Are you contemplating leaving hormonal birth control behind once and for all, but are concerned about the potential negative side effects you may experience as a result?
What will happen to your body, skin, and periods when you come off the pill? These are all good questions, so let’s take a deeper look at what to expect according to experts.
The Most Important Question To Ask: How Was My Period Before The Pill?
According to Lara Briden, who’s a naturopathic doctor, women’s health activist, and best-selling author of Period Repair Manual, there’s one very important question to ask yourself when coming off birth control: “How was my period before the pill?”
The pill distributes a fake panel of hormones that are not naturally produced by your body. Therefore, the bleeds you had on the pill can’t provide an accurate assessment of your true periods. When quitting the pill, Dr. Briden states you can expect to experience your pre-pill symptoms again.
If your pre-pill periods were…
Normal: Coming off the pill will more than likely be a smooth transition. You may experience mild acne or anxiety as you detox from the synthetic estrogen found in the pill and your body acclimates to its absence, but overall, you should find balance again within three months.
Irregular: Maybe you were prescribed birth control in the first place to tame the symptoms of your irregular periods, which could make coming off it more complicated. Essentially, the pill was stopping communication between your ovaries and brain, fueling your body with a surplus of hormones to overpower your natural production. This means when you stop using the pill, your natural hormones will be back in the driver’s seat, and if not balanced at the root, they can cause unpleasant symptoms again.
Dr. Briden recommends speaking to your doctor about why your periods were irregular prior to the pill. Common causes of irregular bleeding can be a result of deeper underlying issues like PCOS, endometriosis, and insulin resistance. It could have been affected by a nutrient deficient diet also. To get to the bottom of this, have your doctor perform blood tests. Things to look for in a blood test that can affect periods are thyroid functioning, insulin resistance, vitamin D levels, and gluten sensitivities. Receiving this insight prior to quitting the pill will help you make the transition as pleasant as possible.
5 Common Symptoms When Quitting the Pill
According to Dr. Jolene Brighten, who is a functional medicine naturopathic physician, best-selling author of Beyond the Pill, speaker, and clinical educator specializing in the treatment of hormone disorders, there are five common symptoms to expect when coming off the pill.
While it may seem overwhelming and frightening to read what may happen as a result of ripping off the band-aid that is birth control, know that these negative side effects typically correct themselves within three to six months after you stop taking the pill. The ultimate result? A much healthier feminine flow, natural hormone secretion, increased fertility, and lots of other benefits that will add to your quality of life. We’ll discuss how birth control is actually robbing you of many health benefits later and experiencing these unpleasant, yet temporary, side effects will be more than worth it in the long run.
Heavy, Painful Periods: As mentioned earlier, if your period was heavy and painful prior to the pill, this may reemerge. It can be healed by taking the necessary steps to clear your estrogen, reduce inflammation, and support your nutrient stores.
Post-Pill Amenorrhea: This is when your period goes missing for several months after stopping the pill. Dr. Brighten reports it should return within three to six months, depending on your pre-pill flow. However, she recommends you investigate if it hasn’t returned within three months as “the longer your period stays away, the harder it can be to get it back.” Although, she has documented clients who have successfully reclaimed their periods after 10 years!
Acne: The acne you experience post birth control usually hits its peak six months after stopping and will improve in about a six to eight month window. To treat this unwanted acne naturally, eat probiotic-rich foods, increase dietary zinc, eliminate dairy, and take hormone supportive supplements.
Mood Swings and Anxiety: As the brain and ovaries start communicating again, you may experience dips in mood and energy. In the words of Dr. Brighten: “It might feel scary to come off the pill, but listen, you can do a hell of a lot more for your mood off the pill than you can do on the pill.” The pill itself has done nothing more than deplete nutrients, create inflammation, and promote other imbalances that mess with your mood.
Loss of Libido and Fatigue: Unfortunately energy and libido go hand-in-hand. When you stop taking birth control, you may notice a dip in your sex drive along with your energy. Don’t worry, it’ll return as your hormones reset! In the meantime, eating libido-supportive foods like dark chocolate, pineapple, spinach, and oysters can help, and of course, focus on nourishing your adrenals (as this is the hot spot for energy management!).
The Negative Effects of Birth Control
If you’re like many girls, you may have gone to the doctor as a teen stating your concerns just to be dismissed with a one-size-fits-all birth control prescription. Overprescribed to manage acne and PMS symptoms, women are now experiencing the long-term effects of synthetic hormones ruling their bodies for years at a time.
A big myth surrounding the birth control pill is that it will regulate your cycles – this is entirely not true. The pill only serves to mask them through fake hormones and does not heal the underlying problems. Arguably, the pill can actually do more harm than good. As Dr. Briden states, “When it comes to period health, it’s all about ovulation, because ovulation is how you make your beneficial hormones estrogen and progesterone.” However, the pill works to thicken cervical mucus and prevent ovulation, which clearly can’t happen without consequences.
Such consequences include, but aren’t limited to, decreased sex drive, headaches, nausea, mood swings, depression, acne, migraines, ovarian cysts, hair loss, weight gain, and increased risk of blood clots, breast cancer, and cervical cancer. Birth control depletes nutrients, including zinc that’s necessary for healthy immune function and skin. Birth control also disrupts your microbiome which can lead to leaky gut resulting in food sensitivities, increased inflammation, and even autoimmune disease. None of which seem to be any less severe than your original symptoms, and if anything, is throwing gasoline on the fire that’s already roaring.
If your main purpose for using birth control is to prevent pregnancy, looking into more natural contraceptive methods such as cycle tracking can be a healthier and more supportive option. As always, consult with a doctor you trust for the best practices you should take.
While it may seem like there’s never a right time or way to quit birth control, one thing seems clear – the sooner the better. A large part of reclaiming your femininity is by being at peace with your own rhythm. The more in sync you become with your body and hormones, the more health-centered benefits you’ll receive in the process. Educating yourself about birth control and your cycle will strengthen your grounds for advocating your needs to your doctor. Finding a holistic practitioner who specializes in women’s health is ideal when stepping into this process. However, knowing what to ask for with a traditional doctor will be sufficient as well. The most important part is that you listen to your own body and follow what feels most aligned for you!
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