Leslie Carol Botha: SMCR member, Laura Wershler raises the question that we all need to be asking: Are hormone contraceptives (the pill, the patch, IUD, implants, injections) – endocrine disruptors? But when one thinks about it – anything that interferes the natural production of hormones – or how those hormones are disseminated in our bodies IS an endocrine disruptor. There have been many women – and menstrual health advocates, myself included who believe that birth control is the largest uncontrolled experiment in medical history.
We are now generations into this medical experiment – and the synthetic hormones have been stored in our fatty tissue and passed down to the next generation. In addition, our exposure to endocrine disruptors has increased exponentially and is building up in our bodies. Our neuro, endocrine, and immune systems are being significantly altered.
Does it matter that hormonal contraceptives are endocrine disrupting chemicals?
Society for Menstrual Cycle Research
by Laura Wershler
March 6, 2013
I’ve been wading through State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals – 2012. The 289-page report was prepared by a group of experts for the United Nations Environmental Programme and World Health Organization.
It is dense and complex, but what I’ve been looking for is any acknowledgement that hormonal contraceptives are endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs).
Hormonal contraceptives clearly act as EDCs according to the definition used in this report:
An endocrine disruptor is an exogenous substance or mixture that alters function(s) of the endocrine system and consequently causes adverse health effects in an intact organism, or its progeny, or (sub) populations. A potential endocrine disruptor is an exogenous substance or mixture that possesses properties that might be expressed to lead to endocrine disruption in an intact organism, or its progeny, or (sub) populations.
Adverse health effects would include, in this context, anything that disrupts the reproductive systems of humans (and wildlife) or contributes to other health problems such as hormone-related cancers, thyroid-related disorders, cardiovascular disease, bone disorders, metabolic disorders and immune function impairment. Hormonal contraceptives certainly disrupt the reproductive system and have been associated with increased risk of cardiovascular events, loss of bone density, decreased immune function and, in some studies, increased risk for breast cancer. Metabolic disorders? Recent research suggests that long-acting progestin-based birth control may increase risk in obese women for Type 2 diabetes.
The only mention I could find of specific contraceptive chemicals is in section 3.1: The EDCs of concern. In a table under the sub-heading Pesticides, pharmaceuticals and personal care product ingredients, two key components of hormonal contraceptives are listed: Ethinyl estradiol, the synthetic estrogen used in most oral contraceptive formulations, and Levonorgestrel, a synthetic progesterone used in combined oral contraceptive pills, emergency contraception, the Mirena IUD, and progestin-only birth control pills. Levonorgestrel is considered of “specific interest.”