The possible effects of hormonal birth control are getting more and more well known, but the problem is what happens next? Many women want to stop hormonal birth control but aren’t sure what to do after, or how exactly to go about it. It can be scary if birth control pills is all you have known for 10 years, especially if you were put on it for a specific reason like painful periods or PCOS. Well today’s blog is going to breakdown the best way to transition off hormonal birth control and how you can support your body in the process!
So many women are looking to stop hormonal birth control because they have either lost their sex drive, have pain during sex, or really just aren’t feeling quite “themselves” anymore in general. More and more information and research is coming into light about how birth control pills could actually be causing more harm than good, but in decades before birth control was given out like candy to “cure” things that we are now finding birth control to actually cause. The bottom line is, birth control is really only good for one thing..preventing pregnancy. It may mask the symptoms of a painful period or other women’s health conditions, but it is not treating it. It is like having a cut on your leg, and instead of stitching it up to stop the bleeding and prevent infection, we are just putting a bandage over it and hoping it holds long enough.
Whether you are taking the pill, shots or have an IUD, there really is no right or wrong way to come off of it. Some people say you should wait until after your “cycle” to stop or remove it. I put cycle in quotations because we know there is no real period while on hormonal birth control, which you can read more here about what it actually does. Anyways, I don’t think it makes much of a difference on when you come off of it. It isn’t a medication that needs to be weaned off of because it isn’t going to cause any kind of withdrawal symptoms. I stopped in the middle of my pill pack and suffered from amenorrhea and other post-pill conditions. Not saying this is the reason why, but I don’t have much other information to base it off of. So you can either stop cold turkey if you are ready for it. Otherwise, you can wait until the end of your pill pack, or cycle and never start the next month. I will say that it is important to support your body through the process of stopping the pill, especially if you have been on it for years, because your body isn’t going to be prepared for what is to come.
There are a few things you can do to support your body when coming off birth control, to hopefully decrease the underlying symptoms and get your hormones functioning properly!
Hormonal birth control depletes your body of vital nutrients, like B vitamins, Zinc and magnesium. You want to make sure you are taking quality supplements to make sure these numbers don’t just drop off, because they can cause serious damage if the levels are too low. B vitamins are extremely important for just keeping our body and reproductive system healthy! Zinc is necessary for immune function, thyroid health and blood clotting. If the pill depletes zinc, you are much more likely to have thyroid issues which can be very difficult to come back from (if even possible at all). For zinc deficiency try pumpkin seeds, red meat and shellfish, or a quality supplement! Magnesium is important for sleep, metabolic function, and stabilizing blood sugar! Food sources of magnesium include dark leafy greens, avocado, nuts and seeds! You can also supplement with magnesium citrate each night before bed to enhance sleep and aid in digestion!
Another main side effect of birth control pills is a decrease in gut function; meaning our gut flora becomes unbalanced and we have more bad bacteria than good. This can also be caused by just long term antibiotic usage in general. More and more research is being done about how the gut links to everything, from anxiety to brain fog to IBS. So make sure you are taking a high quality probiotic and also eat probiotic rich foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, whole milk yogurt etc.
This means eating a diet that has carbohydrates, fats and protein in it! Each macronutrient are necessary for different body functions, and we need them all in order to fully function properly. If you want to learn more about macronutrients and why they are necessary, check that out here. Fats are especially important in hormone health within the female body. So if you are continuously eating “low fat” or “fat free” foods, you are never going to heal a hormone imbalance. It is also important for detoxification of the liver to eat cruciferous vegetables. These veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale, arugala) all contain sulforaphane which is a compound with amazing healing benefits! They help to metabolize toxins within the body and then eliminate them!
There are options for birth control that do no include synthetic hormones, and can actually be more effective, if used properly. Of course there are condoms and other superficial ways of protecting yourself. But there is also the FAM method. Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) is using body temperature, and vaginal fluid to track fertility times.
The human body is amazing, and every month we have the opportunity to conceive and carry a child. The body actually assumes you will get pregnant each month, and when the egg is not fertilized it then releases the egg and lining (that is formed to preparation) and the cycle starts over. The FAM method can help those who many think they haver fertility problems, but it also means we can prevent pregnancy by taking specific precautions during the ovulation period.
FAM uses body temperature and cervical fluid to determine when you are ovulating and when you are not, and this is going to help prevent pregnancy or encourage it. You use a basal thermometer and take your temperature every morning, at the same time, and record it. I use the app Kindara. You will start to notice a pattern of low temperatures during the follicular phase, a sudden rise during ovulation, and then a continuously high temperature through the luteal phase up until mensuration. By determining when you are ovulating, you can then refrain from intercourse, or protect yourself with superficial means, a few days before ovulation and a few days after. This also helps those who are looking to get pregnant to determine when exactly to have unprotected sex. FAM also shows us that everyone doesn’t ovulate on day 14 like the text books say, that is why some people accidentally get pregnant, or others think they are infertile.
Tracking cervical fluid is also an option. Cervical fluid becomes more “egg white” like during, or near, ovulation. “The consistency changes over the course of your cycle, and usually goes a little something like this: None, for the first few days after your period ends. Then as your estrogen level begins to rise it goes from sticky or gummy, to creamy. As you approach ovulation, your cervical fluid may become clear, slippery and stretchy, like a raw egg-white. Then after ovulation, estrogen levels drop and progesterone takes over. Your cervical fluid will go back to being dry, or perhaps sticky for the remainder of your cycle, until you get your period, about 12 to 16 days after ovulation. Then you get your period, and the whole process starts again.” This may be a better way of determining ovulation at the beginning, because with your temperature you don’t know you have ovulated until AFTER it happens. Not to mention things like less sleep, altering the time you took your temperature, or drinking alcohol can all give you a false reading on your temperature. Once you go through a few cycles, you will see what day you normally ovulate and you can plan ahead!
Whether you have been taking birth control for 1 year, or 10 years, you can still experience symptoms when stopping birth control.
A few common negative side effects include:
• Heavy, painful periods
• Mood swings
A few common positive side effects include:
• Balancing hormones
• Less infections/illnesses
I hope all of this sheds a little light on how you can support your body when stopping birth control, different method for preventing pregnancy (that doesn’t screw with your body) and some possible, short term side effects!
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