The birth control pill, also known as the ‘combined oral contraceptive pill’, is a method of birth control that alters a woman’s hormone balance as a means to prevent her from becoming pregnant. These normally contain a combination of progestin and oestrogen (or progestin on its own), which are hormones that will interrupt the menstrual cycle and so prevent pregnancies.
Progestin is a synthetic (man-made) progestagen that is also used in hormone replacement therapy. Essentially this will suppress ovulation in order to prevent pregnancies and to aid in some menstrual cycle-related problems. Oestrogen meanwhile is the ‘female hormone’ and the one that essentially separates men from women and during development promote the development of the secondary sexual characteristics of women such as their breasts. They also regulate the menstrual cycle, as the body recognises lower levels as a sign to begin ovulation. Birth control pills can contain either one or both of these ingredients, though generally ‘progestin-only’ pills are thought to be most effective.
Birth control pills are taken regularly by millions of women around the world. While they can be taken as methods of contraception, they can also be taken simply to control painful periods (and related conditions) or for hormone imbalances. In other situations they can also be used as a morning after pill, simply by taking progestin-only pills in higher quantities to prevent fertilisation or implantation. Despite this however, many people still treat birth control pills with suspicion, and some groups believe they can cause or exacerbate health problems. So should they be considered ‘deadly’?
As oestrogen is made naturally in the body it certainly should not be described as a ‘deadly’ and is in fact completely natural. Of course an increase in oestrogen will often however result in an increase in many female traits – for example you might experience growth in the breasts, increased hair growth in selected areas, an increased or decreased sex drive and other mild changes. It is also possible that by increasing consumption of oestrogen your body might start to produce less naturally, though there are no findings to suggest this. Many men use testosterone tablets in order to increase muscle mass and libido among other male traits, and oestrogen in contraceptive pills is simply the female equivalent. At the same time, although progestin is synthetic, it is highly similar to other hormones produced naturally in the body and so should not be considered ‘deadly’ either.
However, as with all medication, there are some health risks and potential side effects. Side effects associated with progestin and oestrogen include dizziness, headaches, drawn out periods, pain in the abdominals, mood changes, anxiety, appetite changes breast tenderness and weight gain associated by an increased appetite. In very rare cases it is possible to experience hair loss, skin rashes, vaginal discharge or loss of bone density. These side effects are uncommon however, should you notice them then you should simply stop taking the medication and consult your physician.
Some controversy was brought to progestin-only contraceptives after one company had 129 separate lawsuits filed against them for ‘down playing’ the negative effects of one of their progestin drugs. This drug, ‘drospirenone’ was thought to increase the chances of arrhythmia, which is characterised by an irregular heartbeat. The batches were thought to be of potentially low quality and the company ‘Bayer’ was forced to recall them from the market.
In conclusion then, your contraceptive pill is unlikely to contain any ‘deadly’ ingredients if it is sold by a respectable mainstream company, and you certainly should not avoid them entirely. However it is worth checking that your contraceptive pill does not include ‘drospirenone’ and you should always ensure that you check the ingredients on anything you take and research each one individually as well as the company itself. Your physician should be able to recommend you a good oral contraceptive, with the vast majority being harmless, however the responsibility is still yours to ensure that you know what you are taking.