As a woman’s priorities, goals, and personal situations evolve throughout her life, so will her perspective on her sexual and reproductive health. For most women, this will include decisions on the use of contraception. Hormone combination oral contraceptives, or birth control pills, have been a very popular choice among women looking to prevent pregnancy ever since their introduction in the 1960s. Most recent statistics indicate that 80% of women have used “the pill” to prevent pregnancy at some point in their life.1
How do birth control pills work?
Healthcare providers use birth control pills are used to treat a variety of conditions from acne to endometriosis, however their primary design is to prevent pregnancy. While there is a variety of options on the market, the traditional birth control pill consists of a combination with two synthetic hormones that copy natural female hormones, estrogen and progestin. Raising hormone levels disrupts a woman’s natural cycle and prevents pregnancy by:
- Stopping the release of an egg from one of the ovaries for fertilization2,3
- Thickening mucous at the cervix to prevent sperm from entering the womb 2,3
- Thinning the lining of the womb making it unfavorable for pregnancy 2,3
Should I avoid taking supplements with my birth control?
There are some supplements that may change the way your body processes the hormones present in your birth control pills. Since your body depends on these hormones reaching a certain level to be effective at preventing pregnancy, anything that might reduce hormone levels could potentially change effectiveness. For example, St. John’s Wort, a supplement commonly used for mood, may speed up the breakdown of estrogen by the liver.4 On the other hand, a supplement that may slow down the breakdown of estrogen could make hormone levels higher than expected increasing the likelihood a woman may experience side effects with her medication.5
Some women feel the need to try and balance their natural hormone production while taking birth control pills. However, this feeling of hormone imbalance is more likely due to side effects of your medication. Side effects are most common at the beginning of a new hormone regimen and usually disappear once your body adjusts to therapy. Lingering side effects of birth control pills are usually due to an inappropriate dose of hormone. Below are some examples of side effects that could occur due to too much or too little estrogen or progestin in your birth control. 2,3
Side effects of progestins 2,3
|Too much progestin||Too little progestin|
|Increased appetite, weight gain, fatigue, changes in mood||Breakthrough bleeding (late in your cycle)|
Side effects of estrogens 2,3
|Too much estrogen||Too little estrogen|
|Nausea, bloating, breast tenderness, headache||Breakthrough bleeding (early in your cycle)|
It is estimated that almost 65% of women who stop their birth control do so because of unwanted side effects.1 If you are continuing to experience bothersome side effects after a few months of therapy, then you should talk to your healthcare provider. It may be necessary to adjust the dose of your medication or change to a different hormone combination. Consider keeping a diary of your symptoms in order to help your healthcare provider determine which changes best suit your individual needs.
Which supplements should I take with my birth control?
While it is not necessary to take supplements to balance your hormones while using birth control pills, it may be a good idea to supplement some vitamins and nutrients if your diet is lacking. Current evidence shows that women using birth control pills long term may have lower levels of several B vitamins (especially folate), magnesium, and zinc.6,7 Generally most women can avoid these deficiencies with a well-balanced diet. However, if your diet doesn’t consist of vitamin and mineral rich fruits and vegetables, you may benefit from the addition of a good multivitamin.8 Persona’s online personal assessment is a great tool to determine if you are meeting all your nutritional needs. By answering questions regarding your lifestyle, diet, and listing your medications, like birth control, you receive personalized recommendations tailored to you.
This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. Do not use the information from this article for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing medication or other treatment. Always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal or homeopathic supplement, or using any treatment for a health problem. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider promptly. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional advice because of something you have read in this article.