Harm from Hormones - The Bitter Pill
The website of Dr Ellen Grant

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The Contraceptive Pill and HRT cause many serious illnesses with three times more deaths in young women "pill" takers than in young non-takers (as shown in the world's largest "pill" study from the Royal College of General Practitioners).

Contraceptive and HRT hormones increase the risk of serious illnesses - not only as Pills but also as jabs, implants, gels and hormone-containing IUDs (intra-uterine devices).

What makes these hormones so dangerous? Pill hormones (progestogens and oestrogens) are steroid ‘messengers’ which pass to all parts of the body and powerfully influence ALL BODY SYSTEMS.

Increases in pill hormone taking increases cancers. These include breast cancers, carcinoma-in-situ (positive smears), cervical, ovarian, as well as many other cancers. Rises and falls in breast cancer with changing hormone use since 1962 are shown in the slides from Review Lecture 1 Click here.

Other side effects are increased risk of thrombosis, migraine, strokes, hypertension, heart attacks, sore breasts, breast lumps, sore legs, leg cramps, pulmonary emboli, irregular vaginal bleeding (some increased risk of unplanned pregnancy) or no periods; also post-pill infertility (sometimes increasing use of IVF for pregnancy) or miscarriages, bleeding which may be heavy (menorrhagia) and weight gain (which can be huge).

There may be mood changes including loss of energy, depression, irritability, sometimes severe with violence and marriage break-ups resulting.

Pill steroid hormones also change immunity resulting in increases in infections - viral, bacterial and fungal infections (e.g. thrush), sexually transmitted diseases like HPV (associated with cervix cancer) and PID (pelvic inflammatory disease).

Also increased are endometriosis, fibroids and ovarian cysts (including polycystic ovaries), autoimmune diseases and a variety of other conditions. In children there is an increased risk of behavioural and developmental abnormalities including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder ADHD likely to relate to toxic metals and the zinc and magnesium deficiencies associated with these hormones - (see * under Further Information) and homosexuality if hormones are taken in early pregnancy. (Review lecture 2) Click here

Why are doctors not warning of these associations?

The harm from these hormones suffered by women, children and families is being tolerated because of misleading research often ghost written by drug companies. Untrue benefits were claimed for HRT and increased sales for many decades.

Studies have underestimated risks because few women in the never-user control groups were genuine never takers of these hormones. Most women have taken hormones at some time in their lives. It is not always realised that the same hormones are also used for reasons other than contraception. These hormones are given for HRT and for regularising periods, period pains, other gynaecological conditions and acne. As a result, women may mistakenly believe that they have never taken the 'pill'. These women will incorrectly increase the numbers in never-user control groups in epidemiological studies. This can give a falsely lowered risk.

Use of such inaccurate data has even resulted in false claims of benefit in cancers which are relatively rare in young women. Unfortunately, it is widely believed that contraceptive hormones (even if taken for a short time during the past 20 years!) can prevent ovarian cancer even though this cancer can be caused by the same hormones when taken as HRT.

Also, different doctors may be involved at different stages of an illness e.g. the GP or family planning doctor prescribes the contraceptive hormone, an oncologist treats the cancer, a psychiatrist may treat the depression and a social worker may be involved in the problems resulting from violence and family break-up . This specialization may distance doctors from the overall picture and make it more difficult for them to distinguish cause and effect of illness linked to contraceptive hormones.

The time delay before certain symptoms develop (especially some cancers) may make it difficult for doctors to associate the symptoms with the Pill. They may also query whether one medication could cause so many disparate medical conditions – forgetting that this is part of the nature of hormones which act as chemical messengers to all parts and systems of the body.

For those doctors who do become suspicious of a link, it will be almost impossible to overturn the massive hormonal bandwagon. This is because decades of flawed information and spin have given the public false confidence in safety – (people will find it impossible to believe that the medication they have been given by trusted medical practitioners could be so harmful). Doctors may also be afraid that they will be accused of causing a ‘scare’.

Furthermore, well meaning people may genuinely believe the Pill could be the answer to concerns about world overpopulation, rather than what it really is – the cause of massive ill health for women and their families with a seriously adverse effect on the environment.

NB All contraceptive Pills, implants, injections or progestogen intrauterine devices IUDs, patches or creams contain hormones - Emergency contraceptives or morning-after pills are mostly high doses of progestogens. Half of all menopausal women are likely to have taken Pill hormones again, this time as HRT.


The harm from contraceptive hormones suffered by women, children and families is being tolerated because of flawed research, spin and concerns about overpopulation

Doctors have given women these hormones for decades for illnesses caused by taking the Pill in the first place. Most doctors believe that preventing pregnancy outweighs the risks of taking hormones. In spite of this, teenage pregnancies have continued to increase because of earlier age of first sex & more sexual partners - so Pill hormones are now being given out by school nurses and pharmacists. Also, very powerful long-acting (progestogen) contraceptives are being recommended because pills can be missed or stopped for side effects; but side effects of long-acting drugs may not be easily reversed.

These include - breast cancers, carcinoma-in-situ (positive smears), cervical, ovary, lung, and liver cancers, skin melanomas and brain tumours within a year or two
Decreased hormone use quickly lowers new cancer incidences

What makes Pill hormones so dangerous? Pill hormones (progestogens and oestrogens) are steroid messengers and powerfully affect ALL BODY SYSTEMS. Steroids can suppress some warning symptoms, like period pains or flushing, but underlying biochemical abnormalities can increase and cause illnesses.

Progestogens/progestins act like the natural hormone progesterone. High levels block ovulation and so prevent pregnancy. All contraceptive Pills, depot implants, injections or progestogen IUDs, patches or creams mostly act like progesterone.
Both Synthetic AND Natural progesterones (progestogens) activate thousands of genes (many more than oestrogens) changing immune responses & rapidly growing blood vessels.

Fundamental discoveries in the 1960s revealed that harmful effects of contraceptive pills are due to the normal biological actions of progesterone and oestrogen being exaggerated and prolonged. Pills containing a powerful progestogen and a low dose of oestrogen resulted in a thin womb lining and scanty periods, but blood vessels overgrew especially in women with migraine headaches. Premenstrual symptoms lasted for weeks instead of days as depression, loss of libido & violence related to prolonged increases in monoamine oxidase (MAO) enzymes. (MAO inhibitor drugs are antidepressants.) Dilated veins in the womb and blood clotting changes signalled increased thrombosis risk.
Grant, ECG. British Medical Journal, The Lancet, British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology

Other proven side effects are marriage break-ups (doubled), hypertension, heart attacks, sore breasts, breast lumps, sore legs, leg cramps, pulmonary emboli, irregular bleeding or no periods (even sometimes extending into a premature menopause); also post-pill infertility (sometimes increasing use of IVF for pregnancy) or miscarriages. Metabolic changes increase the risk of weight gain and  diabetes. In many hormone takers, mineral deficiencies decrease secretion of digestive enzymes from the pancreas which impairs absorption of essential nutrients from the gut.

The Combined Pill contains both progestogen and oestrogen hormones. High enough doses of progestogens prevent ovulation and pregnancy. Oestrogen doses were lowered because oestrogen causes womb cancer and blood clots. Subsequently newer progestogens were more powerful at  lower doses. Such newer pills, called second and third generation pills, actually caused more strokes and thrombosis than older pills.

Progestogen-only oestrogen-free contraceptives are now being promoted to lessen thrombosis but migraine, strokes, depression, irritability, loss of libido, bleeding, weight gain (which can be huge), osteoporosis, and cancer may result. Emergency contraceptives (morning-after pills) are mostly high doses of progestogens. Long acting progestogen implants/injectables have a risk of thrombosis which is similar to some combined pills containing oestrogens. (van Hylckama A et al. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 2010:30:2297-2300)

Pill steroid hormones change immunity resulting in proven increases in infections - viral, bacterial and fungal infections like thrush, sexually transmitted diseases like HPV (associated with cervix cancer), HIV, and PID (pelvic inflammatory disease). Also increased are endometriosis, fibroids and ovarian cysts. These conditions often lead to hysterectomies and removal of ovaries before the menopause.

Numerous conditions which were rare or unheard of in the 1950s before the Pill, when I was a medical student, affect many more young women than young men e.g. ME (chronic fatigue syndrome) and eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia); also autoimmune diseases such as MS (multiple sclerosis), SLE (systemic lupus erythematosus) and APS (antiphospholipid syndrome). In women who develop APS, an increased risk of contraceptive hormone-induced thrombosis continues post-pill. This results in recurrent thrombosis and recurrent miscarriages due to “sticky blood”. In children, allergies, dyslexia, autism and behaviour disorders including ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) have all increased at the same time as early age and longer Pill use has increased before pregnancy. This is likely to relate to zinc and magnesium deficiencies and toxic metals. See details in next paragraph.

In pregnancy, the effects of raised levels of progesterone and oestrogen are controlled by the body’s automatic feedback mechanisms. However contraceptive hormones disturb automatic safety controls. Mineral (eg zinc and magnesium) & vitamin deficiencies are increased by hormone use and toxic metals (from nickel jewellery or dental braces, mercury fillings or cadmium from smoking) accumulate and damage cell functions*. Women taking hormones are more likely to have toxic metals or oxidation chemicals stuck on or adducted to their DNA causing chromosome and gene changes which can be passed down through the generations. They also tend to have impaired liver clearance of other environmental chemicals including pesticides which have oestrogenic activity. Blood tests for these abnormalities are available for doctors and their patients at some laboratories. (Review lecture 2) Click here  

Fertility hormones (IVF) have similar risks and there are large increases in thromboembolism risks in the first three months of a pregnancy which follows IVF (Hendriksson P et al BMJ 2013:346 e8632).

Taking progesterone in pregnancy risks sexual (including homosexuality) and other developmental abnormalities for the child. “Unexplained” recurrent miscarriages or premature labour are usually due to treatable mineral and vitamin deficiencies, toxic metals and infections; all more likely in past pill takers. Good preconception care does not usually need further hormone taking.  

Contraceptive studies have confused the issues. Over 60 medical conditions increased in takers in the first few years of the world's largest Pill study (Royal College of GPs). Surprisingly, health benefits were claimed (even though one in three women had left the study and many younger never-takers were switched to be Pill-takers to replace losses). Women who ever took the Pill were three times more likely to die before age 30. Violent deaths were still increased for up to 40 years. Ever taking the Pill for 44 months was claimed to prevent premature deaths because of a crucial mistake of not recording recent hormone use in the last 10 years of the study, when 75% of the deaths occurred. Half of menopausal women are likely to have taken Pill hormones again, this time as HRT. Combined HRT has been proved to increase deaths.

Studies have underestimated risks because most women have taken hormones at sometime in their lives and few controls were genuine never-takers. Even so, the American WHI randomised study has proved that Combined Progestin/estrogen Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) should not be used because of rapid increases the commonest cancer (breast), the commonest cause of cancer deaths (lung), strokes and heart attacks. In January 2010, The Lancet Home Page quoted from Doctor Grant's correspondence that 'there is no valid reason for taking HRT, which is now dead and should be buried'.

BUT combined HRT has the same actions as the Pill

NB Contraception without hormones includes delaying age of first vaginal intercourse; male or female condoms, diaphragm/cap with spermicidal creams, natural family planning/ fertility awareness method (all with some risk of pregnancy); IUDs (risk of bleeding, infection & ectopic pregnancy); or tubal ligation and vasectomy.
Stopping a contraceptive course early can result in pregnancy.

Click here for Review Lecture 1 Slides.

Further information
on the highlighted conditions and
References to the publications of Dr Ellen C G Grant are available at the websites listed below

1. www.pubmed.gov Insert Grant EC
For a specific subject Insert Grant EC and subject
For example Insert Grant EC and headaches or breast cancer

2. www.bmj.com Home page – Top right hand corner
At Search bmj.com
Insert Ellen C G Grant and if required add a subject e.g. RCGP Pill study.

3. http://informahealthcare.com/loi/cjne
Journal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine
Go to 1998, and then Volume 8, issue 2 and look at contents list
NB Informahealth care provides free summaries

4. www.thelancet.com Home Page
In Search for box Insert Ellen CG Grant Don't change All Fields Box
For a specific subject Insert Ellen CG Grant and subject
For example Insert Ellen CG Grant and lung or ovarian cancer

Books by Dr Ellen Grant

Out of print but copies in National Libraries and at Amazon

Book Titles Publisher Year

1 The bitter pill: how safe is the perfect contraceptive? Elm Tree 1985
ISBN 9780241114278

2 The bitter pill: how safe is the perfect contraceptive? Corgi 1986
ISBN 9780552127981

3 Sexual chemistry: understanding your hormones Cedar 1994
ISBN 9780749313630

Disclaimer: The information on this website has been produced with care. However, no responsibility for loss occasioned to any person acting or refraining from action as a result of the information included or omitted can be accepted by the author or the website developers.