Birth Control + Your Hormones: What You Need to Know

Dear Candace,

I worry that the birth control I use isn't great for my body...I know its unnatural, but what are my options if I'm sexually active and don't want to get pregnant right now?

***

Deciding what form of birth control to take can be an incredibly challenging decision, as our options are still (primarily) limited to hormonal forms of birth control that come in varying shapes, sizes and forms—and are often recommended by doctors without an explanation of what’s in them and how they can effect our hormones.

When clients ask which form of birth control is best for maintaining healthy hormone levels, I always recommend finding one with low –to no—hormones included. This is because hormonal forms of birth control effect our natural occurring (baseline) hormone levels—often resulting in many of the persistent, frustrating symptoms that women struggle with (mood swings, low libido, weight gain, acne, anxiety). For some women, these symptoms may become suddenly apparent after taking a break from a birth control method, or switching brands (showing just how much of an impact they have on your natural hormone levels).

My recommended birth control option? The copper IUD (ParaGard) is the best + safest form of non-hormonal birth control. It is a tiny device that’s wrapped in copper and inserted into your uterus to prevent pregnancy. (Sperm doesn’t like copper, so the ParaGard IUD makes it almost impossible for sperm to get to that egg).

**Note: there are many other IUD brands, but the ParaGard copper IUD is the only non hormonal IUD**

Other non hormonal birth control options include: condomsfemale condomsdiaphragm, and cervical cap.

If you do not wish to use a non hormonal form of birth control, I recommend doing your research to find out which birth control method is available to you with the lowest levels of hormones.

***

Interested in testing your hormones, but curious if you can test on birth control, while pregnant or in menopause? Here are some FAQ to review!

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Can I test my hormones while using B.C.?

Yes, you can test your hormones while using birth control. Just be aware that your results will show your hormone levels under the effects of birth control (so they would change if you decide to come off your b.c. or switch methods). We can still glean a lot from the results by analyzing the individual hormone levels and discussing how your symptoms may be caused by or connected to your current B.C., along with suggestions for alleviating its effects (in addition to lifestyle, diet + supplement recommendations – based on your results).

I’ve recently gone off my birth control – when can I test my hormones?

If you are thinking of switching to a non hormonal birth control, or coming off your birth control entirely, I would advise waiting at least 4 to 6 weeks (after coming off it) –and/or until a normal period has returned before testing your hormone levels.

If you want to order the kit ahead of time, I recommend marking your calendar w/the proper date to test** so you don’t miss the testing period.

**if you currently have a cycle, you will collect your saliva on either day 19, 20 or 21 of your cycle (first day of bleeding counts as day 1).

I don’t get a period – which day can I test my hormones?

Generally speaking, if you don't get a period due to the type of birth control you are using, you can collect any day of the month that you are not bleeding. 

If your periods are irregular or infrequent collect any day you are not bleeding. .

I am planning to get pregnant soon. Can I still test my hormones?

You can certainly test your hormones before becoming pregnant, if you want to know where your levels particularly of the key reproductive hormones, estrogen and progesterone stand, but be aware that these levels will change once you are pregnant.

I do not recommend testing once you become pregnant, as your hormones will be reflective of pregnancy levels. Instead, I recommend waiting until you've had your baby and periods have resumed as normal.

I am currently in Menopause. Can I still test my hormones?

Yes, absolutely! Women in menopause have a lot to learn from testing hormone levels...as many of the symptoms we struggle with (unwanted weight gain/can't lose, mood swings, depression, hot flashes, night sweats, can't sleep, on and on...) are caused by hormonal imbalances that remain hidden until we test to find out how our imbalances are linked to the symptoms we are struggling with the most.

Hormones are protective too (heart, brain, muscles, bones) so at menopause, women need to make sure they’ve still got hormones and in all the right amounts!

Women in menopause or who have had a hysterectomy and no longer have cycles can collect any day of the month.

PLEASE FEEL FREE TO EMAIL ME WITH ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS