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  • Writer's pictureDr. Susan Caldwell

Hormones 101

The subject of hormones can be very confusing, even for medical professionals. For example, many doctors are not aware of the effects of the hormones found in many types of contraceptives or how these hormones differ from the hormones made by a woman’s ovaries. I was one of those doctors. Hopefully this post will clear up some of the confusion.

Let’s define some terms:

Birth control= any one of many methods or devices that are designed to prevent pregnancy.

Hormone = a chemical messenger that is made in one part of the body and then released into the blood stream in order to be received by another part of the body so that a specific function is carried out in the body - like a key fitting into a lock. There are several different categories of hormones, but our reproductive hormones are known as “steroid hormones”, unique because they are derived from cholesterol.

Hormonal contraception= any one of many prescription drugs or devices that are designed to prevent pregnancy through the use of artificial steroid hormones that act to suppress naturally occurring hormones.

Ethinyl Estradiol= a type of steroid hormone commonly found in contraceptives which mimics the effectof naturally formed estradiol.

Progestins= a term used to describe artificial hormones designed to mimic the effectof naturally formed progesterone (e.g. provera, levonorgestrel, medroxyprogesterone). These can be found in contraceptives and in other hormone replacement therapies.

Estrogen & Progesterone= natural steroid hormones made in the ovaries as the end result of healthy hormonal communication between the brain and the ovaries. These hormones are essential to a woman’s overall health – mental and physical.

See the photos below that show the differences between natural hormones and their synthetic counterparts. The differences may appear minor but this is a case where small differences really matter.

Sometimes, you can substitute fake things for real things and get away with it, but in this case there can be life-threatening consequences when we try to do this, like cancer, blood clots and others (stay tuned) because…

Fake hormones and real hormones are NOT interchangeable!!!!!

Why? Because when a woman uses fake hormones, she stops making real hormones. And women NEED real hormones to be healthy. This is why it is a lie to tell a woman that we are prescribing birth control to “regulate her cycle” when what we are really doing is shutting down her ovaries and stopping her from making key hormones. This is why many women feel terrible on birth control. They often have side effects such as headaches, weight gain, low libido, and etc. but don’t realize that those symptoms are due to artificial hormones. They understood that these hormones were given to help them feel better.

Bottom Line: Hormones in birth control have destructive effects on the body, natural hormones have restorative effects.

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