MTHFR and Birth Control Pills. Ugh.

Naturally, MTHFR and birth control pills interact – it’s not like this is an easy mutation to live with in other senses, why would it leave our contraceptive options untouched? Complaining aside, I could have saved myself years of miserable experiences with the pill if I had known this.

MTHFR and birth control pills is a bad combination. Photo by Bryancalabro.

MTHFR and birth control pills is a bad combination. Photo by Bryancalabro.

Birth Control Pills Deplete Folate in Your Body

If you’re familiar with MTHFR mutations, then you’ve probably already figured out why this is a no-win situation for us MTHFR gals, but if you’re not then read on. Birth Control Pills are known to deplete folate levels in women and have been known to do so since the ’80s.  This is a problem for all women, but especially those who have compromised folate metabolism in the first place (ahem, that’s us MTHFR folks). This folate depletion is part of the reason for some of the most common side effects of birth control pills – fatigue, mild depression, even acne.  It’s also linked to an increased risk of neural tube defects in babies born to women who have recently stopped using birth control pills.

Due to the risk of neural-tube defects in women who become pregnant after recently stopping birth control pills, a new folate-fortified pill called Beyaz ® has been developed.  In good news, it is supplemented with an active form of folate so if you’re an MTHFR gal and you absolutely must take oral contraceptive pills, this one might be a good option for you.

If you don’t tolerate birth control pills and can’t figure out why, it could be because you have an MTHFR mutation – especially if you have signs of a folate deficiency even though you’re taking your birth control pills WITH a multivitamin or folate supplement.

Birth Control Pills also deplete B12, Magnesium and other nutrients

Not only is folate depleted, but its partner-in-crime B12 is depleted too.  B12 is also highly involved in the methylation cycle, and again this can be an issue for MTHFR folks (especially those with the related MTRR mutation) as well.  Nutrients to watch when taking birth control include:

  • Folate
  • B12
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin C
  • B2 – Riboflavin
  • B6 – Pyridoxine
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin E
  • Selenium

Of course for MTHFR folks the folate is the biggest factor, but folate always works in tandem with other B vitamins so make sure you’re getting a good B complex supplement if you do choose to take birth control pills.

Birth Control Pills May Also Affect Serotonin Metabolism

In related bad news, Birth control pills may also affect your Serotonin metabolism (which might also be compromised in MTHFR folks because of this.)  This study, published in the Journal of Ayub Medical College, showed that there was a difference in serotonin levels between non-contraceptive users and oral contraceptive users that was statistically significant in pre-analysis but not statistically significant in post-analysis. That means that although there was a difference in the two groups, it wasn’t large enough that we can say with confidence that it wasn’t chance.  There was, however, a significant difference in serotonin levels for those using injectable contraceptives. Injectable contraceptives are a bad idea on so many levels, but let’s add this as another reason not to use them.

What Type of Contraceptive is Best for MTHFR Mutants?

Completely safe relative to MTHFR mutation types (other risks though – do your research!):

  • Condoms, Female Condoms
  • Copper IUD (non-progesterone secreting)
  • Vasectomy or tubal ligation

If you feel you must take hormonal contraception:

  • Use the lowest dose of hormone possible and make sure you’re adding extra supplements to counteract nutritional deficiencies. Consider Beyaz® but remember if you’re an MTHFR mutant you might still need additional active folate, and it doesn’t supplement any of the other nutrients it depletes so you’ll also need those.
  • Avoid using injections, pellets or implants simply because once they’re in you can’t get them out.  That means if your body doesn’t tolerate it you’re stuck with the side effects until the dose wears off.
  • If you’re considering getting pregnant, please stop all oral contraceptives at least a year before you start to try and make sure you work diligently during that year to boost your levels of all of the nutrients that may have been depleted.

 

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