank you so much for bringing this information to people’s awareness. I am a certified Natural Family Planning Instructor. I teach classes in Nashville, TN. I have researched alternatives to many reproductive disorders.

    Many women also lack Vitamin C and E. It really seems to help with PCOS, endometriosis, heavy bleeding etc… The evening primrose oil is awesome too, along with Omega 3.

    Women need to know that the pill just masks these issues, they do not cure them. They also need to know that a slight irregular cycle is not a ‘problem.’ If a woman were to use NFP (and I teach The Ovulation Method) she would know the day that she ovulates and also when to expect her period to begin. This method is 99% effective, and so easy to use. It is also very empowering for a woman to learn this method and to know what her body is doing throughout her cycle.

    If you are interested in taking a class, or just getting some questions answered you can email me at: nfpcoordintor@gmail.com.

    Thanks again Dr. Axe

  9. Kristen says:

    Dr. Axe, can you suggest an overall wellness plan for women dealing with PCOS. I have been on traditional treatments for about 11 years now. I take BCP, Metformin, and Aldactone. I am a healthy weight, but would really like to know a reasonable way to transition from these medications to a more natural way of dealing with my problem. I am often sick, have low energy, and rarely feel “good”. I am very nervous about just discontinuing my meds at once, because the symptoms of weight gain and hair growth come on so fast. Can you suggest how to transition, and your recommendations? Thank you.

  10. ADRIAN THOMAS says:

    I have used the cervical cap with total success . unfortunaly my daughters can’t find a doctor that would give them one , I guess they don’t make money on it .

  11. Michelle says:

    Hi – I have battled for 1 1/2 years now with my hormones/ weight gain/ return of acne from stopping birth control after being on it for 6+ years. When I first started, I experienced the adverse reactions – I shedded my excess weight, didn’t have mood swings, and my periods were shorter/lighter. However, Since stopping, I have gained 45lbs without changing my diet (which I believe is more healthy than the average), increasing my exercise routine, and my periods are heavier and longer. My husband and I have been trying to have a child since I stopped taking my birth control, but we have been unsuccessful. I have had blood work drawn, thyroid checked, and so on, but I no one has any explaination. I know this isn’t normal….Any suggestions?

  12. Erin says:

    Do you know anyone that has successfully treated PCOS naturally? If so, how? I’ve been told by a medical doctor PCOS will never go away, and birth control is the only option (I disagree). But I don’t know what type of “natural method” is safe. I’ve been told that even hormone replacement therapy can be dangerous.

    • Summer says:

      If you live in the Nashville area I recommend Dr. Mark Binkley at Health &amp; Wellness. He treated me for PCOS after my Obgyn diagnosed me. I had the Mirena but by his recommendations recently had it removed because of the fake progesterone in it. He recommends if you must get a IUD then get the copper one. For me he recommended a diet very similar to a paleo diet (vegetables, protein, fruit, and nuts, no breads or processed foods) and I have to admit it has made a difference! He also recommended Vitamin D3, Probiotics and enhancers.
      Hope that helps! Don’t give up!

  13. Michelle says:

    I am 27 and been on birth control since 17.. only break was during my only pregnancy. Now I am on nuva ring and I get results next week about whether or not a now have an auto immune disease. I wonder if I can reverse this by stopping birth control and changing all my imbalances??? :/

  14. Marguerite says:

    Thank you for this article. My husband and I are Natrual Family Planning instructors (Sympto-Thermal method) and agree that hormonal birth control is doing much harm to women’s bodies. It always baffles me that people will go to all ends to buy only non-GMO food, grass-fed meat, etc., but will put artificial hormones into their bodies as their birth control method.

    Addressing those above who have concern about the risk of stopping hormones, we teach it like this: A pharma company has a window of 90-110% efficacy rate they need to meet for each pill/tablet. Using NFP, you are in charge of your body and in control of your pregnacy rate. When used properly, NFP (properly trained) can be 97%+. And that is just one of the benefits of using NFP.

    • Lisa McDaniel PA-C says:


      That’s so great you teach NFP! I teach sympto-thermal and Creighton models of NFP, and they are over 99% effective at postponing pregnancy when used properly. My husband and I use NFP, and each and every day we know if we are fertile or not. We’ve been married 3.5 years and have one planned baby. We don’t prescribe birth control in our OB/GYN office and women are so receptive to learning NFP – Insurance even pays for it these days! – so it’s refreshing to see others finding the science of our bodies to fascinating and reliable :) Keep up the great work!


  15. Kimberly says:

    Finally!!!! Someone is speaking out about this!!! Thank you, Dr. Axe!!! You are a brave man!

  16. Kimberly says:

    Have you heard about NaProTechnology? http://www.naprotechnology.com

    • Dr. Josh Axe says:

      I have heard a little about it but believe that allowing your body to heal through eating clean foods, ridding your body of toxins, and allowing your body to rest are the best ways to regain health and balance hormones.

  17. Maria says:

    I currently have the Mirena…and when I went in to go get it removed…they couldnt find it. After an ultrasound, the discovered that it broke into at least two pieces which may be embedded in my uterus. Now I have to get it removed surgically. Supposedly this is not typical…but just something to keep in mind in case you are considering it.

  18. Soni says:

    What do you think about the “essure” or tubal ligation? I need something permanent…

    • Dr. Josh Axe says:

      Women who undergo tubal ligation have an increased risk of hysterectomy or ectopic pregnancy. I personally don’t recommend either of those options. Natural family planning combined with some type of barrier method can provide contraceptive protection and have less health side effects.

  19. heather says:

    What are your thoughts on male viscetomy.
    And side effects

  20. Lee says:

    I am thinking of stopping the birth control pill soon. I keep having the feeling that it is bad for me. I can deal with all the side effects of stopping except for weight gain and hair loss. DO you have any advise for avoiding the weight gain and hair loss? Any advise to lose the weight gain if it happens to me? Any advise to help my hair regrow if I get hair loss?

    Thank you

  21. Gina says:

    Do you have any advise for stopping the pill with the least amount of side effects? I have been to womens blogs and forums and they all say that they got hair loss, weight gain, mood swings. etc when stopping the pill. They dont post anything that will help with the side effects. They also dont come back and repost to tell if they lost the weight or the hair loss stopped or hair grew back. I wish they would post and tell their progress. My husband is the only one who knows I am on the pill. My mother doesnt know I am on the pill and I see her every day since we live on the same street. I want to avoid any side effects she would notice like bloating, weight gain or hair loss. I have only been on the pill about a year and my hair is thinning. It feels thinner and I notice more hair coming out in my brush every morning. I am afraid of hair loss and weight gain when I stop the pill. Do you have any advise for any thing, diet, supplements, exercise, that will lessen or let me get the least amount of side effects when stopping the pill?

  22. Teri says:

    I’m not sure my comments will offer any help to some of you ladies considering stopping oral birth control but I’ll certainly share what I’ve experienced. In brief, I’ve taken Kariva (the generic for Mircette) for approx 9 years. I wanted to stop supplementing with oral hormones 5 years ago so I simply stopped the pill. Within 3 months I bottomed out completely…my hair began falling out in massive amounts, I lost a lot of weight & my skin changed completely. I had zero energy. I am a sports/fitness trainer. I lost almost all of my muscle. I wasn’t overweight & couldn’t afford to lose any. My skin looked saggy all over my body. Honestly, the hair loss was the most traumatic. I would guess I lost about 2/3 of my total hair. I have thick, long hair & I have always loved having beautiful long hair. I couldn’t workout with my clients because it took all the energy I had just to train them. I had blood work done, tried bio identical hormones, supplemented with all sorts of wonderful herbs (ashwaganda, saw palmetto, deer placenta, etc) & nothing helped. Everyday my hair was all over the floor, in my car, on my clothes…everywhere but on my head. It really was awful. After trying everything possible for about one year, I ended up going back on Kariva. Within the first month, my hair stopped falling out & began growing back 2 months following. My energy returned & i’ve slowly been able to regain some lost muscle/weight that I’d lost.
    Its been a really awful experience because I don’t want to continue on oral hormones. I believe they are unhealthy. I am an incredible health-concious woman but feel helpless in eliminating artificial hormones from my daily life.
    I apologize for not offering any “helpful” tips but wanted to at least share what I’ve experienced when attempting to go off of the pill. I wish I could find a Doctor who could treat me effectively while “weening” from the pill or at least transition my body to a hormonal supplement that is less harmful than the pill.
    Good luck, Girls..

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