This Scary Birth Control Side Effect Could Be Causing Your Health Problems

There’s no doubt that hormonal birth control—also known primarily as The Pill, though it can also come in ring, shot, IUD, patch or implant form—has done wonders for the women’s movement. Thanks to our ability to alter our hormonal cycles, women can prevent ovulation, thereby practically eliminating the possibility of unplanned pregnancy. But while hormonal birth control may have its benefits, there are also some serious downsides that many women may be unaware of.

When we talk about hormonal BC, we generally accept that it comes with certain side effects. Yes, playing with your hormones can lead to weight gain, depression and lower libido, as are all well-documented and relatively common. But even apart from hormonal side effects lurks one very serious consequence that many women don’t hear much about: taking hormonal birth control alters your ability to absorb nutrients, which can potentially lead to deficiencies.

Nutrient Deficiency and The Pill

Numerous studies have shown that women taking hormonal contraceptives were far more likely to be deficient in certain nutrients than women not taking the pill. Specifically, the pill can deplete women’s levels of B6, B12, folate, vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium, selenium, zinc and coenzyme Q, according to University Health News.

Women on the pill need to pay particularly close attention to their nutrient intake, and even if they do, they still may not be able to absorb adequate amounts of the nutrients they need to thrive.

A Lack of Awareness

While supplementation may help, the problem is that many women are completely unaware that their nutritional needs change when they go on the pill. In 1979, Yale researchers questioned care providers at Planned Parenthood on this issue, and found that 45 percent of the counselors weren’t aware of this problem. Among the 55 percent that were aware, only half considered the issue serious enough to warrant further examination.

We’ve come a long way since 1979, but the fact remains that many doctors don’t talk to women about nutritional changes when their patients go on the pill.

The Consequences, Ranging from Annoying to Extreme

The consequences of nutrient depletions can range from simply annoying to life-threatening. Many women may notice that their hair begins to grow more slowly when they go on the pill, or that their nails become more likely to break. Additionally, there’s demonstrable evidence that getting the right amount of nutrients can keep you feeling energetic, happy and healthy—while not getting those vitamins and minerals can leave you feeling lethargic, sad and potentially even depressed.

However, there are many more sinister effects of nutrient depletion. Ross Pelton, a pharmacist and the author of “Drug-Induced Nutrient Depletion Handbook,” elaborated on a Vimeo channel.

“If you think of women who are taking birth control pills,” Pelton explained, “and things like [vitamins] B-6, B-12, and folic acid are depleted, these are all critical to metabolize a compound called homocysteine. If you have elevated homocysteine, you have advanced cardiovascular disease risk, but there are no symptoms … so woman can go for years not knowing they have a problem until they have a heart attack or stroke.”

And that’s not the only problem. Birth control has long been associated with blood clots, which are directly impacted by the absorption of minerals like magnesium.

“Some researchers suggest that the lower levels of B6 seen in women using oral contraceptives play a role in the increased risk of thromboembolism (blood clots) seen in women taking birth control pills,” University Health News reported.

Your Options

If you’re on birth control, you should be closely monitoring your diet to ensure you get a diverse spectrum of vital nutrients. You’ll probably also want to talk to your doctor about supplementation. In particular, you’ll want to focus on the vitamins and minerals folate, B-6, B-12 and magnesium, though a daily multivitamin containing a range of food-based nutrients probably wouldn’t be a bad idea.