Not to burst your balloon but birth control pills do not fix PCOS. You probably already know this and that's why you're here, looking for a solution! In this blog we are going to walk through PCOS symptoms and birth control in order to figure out what is best for you.
So what does happen when you take birth control pills to help "fix" a hormone imbalance like PCOS? The short answer is nothing, birth control pills do not actually fix PCOS. Birth control pills are a bandage at best for some but not all of your PCOS symptoms.
Let's review the common PCOS symptoms and then we will dive into what birth control does to each of them.
Common symptoms of PCOS:
- Irregular periods or no periods at all
- Weight gain
- Excessive hair growth (hirsutism) – usually on the face, chest, and back
- Thinning hair and hair loss from the head
- Oily skin or acne
- Difficulty getting pregnant - but we aren't going to review this one because if you’re already taking birth control or thinking about taking birth control to manage your symptoms, you probably aren’t concerned about that yet.
False: Birth Control Pills Regulate Your Period.
A lot of women suffering from PCOS have irregular periods. It’s easy to think your period is on time with birth control pills because you bleed each month. Though you’re not actually having a period. Instead you're having a withdrawal bleed from the placebo pills before going back on a high-dose of estrogen and progestin for 21-24 days, followed by another set of placebo pills for another "fake period." So it may seem like you've fixed your period and that your cycle has been "regulated" but it hasn't. Meaning when you get off the pill (possibly in hopes to get pregnant) you'll go back to having an irregular period or no period at all and you'll have to figure out how to naturally balance your hormones... so why not just start regulating your period naturally starting now?
False: Birth control helps with weight gain.
If you have PCOS and you suffer for weight gain, birth control pills will not help. 70% of women with PCOS already struggle with insulin resistance. It was found in a PMC Review that the hormones released from birth control - especially estrogen - actually contributes to an increase of insulin-resistance markers which cause weight gain. Not to mention they create a "bad" cholesterol pattern. If you're already dealing with sugar, insulin or cholesterol issues then be mindful if you decide to go forward with birth control pills for your PCOS.
If you’d like to learn more about insulin resistance check out this blog.
True: Hirsutism can be treated by birth control.
Some women with PCOS experience excess hair grown because of an increase of androgen production. This hair usually grows on the face, chest, and back. Birth control pills help reduce hirsutism by lower androgen levels, with estrogen and progestin. However there are other ways to manage hirsutism, one of those is weight loss. If you're overweight, studies have found that even losing 5% of your body weight can help lower androgen levels and decrease unwanted hair. Vitamin D has also been associated with reducing androgen levels. S'moo has also been used to help with hirsutism.
True: Birth control can help with thinning hair. Birth control may be able to help with this but there are also other natural options that can help you as well. S’moo has helped women who have struggled with thinning hair and there are other options with vitamins and oils proven to help as well. If you're just taking birth control to help with this element, try a better solution for your body.
True: Birth control pills can help hormonal acne.
Hormonal acne is a pain to deal with and so is oily skin but keep in mind that this is acne tied to fluctuations in your hormones. If you have imbalanced hormones with PCOS, this can be treated naturally with vitamins and minerals or a lot of women just use S’moo (here are some first hand accounts of how it helps with hormonal acne). Changing your diet to decrease inflammation will also help. Foods to avoid if you’re experiencing hormonal acne are sugar, refined carbs, red meats and diary.
True: I’m currently on the pill but I hear stopping will make my PCOS symptoms come back.
This is true but don't be afraid to stop taking the pill and regulate your PCOS symptoms naturally. You’ll thank yourself later when you want to have a child or just feel healthier over-all because the transition will take practice. What do I mean by that? Well, there is no exact method for everyone to regulate their hormones and you'll have to try different diets and supplements to find what is right for you. Sure it has gotten easier with things on the market like S'moo (created by founder Karagan who was diagnosed with PCOS when she was 14). In the end, regulating your PCOS naturally will be worth it.
How can I control my PCOS naturally and also not get pregnant?
There are a few non-hormonal birth control options. If you’re looking for something you don’t have to put daily effort into you can try the Copper IUD which lasts for up to ten years but can be taken out at any time. It is 99% effective. Which is the closest option (in my opinion) to a "worry free" birth control like the pill but without the hormones. A non-hormonal birth control will allow you to regulate your PCOS with diet and supplements like S’moo in order to rebalance your hormones.
When is the best time to consider the pill if you have PCOS?
There is a time and place for everything and in some situations the pill might be needed if you're at risk for precancerous changes in your uterine lining, this is known as endometrial hyperplasia. This is when the lining of the uterus (endometrium) becomes unusually thick. This is not cancer but in some women it can lead to endometrial cancer. If you have heavy bleeding and are concerned you can ask your doctor to do an ultrasound assessment. If cells become "complex" or "atypical" this is when you could be at risk for uterine cancer. Which the tissue can be sampled for. In this situation birth control could reduce the build up of the endometrium. Consult your doctor if this is something you're worried about.
Future Health Problems for Untreated PCOS:
Something to consider if you are going to take birth control to manage your PCOS symptoms is that you will not prevent the serious health problems that can develop from PCOS. The only way you'll be able to avoid these is by regulating your hormones naturally. Here are some of the health problems that can develop from PCOS.
- Diabetes—more than half of women with PCOS develop type 2 diabetes by age 40
- Heart disease—women with PCOS are at higher risk, and risk increases with age. This can be caused from High LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and low HDL (“good”) cholesterol
- High blood pressure—which can damage the heart, brain, and kidneys
- Depression and anxiety - though the connection isn't fully understood it does seem that regulating your hormones helps women with PCOS deal with their depression and anxiety symptoms.
I've been there, I too once used birth control to fix my problems and found they weren't fixed at all. If you'd like a support group, feel free to join the private S'moo Babe facebook group where women are working through their hormones and finding natural ways to regulate their PCOS.
This content is strictly the opinion of S'moo and is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of medical advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither S'moo nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.