Your Guide to Going off of Birth ControlDec 08, 2021
You guys know, I was personally on birth control for 11 years. I got on it as a teen, just not knowing anything. Then when I got off it at 23 and had all sorts of hormonal imbalance, including amenorrhea and horrible skin, my doctor told me to go back on it, and it basically just masked all the symptoms again and held me back from getting to the root cause of what was going on. T
he pill, patches or birth control shots, even the hormonal IUD use synthetic hormones to address conditions where hormonal imbalances are the underlying cause, including irregular or absent menstrual periods, menstrual cramps, hormonal acne, PMS, endometriosis, primary ovarian insufficiency (POI), and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Synthetic hormonal birth control methods may work for a bit of a while to control symptoms, but they never address the root cause of the issue.
Once you stop the pill, the symptoms will reappear, and the synthetic hormones can cause some serious damage to gut health and cause symptoms of their own, from weight gain and low sex drive to brain fog and hair loss.
It's super important to remember that when going off of hormonal birth control, the reasons why you were put on it in the first place likely still exist. The symptoms of your condition or the factors you were trying to eliminate, like painful periods, acne, and mood swings, will most likely come back without the hormones. You'll have to be prepared to address these symptoms naturally, which requires knowledge and patience.
I put together this guide to help you resolve any adverse impacts birth control has caused and help you restore healthy hormones of your own.
You Can Stop Anytime
Birth control medications are unique in that you can stop taking them entirely without having to wean off of them. While there will be no harm to your body if you decide to stop taking the pill in the middle of your cycle, it's ideal to stop after your period to prevent possible inconsistencies with your cycle. Something else to be aware of is that if you're going off your birth control method to become pregnant (how exciting!), you can stop at any time, but it's recommended that you wait at least three months before trying to conceive. You want to ensure your body is in an optimal state to nourish a baby. Hormonal birth control can deplete the body of essential vitamins, and women who conceive immediately after coming off birth control are more likely to have premature deliveries.
Once you come off the pill, you will want to make sure you're focusing on the following:
Nourishing your body with your diet:
- Having probiotic-rich foods that will help address any gut issues that have been created or worsened with the pill. The pill alters your microbiome, which also affects your OWN hormone regulation.
- Healthy fats and proteins - quality sources of fats and proteins are essential for building hormones.
- Zinc, magnesium, and selenium - these trace minerals are depleted by long-term use of the birth control pill, and they're generally deficiencies in people who eat the standard American diet. Having these nutrients is essential for preventing that post-pill amenorrhea that I dealt with
- Vitamin B complex - B vitamins are critical for menstrual health and they're really depleted by hormonal birth control use.
When I first came off the pill at 27, my skin freaked out, which is super common. Hormonal fluctuations post-pill can be the cause of breakouts. Supplementing with evening primrose oil and chaste tree vitex can help with balancing the skin's pH.
Once you're off, you're going to want to track your cycle. Your cycle may not be regular for a few months after stopping synthetic hormones. You must start to understand your menstrual cycle because what it looks like for you is different from someone else and might be slightly different month-to-month.
There are great mobile apps you can download to monitor your cycle. The one I recommend to clients is MyFlo. Practice lots of patience and track diligently at this stage. Start recording on the first day of your cycle, which is when bleeding begins. You want to record the timeline and any symptoms you experience throughout the month and when - physical and emotional- so that you can understand their cycle and the root cause of them. I talk about this a lot in the course.
I'm sure you've heard me talk about adrenal glands, how they manage your stress hormones and that when they're worn out, related hormonal imbalances can occur. If you're chronically stressed, the body begins to make high amounts of cortisol, which means there's not enough pregnenolone also adequately to produce the sex hormones. This leads to a hormonal imbalance, which will worsen the symptoms of any other conditions related to hormonal imbalances. This is essentially why I lost my period after the pill.
Low impact movement that makes you sweat and involves deep breathing like Pilates and yoga helps the body eliminate excess hormones and control post-birth-control mood swings and irritability, which can be the unwanted result of changing hormone levels. Combining movement with relaxation techniques, such as meditation and mindfulness (the WBK method!), is ideal for managing the temporary adverse side effects of going off the pill.
Alcohol creates imbalances in hormonal levels and creates inflammation in the body. That means that the symptoms that will naturally occur due to going off of hormonal birth control will be intensified the more regularly you're drinking. Especially in the first weeks of going off, reducing or stopping your alcohol consumption can significantly ease the transition.
As you help your body hormonal balance, you will find that the reason you were put on hormonal birth control in the first place no longer applies at all because you've finally gotten to the root cause of the problem.