The news is getting out that the estrogen-like chemicals found in birth control medication are carcinogenic and come with a wide range of unwanted side effects like weight gain, mood swings, blood clots and stroke. Yikes! This has led to a collective awakening around the dangers of hormone-disrupting medications and created a massive desire for alternative forms of birth control medication.
As a Women's Health Herbalist, I often hear women mention how they've opted for a safer, "progesterone-only" birth control. But the truth is, there's no such thing! What they're actually talking about is "PROGESTIN-only" birth control, and the difference is pretty big. In fact, the progestins in your birth control medication might be more similar to testosterone than progesterone. If you've been considering this form of birth control medication... you're probably going to want to read this article first.
What is Progestin? A Synthetic Hormone
Progestin is a synthetic hormone that's made to look like progesterone, but it's not the same thing. Think of it like a rayon version of your silk scarf. Instead of being made naturally by your body, progestin is often created by tweaking testosterone molecules in a lab to make it look slightly more like progesterone molecules. That being said, it's molecular structure is still quite testosterone-like. Yep. When you put testosterone-derived progestins into your body, I'm sorry to say that it's not all that different than taking testosterone steroid drugs.
How Progestin-Only Birth Control Works
Progestin-only birth control can help prevent pregnancy by messing with your hormones in a way that stops ovulation (very similar to how testosterone stops women from ovulating). But because progestin is not the same as progesterone, it can also cause some unwanted side effects by messing with the delicate balance of hormones in your body.
Progestin as an Endocrine Disrupting Drug
In fact, progestin is considered an "endocrine disrupting drug" because it interferes with the normal function of your hormones. And because it's not a natural hormone, it can't technically be called a hormone at all. Hormones are molecules your body naturally produces and your body does not naturally produce progestins.
The Benefits of Progesterone
In contrast, progesterone is a natural hormone that your body produces on its own. It's important for a lot of bodily functions, like regulating your menstrual cycle, boosting your metabolism, balancing your mood and supporting pregnancy. And unlike progestin, progesterone has even been shown to have anti-cancer properties!
The Risks of Mirena IUD
One popular form of progestin-only birth control is the Mirena IUD. But while this IUD may be convenient, it can also come with serious risks. Some women have reported something called the "Mirena crash," which some women have experienced when they have the device removed. This refers to a range of symptoms that can occur, including heavy bleeding, cramping, severe mood swings, paranoia, anxiety, depression and acne, among others. Some women have reported experiencing these symptoms for months or even years after having the Mirena IUD removed. Interestingly, some of the symptoms of the "Mirena crash" aren't all that different than what someone would experience with testosterone steroid withdrawal.
Why Some Doctors Call Progestin "Progesterone"
Now, you might be wondering why even some doctors use the term "progesterone" when talking about progestin-only birth control. The answer is because they either just aren't that aware of exactly what is inside the medications they are prescribing, or they just don't believe they difference is that significant. If doctors were truly more aware of the debilitating side effects that women experience after using hormone-disrupting progestin drugs, they might not prescribe them at all.
The Truth About Pharmaceutical Company Marketing Tactics
The lack of truthful information about progestin drugs also has to do with the fact that pharmaceutical companies have a vested interest in marketing their products. Progestins are patented drugs which are more profitable for them because they can charge more money for them, and they can't patent naturally occurring hormones like progesterone. They've even come up with a new word to lump progestins and progesterone into one category, calling them "progestogens". So, by using the term "progestogen," they're essentially trying to make their progestin product sound more natural and appealing to patients. But the truth is, progestins are not natural and they don't have the ability to "balance" your hormones, only to disrupt them by blocking you from ovulating.
Unfortunately, this kind of marketing can be misleading, and it's important to always do your own research and ask questions. Pharmaceutical companies are notorious for leaving out important information about their drugs, and even doctors may not always have all the facts. It's up to you to be your own advocate and make informed decisions about your healthcare.
Be Your Own Advocate for Informed Healthcare Decisions
It's important to understand the difference between progestin and progesterone when it comes to birth control. While progestin may be effective at preventing pregnancy, it's not without risks and can cause unwanted side effects. On the other hand, progesterone is a natural hormone that's important for a lot of different things in your body, and may even have some health benefits. Always do your own research and ask questions to ensure that you're making informed decisions about your healthcare. You can also check out my article about 5 hormone-free birth control options if you're ready to break free of hormone disrupting drugs for good.