Birth pills are prescription medications taken to prevent pregnancy. These pills contain hormones estrogen and progestin or only progestin that regulate various body functions.

Research has shown that many metabolic changes take place in the woman’s body who are on contraceptive pills as compared to the general population. The metabolic changes may alter general health as well as nutritional status.

In terms of nutrition, experts believe that women on birth pills need different amounts of vitamins, including zinc.

So, the next time you are at the doctor’s office, you may discuss your zinc and other nutrient levels.

Birth Control and Zinc Levels

Zinc is an important nutrient present in various body cells and is essential for maintaining the body’s immunity.

But, it is seen that almost 31% of the global population is zinc deficient. Consuming oral contraceptive pills further increases the risk by increasing the body’s utilization of zinc.

Studies have shown that even a small dose of birth pills can negatively affect zinc levels. The reduction in zinc levels is directly proportional to the duration for which oral pills are taken.

Zinc plays various essential roles in your body. Some important ones are:

  • Vision and hearing
  • Hair, nails, and skin
  • Fertility
  • Immune defense
  • Antioxidants

Symptoms of zinc deficiency are:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Hair loss
  • Skin lesions
  • Delayed wound healing
  • Weight loss

Further, zinc is essential for both the mother and the baby’s development during pregnancy. So, women who plan to stop these birth pills to conceive should consult the doctor about their zinc levels.

Deficiency of zinc during pregnancy may cause:

  • Growth retardation
  • Preterm delivery
  • Stillbirth

Birth Control and Zinc Deficiency Effect

Various studies have shown the effect of birth pills on zinc levels. The estrogen hormone in contraceptive pills is seen to trigger the production of protein in the liver. Zinc is a vital nutrient for protein synthesis and enzymes required in this process.

So, it is believed that a reduction in zinc levels is due to increased liver uptake. Animal studies have shown that synthetic estrogen results in increased zinc content of the liver and lower zinc levels in the blood.

While the exact mechanism for the same is not known, the following effects are attributed to low zinc levels in birth pills users:

  • Reduction in serum protein levels
  • Increased zinc uptake by the body tissues
  • Lower zinc tissue release due to anabolic effects of estrogen

Effect of Zinc Deficiency

Low zinc levels in birth pill users are seen to cause:

  • Increased platelet stickiness and aggregation: The extent of these changes is not completely understood. But platelet aggregation is seen to increase the risk of clot formation, also known as thrombosis. The risk of venous thrombosis is 4 to 7 times higher in pill users as compared to the general population. 
  • Reduced serotonin levels: Serotonin improves mood and reduction in its levels is associated with depression-like symptoms.

Of note, estrogen in combined OC pills further aggravates the alteration in the clotting mechanism. So, women who smoke or have a history of clotting disorders are often recommended progestin-only pills.

If you feel you might be at risk, talk to your doctor regarding the best suitable birth pill for you.

Birth Control Pills and Zinc Supplements Diet

Health Canada estimates that about 10% – 35% of Canadians are taking diet deficient in zinc. Birth pills further deplete zinc stores of the body. Consuming a zinc-rich diet is thus advisable for oral contraceptive users.

Some foods with high zinc content are:

  • Oysters
  • Crabs
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Yogurt
  • Almonds and cashews
  • Flax, sesame, and sunflower seeds
  • Lobster
  • Pork
  • Kidney beans
  • Peas

If you feel your diet is deficient in zinc, you may ask your doctor for a zinc vitamin.

Zinc Supplements for Birth Control

Zinc supplementation in women on birth pills aids in improving its level in the blood and reduces the complications associated with zinc deficiency.

According to a study, eight weeks of zinc supplementation improved zinc levels by 14.4%. However, it may alter copper levels and further trigger oxidative stress caused by birth pills.

So, it is always advisable to consult your doctor before taking zinc supplements while on contraceptive pills.

Final Thoughts

Birth pills are a popular form of contraception among Canadian Women. While they are effective and easy to use, they may cause alterations in certain nutrients, including zinc. Zinc is a vital nutrient supporting the health of the woman and her baby, in case of a pregnancy. A diet rich in zinc along with zinc supplementation may be helpful to maintain zinc levels and to prevent complications associated with zinc deficiency. The next time you visit the doctor’s office, you may discuss zinc levels and the need for zinc supplementation.

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