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natural alternative to birth control pills

Hormonal Birth Control: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

hormones women's health

In the 1960s, a sexual revolution for women began!

Birth control pills seemed like the answer for decades of repression.  A few years later, with rising rates of breast cancer, menopausal disorder, astronomical rates of infertility, we’d be ignorant to say we aren't having a problem with our hormones. 

And I don't think the pill (or any other form of hormonal contraceptive device) is going to fix the problem.  

Contraceptive medications contain synthetic forms of estrogen and progesterone.  They either prevent pregnancy by preventing ovulation, or by thickening the lining of the cervix or uterus to prevent sperm from entering or to prevent implantation of a fertilized egg.

A prescription for birth control contains the usual warnings:  risk of blood clotting disorders (stroke, embolism, heart disease), liver disease, gall bladder disease, bloating, moodiness, weight gain, headache, hair loss, and nausea.

But, you think, it’s worth the risk to prevent an unwanted pregnancy!  

The problem is not that you may get one of these side-effects, the problem is why the pill is causing those problems to begin with.


Your reproductive system does’t exist in a vacuum.  Taking factory-made estrogen or progesterone causes system-wide issues.  

Synthetic hormones bind to estrogen receptor sites in your body causing something called “estrogen dominance.”  Too much xeno-estrogens (synthetic estrogens) can cause cancer.  

They can also cause -

(Recommended reading:  “What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Premenopause” by Dr. John R. Lee, MD)

Think about it like this - estrogen is for growing things.

Birth control pills, even progesterone-only pills, bind to estrogen receptor sites, and cause growth and thickening of tissues.  In TCM, we call this blood stagnation.  


In TCM, the tendency for blood clot formation is called “blood stagnation."  The stasis comes from two sources:  one is the hormone which causes condensing of the cells.  The other is impairment of your Liver function to circulate blood properly.

Birth control pills (like most other medications) are filtered through your Liver.  In order to do this, your Liver needs extra vitamins, in particular B-complex, zinc, magnesium, and C.  This is why blood serum levels of these vitamins for women on the pill is usually lower.  

If you cause undue stress on your Liver, your blood flow is impaired, or we say “Liver Qi Stagnation.”  This means you may be more likely to have clots, moodiness (the Liver regulates mood in TCM), and headaches.  It could also impact your digestion and pain you feel on the sides of your body.  

Plus, the hormone issues many women take the pill for (heavy or painful cycles, acne, PCOS, etc.) GET WORSE in the meantime.  If you stop taking the pill, those issues won't magically resolve themselves. 

Luckily, TCM can help.  It's worked for literal centuries to help women have healthy, pain-free cycles.  


Some women choose to take birth control pills to regulate their periods, reduce heavy or painful periods (menorrhagia), stop PMS or PMDD symptoms, or treat PCOS or acne.  

I assume you're here reading this because you're considering getting off the pill.  Maybe you want to make a healthy change.  Maybe you're preparing for pregnancy.   

Herbal medicines, food-based cures, and acupuncture are all helpful for regulating hormones.  On average, it takes around 3 months to regulate a non-complicated hormonal problem.  For auto-immune issues, it may be closer to 6-12 months.  

In choosing which herbs to use, we take several factors into consideration.  

  • how congested your Liver is
  • how much stagnation you have
  • if you're affected by Damp energy
  • your Qi (or lack thereof)
  • your stress levels

Acupuncture helps improve the flow of Qi and blood in your whole body.  It regulates your nervous system to help address chronic stress, inflammation, and blockages. 

You know it's working when you feel subtle improvements in your energy, stress levels, sleep, digestion, and chronic pains after just 2 or 3 visits.  At first, the treatments are closer together, maybe 1-2 per week.  As you improve, we space them further apart until you "graduate."  


High estrogen pills are shown to affect future fertility. (Bracken, M.B., Helenbrand, K.G. and Holford, T.R. (1990) Conception delay after oral contraception use: the effect of estrogen dose.)

Sluggish blood flow and thickened tissues can make your cycles irregular or painful and your natural hormone levels “off” as your body tries to readapt to your own hormones.  

To get your body back into balance after getting off hormonal birth control, we optimize your nutrition intake, ensure your Liver is healthy, and use TCM techniques such as acupuncture and moxa that unblock the blood and Qi flow to your uterus and ovaries.  


To prevent pregnancy, there are other, less-invasive options available:

Cervical cap or diaphragm

Natural family planning

* Condoms

* Tubal ligation

* Male sterilization / vasectomy (why is the onus of fertility solely bore by the females of our species? 🙄)


In my practice, I see women who took birth control years ago suffering with menopausal disorder symptoms more frequently.  Unfortnately, there’s not a lot of research (none that I could find except this on delayed onset of menopause related to the pill) yet.  Unless you actively do something to rebalance, nourish, and regulate blood flow to your Liver after taking the pills, the problems persist and may worsen over time.

Menopause should just be your period stops.  Period.  Hot flashes, night sweats, low libido, etc. are all signs of estrogen deficiency, which could be from the body’s inability to reconnect your own estrogen to its receptor sites.  I imagine it’s something like this:

Estrogen:  “Oh, the pills are going to do this job?  Ok.  I’ll just hang back here and watch.”

…20 years later…

“Hey, where’d that guy go?  The one that was doing my job?  What was my job again?”

Don’t worry, though, these problems are typically fix-able.

I like to use herbs, like Wild Yam, Schisandra, and Rehmannia to regulate hormones and get your own estrogen up to par.


Another side-effect of hormonal birth control happens in our environment.  

Like most pharmaceuticals, we eventually pee out the residue.  All of these drugs (antibiotics, antidepressants, and birth control are among the biggest offenders) are finding their way into our water supply.  To me, this is alarming.  The next thing you know, 5-year-old girls are starting their periods and boys are developing breasts.   


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