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How The Pill Works
~ The Pill Cycle ~

Birth control pills are made of synthetic estrogen, the egg needs estrogen to develop, the pill supplies just enough estrogen to keep estrogen level in the bloodstream high enough to fool the pituitary gland so it doesn't release Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), suppressing egg development and preventing the egg from maturing, thus preventing ovulation.

In a normal, natural cycle (without artificial hormonal influence) FSH rises in the body causing eggs to develop in the ovaries causing estrogen levels to rise. When estrogen levels reach a certain point it triggers the pituitary gland to release Lutenizing Hormone (LH)this causes the most developed egg to ripen while suppressing the others and triggers ovulation.

With a pill cycle this process is disrupted. Estrogen levels never reach the level needed to trigger ovulation. If something within this fails, and by chance an egg does ripen, and get fertilized, the pill has a secondary feature which protects against this happening by supplying the body with just enough synthetic progesterone to trick it into thinking progesterone production is adequate so the body does not produce its own progesterone either. There isn't enough progesterone circulating to allow the uterus to develop the uterine lining like it would in a natural cycle. This makes it very difficult for a fertilized egg to implant. This is why the pill is 98-99% effective, because no egg is ever released.

Because the uterine lining doesn't develop with the low levels of progesterone circulating, many women who are on the pill notice their pill period is much lighter in flow, often dark red or brownish in color, fewer cramps and has a shorter duration than their regular natural flow. When on the pill, bleeding during the sugar pill week is caused by the withdrawal of the hormones. The under developed uterine lining is shed, and the next pack of pills begun on schedule.

Birth control pills can inhibit absorption of some vitamins and minerals. Monitor your diet to make sure that you are getting enough Vitamin B-6, Folic acid, Riboflavin (B2), Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, and Vitamin A, Iron, Zinc and Copper.1

Women who desire to become pregnant when coming off the pill should boost their folic acid levels prior to becoming pregnant. The use of birth control pills may cause women with low intakes of folic acid to become deficient. Folic acid deficiency increases the risk for birth defects,2 its important to raise levels prior to conceiving.


When coming off the pill it is difficult to know when you will ovulate for the first time. Because the pill suppresses the hormones which allow ovulation to occur, it sometimes takes a while for the body to re-adjust to producing it's own hormones again. Some believe that when you come off the pill you go through a period of increased fertility. I don't know if this is true, I suspect that many women find themselves pregnant because they are unfamiliar with their cycles and they ovulate at a time they do not expect. Thus creating the impression of increased fertility following the use of the pill. For some women the opposite is true, coming off the pill with the intention of getting pregnant, and finding they have difficulty getting pregnant, because it takes their body a while to readjust to producing its own hormones. There are herbs which can aid in this transition. One particular herb is Vitex, also known as Chasteberry (Vitex agnus casus).

Vitex is a nourishing herb that slowly, and gently helps bring about positive changes in the body's delicate chemistry. Research has shown that Vitex helps to restore a normal estrogen-to-progesterone balance, especially after taking the pill. Vitex should be taken over long-term to achieve optimum effects, it should be taken for six months or longer.

When using Vitex after withdrawal from the Pill, the length of the menstrual cycle may shorten or lengthen temporarily before it finally stabilizes.

Vitex has no side effects, however it is not advisable to take Vitex with progesterone or progesterkone-containing medications (like birth control pills), as vitex tries to correct the effects of the medication. It is often suggested vitex be taken on an empty stomach - immediately upon rising, a half hour before breakfast.

Other Notes:

Wednesday November 24, 1999

Study Links the Pill to Increased Gum Disease Risk

LONDON (Reuters) - Oral contraceptives can damage women's gums and make then more vulnerable to gum disease, New Scientist magazine said Wednesday.

Preliminary results of a study of 49 Sri Lankan women who were on the pill for up to four years showed they were more vulnerable to gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums, than other women who had not used the oral contraceptive.

``Gingivitis was 32 percent more common in these women than in the control group of 39 women who did not take the pill,'' the magazine said.

Mena Soory of Guy's, King's and St. Thomas's Dental Institute in London conducted the study with colleagues in Sri Lanka. They found symptoms of the gum disease were the worst in women with the most bacterial plaque on their teeth.

Gaps between the teeth and gums of women on the pill were an average 2.4 times as large as the other women. ``There could be quite obvious gum inflammation in pill takers who neglect dental hygiene,'' Soory warned.

The researchers said plaque may be the trigger that increases the inflammation. Hormones in the pill may dilate blood vessels and alter cells in the gum lining. They suspect the extra damage occurs after years of exposure to the hormones.

Organon, the pharmaceutical division of Dutch chemicals groups Akzo Nobel NV which produces contraceptive pills, said it was looking into the findings which were presented at a medical conference earlier this month.

1. Colorado State University. Nutrition and Oral Contraceptives.. by J.E. Anderson. Feb. 2005. Accessed Dec 6, 2007
2. Folic acid: An important way to prevent birth defects. March 2004. Accessed Dec 6, 2007.

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