The Negative Effects of the Pill—And of All Hormonal Birth Control
The Pill: A Hormonal Method of Birth Control
The class of hormonal methods of birth control include birth control pills; implants such as Norplant, Jadelle and Implanon; injectables such as Depo-Provera and Lunelle; intrauterine devices (IUDs), patches and rings, and, of course, the class of abortion pills and so-called emergency “contraception,” which includes Cytotec, ellaOne, Mifegyne, Mifeprix, Plan B and Misoprostol.
All of these contain either one or a combination of artificial progestins and artificial estrogens.1
Health Issues Caused Hormonal Contraception
Though feminist groups and the mainstream media typically present hormonal contraceptives as a boon for women, they overlook the serious side effects reported in mainstream scientific literature, either through deliberate intent or negligence. Women who regularly ingest the powerful steroids in all modern hormonal methods of birth control will find that they usually suffer a wide range of side effects.
This should come as no surprise since hormonal birth control methods such as “the Pill” are listed as carcinogens (causes of cancer) by their own manufacturers.2
The patient information pamphlets for hormonal birth control methods list a long range of side effects, including:3
- Heart attacks
- Sudden total or partial blindness
- Pulmonary embolisms
- Early unintended abortion
- High blood pressure
- Dizziness and fainting
- Abdominal discomfort, bloating, and pain
- Gall bladder problems, including gallstones
- Inflammation of the pancreas
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fluid accumulation
- Long-term hormonal regulation problems
- Ectopic pregnancies
- Insulin sensitivity
- Elevated potassium levels
- Migraines or severe headaches
- Depression and mood swings
- Breast pain and swelling
- Changes in menstruation patterns, e.g., PMS and dysmenorrhea
- Hair loss
- Loss of libido
- Significant weight gain
- Fatal blood clots
One of the most serious negative effects of the Pill and other hormonal methods of birth control is the increased risk of deep vein thrombosis, or blood clots that can potentially be fatal.
According to the Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmaco-therapeutics, some versions of the Pill increase the risk of deep vein thrombosis up to eight-fold:4
Incidences of DVT per 100,000 Women Increases up to Eightfold with Pill Use
Among the other various negative effects of the hormonal methods is difficulty regulating a woman’s testosterone levels even when she no longer uses the method. Researchers have found that abnormally low amounts of unbound testosterone caused by the use of the Pill (or other methods of hormonal birth control) persist after women cease using it. Women’s bodies use testosterone, as men’s do, to regulate sexual function, though in far lower amounts. Report coauthor Dr. Irwin Goldstein clarified: “This work is the culmination of 7 years of observational research in which we noted in our practice many women with sexual dysfunction who had used the oral contraceptive but whose sexual and hormonal problems persisted despite stopping the birth control pill.”5
Primary Concern: Cancer
The hormonal methods of birth control increase the risk of cancer in women of childbearing age.
When taking hormonal contraceptives, “teenagers are especially vulnerable to breast cancer risk because their breasts are growing,” reports the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute. The Institute also says that although the Pill lowers the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancers, “according to the American Cancer Society, out of [a random selection of] 100 women with cancer, 31 have breast cancer, 6 have endometrial cancer and only 3 have ovarian cancer, so it is not a good ‘trade-off’ in risk.”
The National Cancer Institute confirms this view by stating that “studies have provided consistent evidence that the risks of breast and cervical cancers are increased in women who use oral contraceptives, whereas the risks of endometrial, ovarian, and colorectal cancers are reduced.”6
Elizabeth Lee Vliet, MD, a women’s health specialist and the author of It’s My Ovaries, Stupid!, has studied the birth control pill’s negative impacts on women’s moods, with a particular emphasis on high-progesterone formulations. She found that they “might even bring about the need for antidepressants: The Pill screws up a woman’s mood and libido, and then she ends up on Prozac.”7
Dr. Vliet’s opinion is reinforced by the manufacturers of the hormonal methods themselves. Their patient information pamphlets list depression and nervousness as psychiatric disorders caused by their methods.8
These methods directly influence the hormonal cycle in women, but their impacts go far beyond mood swings. One of the most interesting studies done on the health impacts of the hormonal methods found that they may cause women to begin a relationship with the wrong men.
A study published in the August 2008 edition of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B found that when women smelled the T-shirts worn by men, they were attracted to more genetically dissimilar men before going on the Pill, and more genetically similar men after going on it.
As evolutionary psychologist Craig Roberts, one of the researchers, explains, “Not only could [genetic] similarity in couples lead to fertility problems but it could ultimately lead to the breakdown of relationships when women stop using the contraceptive pill, as odor perception plays a significant role in maintaining attraction to partners.”9
This fascinating study has thus found that the negative effects of the Pill are not just physical, but social as well, and may subtly influence a woman into being attracted to “Mr. Wrong.”
Much of the female hormonal content in these birth control methods is excreted via urine and ends up in rivers and lakes. Scientists are finding ever-greater numbers of “intersex” animals in aquatic environments that could lead to a collapse in fish and other populations, followed by a collapse in the populations of animals dependent upon them.
In 2004, The Washington Post reported that 79% of the male smallmouth bass in the Potomac River are growing eggs.10 In certain places, said the Post, “100% of the male fish had some female characteristics.”
Environmental Effects of the Pill: 79% of Male Smallmouth Bass in the Potomac Growing Eggs
A later Washington Post article described how scientists said the cause “is probably some pollutant created by humans — perhaps a farm chemical, or treated sewage, which can contain human hormones or residue from birth-control pills.” The later Post article reported that scientists think the problem is caused by a mixture of hormone and hormone-mimicking pollutants and have found negative effects on female fish as well.11
Iain Murray, author of The Really Inconvenient Truths, wrote on National Review Online, “By any standard typically used by environmentalists, the pill is a pollutant. It does the same thing, just worse, as other chemicals they call pollution.”
Though the hormonal methods of contraception, including the Pill, appear to act the great majority of the time in preventing conception by suppressing ovulation and inhibiting sperm transport through the woman’s body, at other times they cause abortion by preventing or disrupting the implantation of an already-conceived child.
In some women, the Pill suppresses ovulation completely. But if the method fails, conception may follow and the user may feel that because she intended not to have a child, and because “technology failed her,” that she is entitled to a surgical or medical abortion.
The negative effects of the hormonal methods range from headaches and hair loss to fatal diseases such as cancer and deep-vein thrombosis. They also impact other people and society in general through psychological problems of the users and the environmental pollution they cause. In summary, these methods not only harm women, they harm the rest of us as well.
HLI’s Brian Clowes contributed substantially to this article.
 The chemicals used in hormonal methods of birth control commonly include one of about a dozen different artificial progestins — cyproterone acetate, dienogest, desogestrel, drospirenone, ethynodiol diacetate, etonogestrel, gestodene, levonorgestrel, medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA), norelgestromin, norethindrone, norethindrone acetate and norgestrel. All of the methods (except for the progestin-only minipill and some other methods such as IUDs, implants and abortion pills) also include the artificial estrogens ethinyl estradiol or estradiol cypionate. See the patient information pamphlets for each method to determine the exact combination of hormones they contain.
 Review of 1,346 patient information pamphlets on various hormonal methods of birth control distributed by the manufacturers. The National Cancer Institute (NIC) states, “The risks of breast and cervical cancers are increased in women who use oral contraceptives, whereas the risks of endometrial, ovarian, and colorectal cancers are reduced.”
 This example is Janssen Pharmaceuticals, “Micronor®” Oral Contraceptive Tablets, May 2020. Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals, “Highlights of Prescribing Information: Yasmin,” April 2012.
To see the patient information pamphlet for any hormonal birth control method, visit the National Institute for Health’s DailyMed website.
 Kiran G. Piparva and Jatin G. Buch. “Deep Vein Thrombosis in a Woman Taking Oral Combined Contraceptive Pills.” Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapeutics, Volume 2, Number 3 [July-September 2011], pages 185 and 186.
 Claudia Panzer, M.D., et.al. “Impact of Oral Contraceptives on Sex Hormone‐Binding Globulin and Androgen Levels: A Retrospective Study in Women with Sexual Dysfunction.” The Journal of Sexual Medicine, Volume 3, Issue 1 [January 1, 2006], pages 104 to 113.
 National Cancer Institute. “Oral Contraceptives and Cancer Risk.” February 22, 2018. It should be noted that the National Cancer Institute also says that breast cancers and cervical cancers are much more common than endometrial, ovarian, and colorectal cancers.
 Rachael Combe, M.D. “Sexual Chemistry.” Elle, September 2005.
 Janssen Pharmaceuticals, “Micronor®” Oral Contraceptive Tablets, May 2020.
 University of Liverpool. “Contraceptive Pill Influences Partner Choice.” ScienceDaily, August 13, 2008.
 David A. Fahrenthold. “Male Bass in Potomac Producing Eggs.” The Washington Post, October 15, 2004.
 David A. Fahrenthold. “‘Human Activity’ Blamed for Fish Ills.” The Washington Post, February 8, 2008, page B03.
HLI staff writers bring you stories from the mission field and the latest information on life and family issues. All HLI articles are true to Catholic teaching.