Can the birth control pill fix my period?
Short answer: No.
You can’t fix your period with birth control because birth control doesn’t ‘improve’ your hormones. The birth control pill actually shuts off your period.
How does the pill work?
The pill stops your natural menstrual cycle. More specifically, it prevents follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and lutenizing hormone (LH) from being produced. This prevents follicles from maturing and releasing estrogen, and it prevents ovulation from happening, which produces progesterone. Because LH is not being produced, this causes cervical mucus to thicken affecting sperm movement and endometrial development (this is the lining that’s shed during your period).
The birth control pill does have its own hormones: estrogen and progestin. These are not the same hormones that our body produces, but mimic them.
If you are using a 28-day packet, 21 pills will contain the synthetic hormones and 7 will be placebo. When you take placebos, your body will experience a withdrawal bleed (often mistaken as a period).
6 ways that these hormones are different
1. They enter your body differently
The hormones from the pill enter your bloodstream through your GI tract and portal vein (an important vein in your liver). Your ovarian hormones enter your circulation through veins in the ovary and the inferior vena cava.
2. They have different concentrations
When you take the pill everyday, the hormones enter your body in a single, large dose. Your body’s hormones are always being produced based on where you’re at in your cycle.
3. They have constant levels
Once you take the pill, those hormone levels don’t change. Your body’s hormones levels may change based on what’s going on with your hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis.
4. They stay in your body longer
Because the pill’s hormones are synthetic, they are designed to be more resistant to metabolism (aka. they don’t break down as easily). Therefore, they stay active in the body longer than your body’s natural hormones. It’s been thought that they can remain inside your body for at least 6 months after discontinuation.
5. Progestin is not progesterone
Progestin is similar to progesterone, but they’re not the same molecule. Some progestins like levonorgestrel may cause hair loss because they are testosterone-like (and have a high androgen index). Progestins may also cause acne, as they suppress sebum production.
Some progestins may have a low androgen index, and while may not cause hair loss while on the pill, they may cause hair loss after the pill is stopped because the body’s androgen levels increase.
6. They have different actions
The hormones from the pill have a different action on hormonal receptors inside the body, compared to our hormones. This is because the structure, type, and concentration of pill hormones are different than your actual hormones.
Then why use the pill?
The pill is the first line treatment option for many common conditions like PMS, PCOS and endometriosis. And it’s often given with the reasoning that it will regulate your period and stop the problem. But when you stop taking the pill, your problems will likely come back.
There are times when the pill should be considered. For example, women taking accutane (which is a category X drug) should not be conceiving while on the drug. Or for women who have endometriosis, taking the pill may make the biggest difference for their pain and quality of life.
How do I fix my period?
Ultimately, it’s important that you understand your symptoms so you can support your body. Especially if you’re using the pill to ‘fix’ the problems. You may want to figure out why these symptoms are happening, and see which dietary and lifestyle changes you can implement to support your longterm health.
How do I start?
Track your symptoms, diet and your period
Get some blood work done (if applicable)
Find a Naturopathic Doctor to work with (feel free to contact me to find someone in your area)
Implement key dietary and lifestyle changes
Give your body time to adjust to your treatment plan
When I work with period problems, I figure out why they’re happening. I use information that you give me (diet/symptom/period trackers, blood work, your personal story) to determine the root cause and create a plan from that info.
It’s not always a quick fix, but change takes time!
If you found this information helpful, check out my handy chart of the nutritional deficiencies caused by the pill!
Sims, S. and Heather, A. (2018). Myths and Methodologies: Reducing scientific design ambiguity in studies comparing sexes and/or menstrual cycle phases. Experimental Physiology, 103(10), pp.1309-1317.