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Can Birth Control Mess Up Hormone Levels?

Are you wondering about the influence of birth control on your hormone levels? Maybe you recently started a birth control and you are having some  side effects or problems.  In this article we look at the question, can birth control mess up hormone levels.  We look at some of the direct and indirect consequences of birth control on sex hormones.  For instance, how long will it take for your natural hormone production come back after you stop birth control?

Affect of Birth Control On Female Hormone Levels

Birth control definitely changes the amount of hormone levels that the female body produces.   This is the main objective of birth control.   In fact, the main way that birth control works is by inhibition of ovulation and follicular development.  This then changes the output of estrogen and progesterone which are the main hormones that females produce.  Because the birth control contains synthetic versions of the estrogen and progesterone, the body still gets a signal that these hormones are present.  The synthetics are molecularly slightly different though.  As a result, you may get an over stimulation or under stimulation in some tissues.  This will vary slightly based on individuals response to the synthetic hormone signals. 

Some people do not respond well to a certain birth control because of how their bodies break them down and respond.  Overall the way the body responds to birth control is not usually apparent on the tissue receptor level and how you feel.  Of course, there are individual cases where people do not respond well to certain types of birth control.  So yes there are changes in the female hormones and changes the hormonal signaling and production. 


Duration of Birth Control Changes

The hormonal changes can last for several months after stopping the birth control.  One study looked at this specifically.  They followed hormone levels of women that were on birth control and then stopped.  The study found that luteinizing hormone and follicle stimulating hormone were much lower in the first month after stopping the birth control.  By the third month, these levels were starting to climb back up again.  Some women also had lower production of progesterone and estrogen in the mid cycle which corresponds with reduction of the luteinizing hormone and follicle stimulating hormone.  


So when stopping birth control we expect that the hormone levels to rebound to pre birth control, in about three months.  This study found that some women took longer than three months.  Depending on which birth control you take, how your body responds, how sensitive you are, etc it may take longer than three months for your hormones to rebound.  This is just one side of the question, can birth control mess up your hormone levels.  The answer is, yes while you are taking them your hormone production will be altered.  The other side is what about other hormones outside of the female hormones like testosterone and cortisol. 


Affect of Birth Control On Testosterone and Cortisol Levels

 It turns out when you are on birth control there are some other unintended hormonal effects on your body.  These may account for some of the side effects that occur with birth control.  For example, many studies have found that sex hormone binding globulin is much higher in females taking birth control.   Sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) binds to your hormones that are floating around.  In particular, testosterone and estrogen.  The amount of bound verses unbound hormones is referred to as the bioavailable of a hormone.  Any estrogen or testosterone that your body produces can be be bound up.  With high levels of SHBG birth control causes, testosterone and estrogen to be effectively very low.  This leaves your overall libido and sex drive low too.  

It's also commonly known that birth control reduces the amount of overall testosterone output too.   This occurs through the same kind of mechanism that's inhibiting the estrogen and progesterone.   That is, the overall flow of hormones in the hormone cascade is decreased.  The body still has a signal to make hormones but since some of the enzymes are blocked by the birth control, hormone production shifts into producing things like cortisol.    Women on birth control will see much higher blood cortisol.  That will have  an effect on your overall stress response.  The sex hormones are not being produced at the same abundance but you still have the synthetic versions to offset things at the tissue level.  In exchange you have high cortisol and very little testosterone. 

When you start birth control some of the physiological hormone changes described above may account for those side effects  you may experience.  You have to weigh if the risk benefit ratio works out for you and what you need for your health right now. 

That should give you a better understanding of can birth control mess up hormone levels.  If you have questions about the content in this article, please ask it in the comment section below.

If you want a customized plan on balancing your hormone levels, click in the link below to get started. 

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