Whether you’re a young woman just entering your reproductive years, middle-aged or in menopause, there are important things you need to know about hormonal changes through the years and how they may impact your overall health. While hormone levels naturally decline as we age, common medications like oral contraceptives, antidepressants, blood pressure, cholesterol and pain meds, combined with genetics, chemical exposure and other factors can make us old before our years, or worse – very sick. Hormonal imbalances lay the groundwork for developing chronic health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, and many forms of cancer. Knowing what to expect and when to be concerned can help keep you healthy longer.
The Reproductive Years – What You Need to Know When Choosing a Birth Control Method
For young women, oral contraceptives are most often the birth control method of choice. While the convenience and overall effectiveness are wonderful, what women don’t know about oral contraception can actually cause severe hormonal imbalances.
Oral contraceptives shut down the ovaries to prevent ovulation. No egg to meet up with sperm, no issue. Here’s the problem. Ovaries are not just about eggs. Their primary function is to manufacture hormones the body needs, so shutting them down can hatch a bundle of unexpected problems. Most OCPs are a combination of synthetic estrogen and progesterone to replace what the ovaries would normally produce. What they don’t replace is testosterone, which is 40% of a woman’s hormonal makeup and ovaries manufacture approximately 90 percent, the remaining is made by the adrenals. Oral contraceptives process through the liver, producing a protein that starts to bind up the remaining testosterone made by the adrenal glands, and another that binds the “free thyroid” hormone needed to fuel metabolism. Testosterone deficiency, or low T, causes weight gain, fatigue, lowers libido and increases insulin resistance, raising the risk for diabetes, heart disease, strokes, and other serious conditions.
The widely used “low estrogen” pills are worst of all as they contain lots of progesterone, the PMS hormone that makes us gain weight, bloat, and feel irritable before we start our periods. High progesterone along with low T and little to no estrogen are going to cause more problems, so these should only be used to control heavy bleeding or in women with PCOS, and even then they’re not ideal.
Non-oral contraceptives like Nuvaring, IUDs and the Ortho-Evra patch aren’t processed in the liver, so they don’t bind up the testosterone made by the adrenals and are less likely to produce side effects. It’s your body, so remember you need a good balance of estrogen and progesterone, and know how to recognize the signs and symptoms of testosterone deficiency, which can safely be replaced before things get out of control and create bigger problems.
Recognize any of these signs or symptoms? Call our office for an appointment: 480.619.4097