(The truth about oral contraception)

Hormonal contraception for women has been socially accepted since early 70s, a decade after the first synthetic oestrogen was derived. Back then the chemical compound and dosage were unsafe and paired with devastating, long-lasting hormonal complications. 50 years fast forward, we see a variety of safe and reliable options on the market which can be prescribed according to your biochemical needs and lifestyle preferences.

Last month I did research and asked 16 friends with Y chromosome if they have ever tried a hormonal contraception for men and as it turns out – no one knew it existed. In fact, most of them were repulsed by the idea of taking a foreign chemical compound which will interfere with their natural hormonal state. So why those women who have the privilege of living in a world of gender equality and modern medicine are still bearing the brunt on themselves?

There are a lot of historical imprints and altruistic behaviours settled by evolutions, for sure. But there is something else.

Decades of research in gynaecology and endocrinology suggested that women can use hormonal contraception for purposes beyond family planning – for restoring hormonal balance.

One of the many contraceptive options, the 'pill’ has become a popular and common solution to many hormone-related issues in women.

I believe it’s crucial to know the whole story before making any decisions. While there are many attractive short-term benefits of the ‘pill’, anyone wanting to befriend with it should first seek medical advice and be warned of possible negative side effects.

Let’s start with the basics. Hormone cycles and hormonal fluctuations are normal processes in the female body however sometimes the balance can be disrupted by external stressors, leading to physiological consequences such as:

  • Disruption/absence of the menstrual cycle
  • Mood swings and PMS symptoms
  • Weight fluctuation
  • Infertility
  • Acne or other skin inflammations
  • Facial hair (hirsutism)
  • Hair loss and thinning

One of the main reason for hormonal contraceptives often being prescribed is the fact that the pills contain hormones similar to the ones that naturally exist in a female’s body, making it easier to regulate disrupted hormonal balance synthetically in a very short timeframe. Hormonal contraception is prescribed to address your specific hormone-related issue based on your biochemical individuality, which makes it very effective. As a result, you get:

  • 99% effectiveness in family planning purposes;
  • Lower risk of certain cancers e.g. ovarian (lowers risk by 27%) and endometrial (50%);
  • Temporary and fast-acting mask of your symptoms of hormonal misbalance: fake menstrual cycles, reduction in acne and PMS symptoms, protection against osteoporosis in menopausal women.

While all this sounds very attractive, especially if you are looking for an easy, quick fix, there are a few other things you need to bear in mind. Hormonal contraceptive pill can also:

  • Lower vaaginal immunity (disrupt local microflora);
  • Decrease your libido;
  • Contribute to the development of depression;
  • Increases risk of blood clots;
  • Increases risk of other cancers: cervical (60%), breast cancer (20%).

We can clearly see the benefits and potential side effects of the pill in standard circumstances. However, if the pill is used for purposes of hormone balance restoration it’s important to pay attention to one crucial short-back: hormonal contraception only temporarily masks symptoms of the hormonal imbalance and does not address the root cause of the problem. What is even more devastating is that by opting to this quick fix, you deviate yourself from the problem, from the root cause of the hormonal disbalance.

Synthetic regulation of hormonal balance is not a sustainable way of treating the hormone-related illnesses. It is important to look for well-rounded way of restoring your natural balance with daily interventions and lifestyle changes that will solve the underlying issue of hormonal imbalance in the long-run and return you to your natural equilibrium.

Please note that it is important to select drugs together with your doctor so that the pills address the problems of a particular patient. (For example, women with a dermatological problem such as acne and women with PMS are likely to prescribe different contraceptives.)

As for hormonal coils, patches, injections, vaginal rings and implants: please consult with your doctor to help you find the best contraceptive option for you, especially if you are looking for addressing certain symptoms you are experiencing.


  • Baird DT, Glasier AF. The science, medicine, and future of contraception. West J Med. 2000;172(5):321-324.
  • The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. ACOG practice bulletin no. 110: Noncontraceptive uses of hormonal contraceptives. Obstet Gynecol. 2010;115(1):206-18.
  • Achilles SL, Hillier SL. The complexity of contraceptives: understanding their impact on genital immune cells and vaginal microbiota. AIDS. 2013;27 Suppl 1(0 1):S5-S15.
  • Tello M. Can hormonal birth control trigger depression? Harvard Health Publishing. October 1, 2019.
  • Smith JS, Green J, Berrington de Gonzalez A, et al. Cervical cancer and use of hormonal contraceptives: A systematic review. Lancet 2003; 361(9364):1159–1167.
  • Mørch LS, Skovlund CW, Hannaford PC, et al. Contemporary hormonal contraception and the risk of breast cancer. New England Journal of Medicine 2017; 377(23):2228–2239.


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