The birth control pill contributed to a variety of unpleasant experiences during the years that I used it to “treat” my debilitating periods. Hence why I decided to go off it for good in my early thirties. However, after being diagnosed with endometriosis, I became fearful that I would be cornered to get back on the birth control pill. With good reason considering my past experience with side effects and the lack of evidence supporting claims that the birth control pill is beneficial at suppressing the growth of endometrial tissue. So, I did my research on the birth control pill for the first few months post-surgery and if it had a place in my recovery journey.
Birth Control Pill Issues
Ortho-tri-cyclen was the first birth control pill that I was prescribed and took. It was promoted to me as the only apparent solution for my painful, debilitating periods. As a 19-year-old girl who had missed many days of school and work due to severe menstrual complications, I was desperate. And, so began my long affair with hormonal contraception. Don’t get me wrong they were successful at maintaining my menstrual pain. However, I found they increased my anxiety and depression. Which were mental health challenges I struggled with at the time.
Additionally, I encountered issues with recurrent vaginal infections. For months on end, I would cycle through yeast infections and bacterial infections. Regardless of how well I prioritized my vaginal health, it was still an issue, and I couldn’t determine why.
Furthermore, while I was dealing with these strange side effects, other symptoms began to surface. It’s only now that I understand these symptoms were caused by endometriosis progressing in my body. Yet, since I was taking the birth control pill, I wasn’t as in tune with my body’s natural rhythms. Therefore, I didn’t know how the disease was impacting my reproductive health. So, I found myself dealing with IBS like symptoms that caused chronic constipation and severe bloating. These issues would occur when I ate certain foods, after high-intensity workouts, or during stressful times. And, while these symptoms aren’t side effects associated with birth control. Something that I’ve come to learn since my diagnosis is how birth control interferes with diagnosing conditions like endometriosis because they mask symptoms. Similar to what happened to me. I went years struggling with confusing symptoms as endometriosis grew within my body.
Limitations and Complications
While it’s debatable whether birth control pills directly cause these issues due to limited research that backs my experience. The fact remains that taking birth control to address endometriosis-like symptoms serves to mask the disease further delaying diagnosis and treatment. And, while many doctors believe birth control can help suppress endometrial tissue proliferation, there isn’t concrete research to prove this. Furthermore, considering that there’s a hormonal component to endometriosis, an elevated level of estrogen can increase endometrial growth and should be considered when prescribing birth control, especially combination birth control. All of these factors weren’t taken into account when I was prescribed birth control pills. As a matter of fact, I was encouraged to take an extended cycle birth control pill known as Seasonique. This brand of birth control contained a combination of Ethinyl estradiol (synthetic estrogen) and levonorgestrel (synthetic progesterone).
Seeking An Alternative Option
The combination of my past complications and lack of research made birth control a less palatable course of action in my eyes. Hence, why I began to look into what other options were available in regards to managing my endometriosis. This led me to learn more about a holistic and intuitive approach involving the fertility awareness method (FAM), nutrition, fitness, supplementation, and decreasing environmental toxins.
Learning About FAM
When I began dipping my toe into fertility tracking a couple of years ago, I was amazed at how much I learned about my body and my health. Not only did I truly learn about the power of my menstrual cycle and the beauty of the reproductive system. I was also able to identify issues with my reproductive health, such as ovulation dysfunction, irregular cycles, luteal phase defects, and abnormally low basal body temperatures during my follicular phase. Many of these issues correlate to complications with endometriosis and how it’s impacted my health.
As a result of what I learned, I found my voice and learned how to advocate for my health. Additionally, all the information I gathered and tracked provided real-time feedback about what was and wasn’t working. Therefore I could make changes to improve my symptoms and better manage my pain.
But don’t take my word for it. There’s substantial research that discusses how charting, specifically charting basal body temperature, is a helpful diagnostic tool for identifying endometriosis. Learn more about this research here.
So, I’ve always been a little obsessed with health. And, while this obsession hasn’t always been healthy. I’ve learned to overcome my body image issues and toxic relationship with food. Learning to balance nourishing my body with nourishing my senses via intuitive eating has been a major key. Abandoning the obsession with diet culture and counting calories, tracking macros, and weighing food was helpful.
And while intuitive eating has saved me from over restriction and binge eating. I still blend in basics of two of my favorite dietary styles. The anti-inflammatory diet and the Mediterranean diet are fantastic at decreasing inflammation and oxidative stress within the body. They provide a solid foundation of whole minimally processed foods rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that are important for managing endometriosis.
Making Fitness Fun
This mindset has also trickled down to how I approach fitness, instead of working out to “lose weight” or achieve a certain aesthetic. It’s more about attaining personal fitness goals and moving my body in ways that I love. You remember how when you were a kid and so excited for recess cause you got to play on all the equipment and run around. Yea, I want my exercise to be the adult version of that freedom.
Consequently, regularly moving your body aids in decreasing anxiety and depression naturally by increasing those feel-good hormones. Another benefit of committing to a regular exercise routine is that it helps with balancing hormones, which can also help with decreasing the rate of endometriosis regrowth, inflammation, and pain.
The Power of Herbal Tea
I’ve always known and believed in herbal tea’s power, especially when combined with a well-balanced diet. Herbal teas are a great alternative to hormonal birth control when it comes to managing endo symptoms. For instance, chamomile can help decrease the growth of endometriosis. This is mostly due to chrysin, a unique compound that’s often found in chamomile. Additionally, peppermint tea is excellent at helping with debilitating menstrual cramps making them less intense.
Nixing Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals
While the cause of endometriosis remains unknown, many suspect that environmental toxins increase the risk of hormonal imbalance, disease, and cancer. They do so by disrupting the normal, healthy function of the endocrine system. These compounds are usually found in cosmetics, personal care products, and other household items we use regularly. While this is a hot topic with limited research to properly establish these claims as concrete. I personally can’t exclude the fact that having endometriosis a disease with a hormonal component can make me more susceptible to hormonal imbalances via environmental toxins. Hence why I’ve begun decreasing the use of such products.
Mainly, parabens, phthalates, formaldehyde releasers, synthetic fragrance, oxybenzone, and dioxin. Since I’ve actively decreased these ingredients from my cosmetics and personal care products, I’ve noticed subtle differences in my overall well-being. And, yes, I get that correlation does not always equal causation. So, maybe these changes didn’t occur because I switched to “clean” beauty products. Nonetheless, I believe that little modifications such as this add up when it comes to fighting endometriosis.
Saying No to The Pill
In case it hasn’t been clear, I decided not to include hormonal birth control as part of my approach to managing my endometriosis. And I’m so proud that I made a choice based on what’s best for me. Bear in mind this wasn’t an easy decision. There was a lot of thought, planning, and research. But I’m taking ownership of my body and my health.
Furthermore, I want the same for you. I want you to become so empowered that you do the research, ask the questions, and make the best decisions for your body and your endo journey. This could mean that you choose to take birth control. And listen, that’s completely fine. Endometriosis isn’t a one size fits all condition. So, it’s insane to believe that what works for me will work for you. It’s so important to have an individualistic approach to endo management. Hence why you should experiment with different methods and treatment styles as long as you’re under medical supervision. My sincerest wish is that you find peace and healing with your endometriosis and get your life back.
About the Author
Hi, my name is Kathleen but you can call me Kat. I’m a health and wellness professional turned freelance writer and content creator. You can find me on YouTube and Instagram. If you take the opportunity to visit me on my other platforms don’t hesitate to leave a message, I would love to hear from you!
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