The Hormonal Acne Diaries: Is The Pill Really Balancing My Hormones?
In the last post in this series, we had a good old chat about what is and is not normal when it comes to your cycle.
- your period should arrive every 21-35 days - no more or less often
- it will flow for anywhere from 2-7 days, although most women flow for 3-5 days, with 50ml's worth of flow
- there may be a little bit of mild pain or discomfort for the first day or so of your period, but you shouldn't need to take painkillers
- too-early, too-late, too-heavy, too-light, excruciatingly painful, and MIA (missing in action) periods are not normal
Now, babe, we look at the Pill, and whether it's really "balancing" your hormones after all.
You see, one in three women are on The Pill to "regulate" their period.
It's the magic pill to end all period problems, right?
Hmm. Not quite, babe.
In reality, that regular period you get each month (or maybe you don't get one every month - maybe it's every second, or every few, or twice a year)? That ain't a period. It's a pill bleed, and it does not even come close to matching a natural period.
You see, there are a few major differences between a normal cycle + period, and being on the Pill:
1. B L E E D S
Okay, I think we've got this straight, but I'll say it once more: a pill bleed ain't a period.
While a healthy cycle would see a period come, on average, every 28 days, a pill bleed is a drug-induced bleed as a result of the withdrawal from taking it, which the manufacturers usually make happen every 28 days.
The reality is, there's not much point to a monthly pill bleed.
While we're not on the Pill, a monthly period is the aim of our game - it lets us know the health of our cycle and hormones.
We already know, though, that we don't have an actual cycle if we're on the pill. While a regular pill bleed will help prevent any breakthrough bleeding (aka spotting), you could actually have one every 56 days, or, heck, even every 84 days. Either way, you won't be scoring any insight into the health of your natural cycle or hormones.
2. F E R T I L I T Y
There are only six days in a normal, healthy cycle where you could fall pregnant. Yep, only six. The day of ovulation, and the five days beforehand.
On the Pill? There generally* aren't any days you could be fertile.
It's the whole point of the Pill, after all: to go against what our bodies are more or less biologically designed to do, and suppress ovulation.
* The Pill is 99.7% effective... if you're using it absolutely perfectly. That means taking it at the same time every single day/night, not potentially throwing it up if you fall sick, and not using any interfering medications (like some benzodiazepines, antibiotics, and epilepsy drugs) or herbs (like Vitex/Chaste Tree or St Johns Wort) at the same time.
3. H O R M O N E S
The hormones in the Pill are not the same as the ones you'll make in a natural, healthy cycle.
As we've covered off before in this series of posts, you have two ovarian hormones: oestradiol (an oestrogen) and progesterone.
Hormonal birth control hormones are, as the name suggests, not human hormones. They're more like pseudo-hormones. They are still chemical messengers, though, telling your brain and body what to do. They include ethinyloestradiol, levonorgestrel, and drospirenone.
Levonorgestrel is possibly a name you've seen before - it's in a whole heap of oral contraceptives, the Mirena, and even the morning-after pill. It's a progestin.
Progestin = different to progesterone. While progesterone is hugely beneficial for our brain + hair health, for example, progestin has been linked to depression, anxiety and hair loss. And, just to add insult to injury, progestin will rob you of your progesterone (because they won't allow you to ovulate - the only way you'll be able to make any progesterone in the first place).
The hormones in the Pill are also not the same as pregnancy hormones.
So, back to our original question: "is the Pill really balancing my hormones?"
No, honey. I'm sorry to say: it's really not.
Now, before I end, full disclosure: I'm not trying to force you off the Pill. As a grown woman, girlfriend, you're more than entitled to make your own choice about your body! I just want you to be able to make that choice an informed one.
And, even more fully full disclosure: I've been on the Pill before. I get it.
I was put on it for my endometriosis, because my doctor told me that my only options were a) surgery (no thanks), or, b) go on the pill and avoid painful periods by avoiding periods altogether. So I went with option b. For a very long time.
...Until I learnt that there were natural options for my endo, too.
If you'd like to learn more about which natural hormonal treatment options are available for you, whether you're on the pill or not, why not book a one-on-one consult with me?