A few years after having our second son my husband finally took the plunge and got a vasectomy. It was a huge, massive weight off my shoulders – I actually didn’t realize how heavy that weight had been.
The truth is that birth control pretty much dictates our freedom as women. It gives us the ability to design our own lives – we get to decide when we are going to dedicate time to babies and when we are going to focus on other activities. It’s critical.
Choosing the right form of birth control is difficult simply because a perfect form of birth control does not exist. Birth control is a personal decision based on multiple factors – convenience, personal beliefs, effectiveness and our health.
As a woman and a Naturopathic Doctor, I have had to help many women make their birth control decision AND make this decision for myself. I have done the research and listened carefully to my patients, most of whom have been struggling with acne for years.
So what is the verdict? What is the best birth control solution for those that are prone to acne? My thoughts are below, but the final decision must be yours.
1. The Birth Control Pill
A category of birth control pills use drospirenone as a progestin, and this pill is often prescribed to women with acne because it blocks androgen activity in the body (androgens are the hormones that cause acne). So in addition to providing birth control, it can help to clear acne. It can work beautifully for years, but many of my patients come to me after stopping this pill because it can trigger post-pill acne. Post-pill acne is the result of surging androgen levels and insulin dysregulation – and it is often worse than pre-pill acne.
The birth control pill also shuts down your natural estrogen and progesterone production and it stops your body from ovulating, all of which are incredibly important to our overall health and well-being. Research is now showing the importance of ovulatory menstrual cycles on women’s physical, mental and emotional well-being, and shutting down this process can be a serious health compromise.
In addition, the synthetic estrogens and synthetic progestins that comprise the birth control pill do not fit into our hormone receptors perfectly, meaning there are lots of side effects – and some of them are very serious.
I personally took the birth control pill for 10 years, and coming off the pill triggered a health crisis that resulted in post-pill PCOS, awful acne and years of miscarriages.
2. Mirena IUD
An IUD (inter-uterine device) is inserted into the uterine lining. Not only does it make the uterus a hostile place for a fertilized egg and sperm to implant, but it also produces a small amount of progestins, which thickens the endometrial lining and further prevents pregnancy.
The progestins that are secreted by the Mirena IUD can lead to increased oil production in the skin and increased acne in many women that are susceptible to acne. Although the Mirena has a high success rate, if you are experiencing stubborn acne while on the Mirena – it might be the cause.
3. Copper IUD
The copper IUD is also known as the ParaGard and looks very similar to the Mirena IUD. When the copper IUD is inserted into the uterus, it creates an inflammatory reaction that prevents the egg and sperm from fertilizing and implanting in the uterus.
The copper IUD is very effective and is usually well tolerated in women with acne. It can contribute to flare-ups in some women, often because too much copper can displace zinc in your body, and this can create skin issues. However, you can take blood tests periodically to make sure your zinc levels are in the normal range, and supplement if required.
Many of my patients have success using the Copper IUD – but, like anything, it does not work well for everyone.
4. Fertility Awareness Tracking
Modern Fertility Awareness tracking is now very accurate, thanks to some amazing new monitors that are available. These monitors have excellent algorithms that are based on over five million different cycles and they work by monitoring your basal body temperature, determining when you’re going to ovulate and your fertile days. The fertile days are the days to avoid unprotected sex or use a condom.
This method of birth control deeply connects you with your cycle, and that’s what I love about it so much. Tracking your cycle increases your awareness of your body, your health, and your cycle affects different parts of your life. This method requires an understanding of your hormones and can inspire you to take action to restore and preserve hormonal balance – which is the best thing for your skin!
One of my favorite monitors is the Daysy monitor. It’s been around in one form or another for over 30 years so the algorithms are well established and there’s a very low chance of error.
This is actually a really fantastic form of birth control that can be used successfully with Fertility Awareness Tracking, or just on their own. They are not as effective as some other forms of birth control, but your skin is not going to be affected.
There you have it – an overview of birth control and how it affects your acne. And now, the decision is up to you. Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider about all your options, but remember to think about your long-term health and well-being while making this decision. It is an important one!
P.S. If you want to know more about healing your acne naturally, be sure to sign up for my FREE Clear Skin Masterclass. I’m going to share some secret clinical pearls to help you heal your acne for good!