Special thanks to Lisa Henderson-Jack from Fertility Friday for the adaptation of this blog. You can find more from Lisa at fertilityfriday.com
I know it’s controversial to say that the pill doesn’t fix menstrual issues, but why should it be?
Let me start by saying I recognise that tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of women rely on the pill to manage their dreadful period-related symptoms.
By stating that the pill does not fix the root issue, I’m not saying that it doesn’t have it’s place.
Sure, the pill may mask some symptoms you are having and allow you to avoid pregnancy, but from experience, you don’t ever get a true menstrual period while on the pill.
The pill suppresses ovulation, and dramatically reduces the production of your main ovarian hormones estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone — and the bleeding you experience between pill packs is a type of withdrawal bleeding caused by the sudden drop in synthetic hormones.
Although the pill alleviates symptoms (albeit temporarily), it does not do anything to address the underlying cause.
Period pain is an indication of a deeper problem.
Once you address the root cause, your pain will decrease significantly or go away entirely. However, many women who've suffered through painful periods for years don't believe pain free periods are even possible.
In any other situation we recognise that pain is a sign of inflammation and/or tissue damage, but for some reason we place period pain in a different category and consider it normal?!
There’s a difference between suppressing your symptoms and addressing the root cause (i.e. reducing inflammation, addressing nutrient deficiencies, reducing your chemical exposure, balancing your hormones, etc.).
For women who experience severe pain, severe PMS symptoms, and even PMDD (pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder), the pill is often presented as the ONLY solution. And although it can provide temporary relief, we should be advising women about what can be done to address the underlying issues that are causing these symptoms.
- What if you want to start a family some day? At some point you’ll have to come off the pill. How will you deal with your symptoms then?
- What if there is an underlying issue such as inflammation, endometriosis, PCOS, hormonal imbalances, endocrine issues, thyroid issues, immune problems? … and the list goes on. When will you tend to that?
- What if you have negative side effects on the pill? Then what can you do?
- What if you don’t want to be on the pill forever?!
We deserve better.
What if the pill was used for symptom management in severe cases — in conjunction with root-cause therapies with the end goal of transitioning off the pill and having better periods and cycles naturally? What if healthcare practitioners supported women to do that as the standard of care?
What if we acknowledged that the pill is not a cure, and it does not fix period problems (only masks them and suppresses the symptoms)? What if we presented it as a temporary way to alleviate symptoms until we are able to address the underlying issue?
What if we prioritised women’s health and fertility instead of jumping to the pill as the one size fit’s all solution to period problems?
Lisa has a book you can read for further information about addressing menstrual issues, you can find it here The Fifth Vital Sign with specific steps you can take to reduce or eliminate your pain.
PLEASE come and see me if you are interesting in treating the root cause of your menstrual issues and perhaps transitioning off the pill, there is so much we can do with herbs and supplements, as well as some lifestyle changes to address this.