Posted by: Amy | September 26, 2010

5 Reasons the Pill May NOT be the Answer to PCOS

I find it so frustrating that most doctors feel that the first line of defense against PCOS is the birth control pill.  Just the other day I went to the Endocrinologist for a thyroid check.  When the Dr. sat down and looked at my chart she saw that I had PCOS and asked if I was trying to conceive.  I explained that I have 3 children and am not.  So her next question was why I wasn’t taking oral contraceptives for my PCOS?

For years I was on the Pill to control my PCOS symptoms.  I admit,  it did  regulate my cycle and help lower testosterone levels but at what cost?  The pill was merely masking my symptoms and in turn, was making the underlying cause (insulin resistance) worse. I can also attest that I never felt well while taking it.  My hypoglycemia was out of control, I gained weight, had no sex drive.  I don’t want to discount the value of having a regular monthly cycle to help prevent uterine cancer, but  I now can regulate my cycles with diet, exercise and supplements and when I need a little help I use  natural progesterone cream.

If you are currently taking the Pill or are thinking about it, here are some risk factors to consider:

  1. Increased insulin resistance A 2006 study in the journal Fertility and Sterility showed that birth control pills may exacerbate insulin resistance.
  2. Increase risk of heart attack or stroke U.S.-Canadian study has found that even low-dose oral contraceptives appear to increase women’s risk of a heart attack or stroke. Dr. John Nestler and Dr. Paulina Essah of Virginia Commonwealth University and Dr. Jean-Patrice Baillargeon of the Universite de Sherbrooke  determined that women using low-dose contraceptives have approximately twice the risk of stroke or heart disease.Women with polycystic ovary syndrome or metabolic syndrome already have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
  3. The Pill lowers levels of valuable nutrients like B-vitamins, folic acid, Vitamin C and E, magnesium and zinc.  You need sufficient levels of zinc to maintain a healthy hormone balance.  Weight gain, fluid retention, mood changes, depression and even heart disease can all arise from nutrient imbalance.
  4. The Pill lowers libido Irwin Goldstein, Claudia Panzer and their colleagues at Boston University studied 125 young women who attended a sexual dysfunction clinic. Sixty-two of them were taking oral contraceptives, 40 had previously taken them and 23 had never taken them. The team measured levels of SHBG in the women every three months for a year, and found that in pill users they were seven times as high as in women who had never taken them. SHBG lowers libido.
  5. The Pill can kill off friendly bacteria in your gut which can lead to digestive problems and candida (yeast).  Estrogen, the major ingredient in the Pill, is known to promote the growth of yeast. Too much yeast causes sugar and carb cravings among many other problems.

It is important  to remember that there is no instant pill to make the PCOS symptoms go away.

If you want to come off the pill but still need a contraceptive, I highly recommend the Creighton Model Fertility Care System (CrM). It uses the science-based modality of NaPro Technology (NaPro), a women’s health science that evolved from interpreting the biomarkers of the menstrual and fertility cycle, mainly, all the stages of cervical mucus and the length and intensity of the menstrual flow.  For more info visit http://www.naprotechnology.com/index.html

(1) Mastorakos G et al, Effects of two forms of combined oral contraceptives on carbohydrate metabolism in adolescents with polycystic ovary syndrome, Fertil Steril. 2006 Feb;85(2):420-7

(2) Source: Baillargeon, JP et al, Association between the current use of low-dose oral contraceptives and cardiovascular arterial disease: a meta-analysis. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2005 Jul;90(7):3863-70

(3) Nutrition and The Pill J Reprod Med. 1984 Jul;29(7 Suppl):547-50.

(4) New Scientist May 27 2005

Note: I am not a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor on your health care to find out what is right for you.


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Responses

  1. I am currently on nuvaring which i was told was mild on the hormones and although i yo-yo because i’ve given up on my diet and exercise routines in the past, I’ve been able to lose weight before and right now on my current weight loss blogging adventure. i’d like to go off birth control when it’s possible too but i’m worried because the last time i went off for a month, my weight sprung up about 5-8 pounds. I guess I would have to ask a doctor but would you have any idea at what weight (BMI, whatever) it would be safe to go off nvaring– i mean, is there a point in weight loss when the cycle become at least somwhat normal? I vaguely remember a somewhat regular cycle when i was more active in high school about about 150-160 pounds (now i’m 183 and I’ve been all the way up to about 210 in my adult life).

    Anyways, great to find another blogging PCOSer! Is it all right if I link and follow you? My blog is http://pcos532.wordpress.com

    • Thanks for your comment. As I state in my post I am not a medical professional. I can only say that I am now at a 21 BMI and I still need help with my cycles from time to time and I now use natural progesterone cream. I will post about it soon. I will tell you that I did experience hair loss after stopping the pill. Don’t be alarmed, it is just like post-partum and does come back. If you are taking spironolactone or even saw palmetto it may not be as much loss. The absolute best thing you can do for your PCOS is exercise and eat clean. Check out my posts about both. Thanks for linking to me. Keep up the good work with your weight loss!

  2. I tried Yaz for about a year or two and it did regulate hormones/cycles. I was also on spironolactone which lowered my testosterone even more. I noticed the same type of symptoms on the pill as PCOSDiva. Libido was down, I was really dehydrated and sensitive to hot environments, and my blood sugar was completely out of control. I gained weight in my chest (not necessarily a bad thing) and had a great complexion, as well as less body/facial hair.

    Now I’m off of both of those because I just traded one set of symptoms for a different set and spironolactone blocks your good hormones too.

    I am only taking a small dose of progesterone morning and night, which helps hair loss, skin, and cycle pain. I’m exercising as much as I can and eating very well. I do give myself one cheat day a week. I’m also trying to detox from sugar by taking a fungal defend tincture.

    I still have major depression around my period and during, so I’m still searching for more helpful things.

    • Thanks for sharing. I have found that SAM-e helps me with my mood. It increases seretonin and beta-endorphins which many of us with PCOS are low on. I am also finding that if I don’t eat gluten I emotionally feel more joyful/radiant if that makes sense. Read my post about food journalling. It has helped me identify the foods that effect my mood. I also just started acupuncture. The acupuncturist said that it is really helpful for depression because it releases endorphins. I just went for my first visit last week and really felt great afterwards. I am curious about the fungal defend tincture. I assume it is for candida?

  3. Hi Amy¡¡
    i love your blog¡¡¡ i will put it in my blog list¡¡
    Regarding the pill only to tell you that i asked my gyn the other about this, as i was taking the pill during 16 years, i lowed down my weight till 59 kilos and one year after leaving the pill to go for babies i put 30 kilos more¡¡ my hair in the face was awful, you know…
    i told him that pill was not the best treatment then why they still prescribe it?? his answer was the following: “it is the easiest way..”¡¡¡ incredible¡¡¡ they do not advise you to go to an endo for having a good diet and exercise, they do not teach to have a healthy life because this takes more time to explain and follow¡¡ this is the real true¡¡ i do not say not take the pill as i took it, it could be ok when you are young but meanwhile you are taking it you have to prepare your body to the following steps…
    i had with the pill, lack of libido, and a bit of depresion…so now with a normal diet and a bit of exercise and taichi i feel great¡¡¡
    regards from sunny Spain¡¡¡

    • Thanks for sharing your story. That is my whole point of this blog – to inform women that there is another way! Glad you found it!

      • Yes, of course there is another way, i took the pill during 16 years, and after that nothing, now my menses are very regular as i am now 46 years and i am now in my premenopause, i know a lot of Spanish ladies who do not want the pill, but doctors still prescribe it as the best way to control PCOS, it is important to remark that you can not be more than 3 month without your menses to prevent having an endometrial cancer, but with a good diet, exercise, some relaxation techniques, such yoga or taichi, or acupunture and reflexology can do the trick to regulate your body, if with this your menses do not return then you can try progesterone, natural or on cream.


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