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Is hormonal contraception harming me long term?

Ladies, today I wanted to chat about contraception – specifically hormonal contraception and how it might be affecting us longer term as many of us tend to use it on and off for many, many years until we hit our menopause.

Now the research around women is pretty sparse compared to health and wellness in men for a variety of reasons, so there are a few grey areas, but the long-term effects of hormonal contraception is something that is becoming increasingly spoken about and something that I have delved deeply into myself.

Hormonal contraception is essentially there to influence the body doing its natural ‘thing’ in some way to inhibit our ‘normal’ menstrual cycle, most often to prevent us ovulating (releasing an egg), to avoid unexpected pregnancy. There are, of course, many other reasons people might be prescribed hormonal contraception, including as treatment for painful periods or PMS symptoms, PCOS symptoms, to provide the body with synthetic oestrogen if a woman isn’t having a period for whatever reason, or even acne.

With so many types of hormonal contraception and so many differing reasons for potentially taking it, it’s an absolute minefield (what in the health industry isn’t these days?!), so I’m here to break it down and little and hopefully provide a little clarity, partly from my own experience but also from the research we have available to us.

Of course, whenever we are prescribed some sort of medication or contraception, we are obliged to be told about the numerous risks involved, it can be scary, right? But still, many of us take it because we don’t know so much about the potential alternatives.

So, are we all going to get cancer? Blood clots? And the rest? The long and short of it is that, long-term, we don’t actually know.

For me, it has been SO important to understand what is going on with my body, something which I feel is covered up with the synthetic hormones associated with hormonal contraception. It’s also important to me to let my body do it’s natural thing – and since I have, my body feels so much more my own, I am finally starting to feel in control of it (more on that later!) – as a result of non-hormonal methods of contraception, like the copper coil (IUD) for example.

The difference with a copper coil is that it is inserted into the cervix and prevents that pesky sperm from being able to reach an egg which is still allowed to be released. There is also a hormonal coil option but the non-hormonal one is something I, personally, opted for. Not here saying it’s the best for you, but it was the natural choice for me.

It’s probably important to know that as you continue to read to understand that is where my slight bias comes in (we all have a bias although I do just try to present facts here so that you can make the best decision for YOU – it's important understand that we are all different and need to make our own decision based on our individual circumstances).

Like I say, I’m not here to bash on hormonal contraception but many of us take it and accept it as the norm, without actually knowing what it is doing to our gloriously clever bodies. So, as you read, it might be worth thinking about whether what you are currently taking is the best course for you, especially as for many women, there are no long-term breaks implemented. For many of you contraception may be pretty important for medical reasons and it’s important to take advice from your medical professional in that sense but please, please do your due diligence and look at the reliable information out there available to you before accepting what one person tells you as gospel.

Many people experience physical symptoms taking hormonal contraception long-term including digestive changes and inflammation but for me, it was simply (could purely have been psychological of course) my body not feeling my own, not feeling as though it was able to do its own ‘thing’, not feeling like it was in control – a strange feeling which I’d never really considered until I got that back.

It is, of course, important (as ever!) to focus on your health, lifestyle and wellness more holistically as we chat about so often with all of this stuff. If we haven’t got our big ducks in a row like healthy nutrition, physical activity, especially cardiovascular health here, stress management and sleep to name a few, then we can’t know how external factors are truly affecting the way in which we feel. It’s worth dialling in though when you do feel that you have the rest in place and thinking – do you have any changes or symptoms that might be unexplained? Are you feeling a little funky and are not really sure why? Maybe a non-hormonal option might be worth exploring with your medical professional or GP?

The long and short of it is that there is conflicting and limited reliable data about the effects of contraception longer term, so it is up to you whether you feel good, whether it works for you and whether any potential risks are worth the benefits for you, because there are many! A book I often recommend to my clients is The Period Repair Manual by Lara Briden – it’s a super easily digestible and broken down period bible. Worth a read if you want a little bit more of a delve.

Beyond there I would LOVE to hear your experience around contraception – what do you take? Does it work for you? Have you considered anything different? ALWAYS love to chat so let me know!

Peace and love. A x

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