If you recently quit hormonal birth control, you’re probably going through a bit of hell right now. I know it’s not fair, but you are going through something called Post Birth Control Syndrome.
This withdrawal process from hormonal birth control lasts anywhere from 6-12 months, and it peaks at month 6 (1). It’s usually around this time that you might feel like giving up and going back to the pill. But please stay strong and power through this phase, because if you do you will be rewarded.
So why is this happening?!
The reason you are suffering is because your body is detoxing from the strong synthetic estrogen that your hormonal birth control provided. This also usually causes a surge in androgens which can cause acne and other PMS symptoms. Also, since you haven’t had a period all these years while taking hormonal birth control (you’ve really just been having a “withdrawal bleed” or “pill bleed”) it might take some time before your body starts ovulating and menstruating again. And it’s not until you ovulate on your own that your body can produce progesterone and estradiol, which keeps you from having PMS symptoms.
So what is a “pill bleed”?
Pill bleeds are pharmaceutically induced bleeds that involve no hormone production on your end at all. So all of the “periods” you had while on hormonal birth control were just for show. Let me repeat, these “periods” were completely fake.
When a women ovulates without the use of hormonal birth control, she creates progesterone and estradiol. These hormones have a multitude of benefits for your mood, bones, thyroid and metabolism. They’re pretty much essential for a women’s physiology. This means that women who take a form of hormonal birth control are robbed of these crucial hormones that keep us healthy and happy.
It’s one of the largest injustices to women’s health today, and it’s no wonder many women who take a form of hormonal birth control experience depression.
In October 2016 JAMA psychiatry released a study conducted by researches from the University of Copenhagen. In the study, titled “Association of Hormonal Contraception With Depression” they tracked one million women over the course of 13 years and concluded that women who use hormonal birth control are significantly more likely to be diagnosed with depression (2).
The fact that hormonal birth control is the most widely used form of contraception used today is infuriating. The practice is antiquated, and it’s time this harmful trend comes to an end.
Now is the time to take our reproductive system back into our own control. For the sake of our health, and the next generation’s.
Common Symptoms of Post-Birth Control Syndrome Include:
- Amenorrhea (loss of menstruation)
- Heavy, painful periods
- Hair loss
- Blood sugar dysregulation
- Gas or bloating
- Changes in bowels
- Inflammation and other immune imbalances
So now the road to recovery begins.
Your 5 Step Plan When Coming Off The Birth Control Pill (or any other form of hormonal birth control):
1. Reestablish your natural hormonal rhythm.
Your hormones fluctuate during different times of your cycle.
There are four cycles:
- Menstruation– days 1-7. Estrogen begins to increase and progesterone is low.
- Follicular Phase- days 8-14. Estrogen peaks, progesterone is low.
- Ovulation– days 14-21. Estrogen begins to fall and progesterone peaks.
- Luteal Phase– days 22-28. Both estrogen and progesterone dip.
Even if you are not yet ovulating on your own, it is important to encourage the production of estrogen and progesterone at the right times of the month. This will help you eventually start to ovulate on your own.
Two methods to reestablish natural hormonal rhythms:
- Seed cycling.
- Vitex– Vitex is an herb that promotes ovulation by protecting your hypothalamus gland from stress and from preventing your pituitary gland from making too much prolactin. Basically, it increases your levels of dopamine, which lowers your levels of prolactin, which makes your luteinizing hormone go up, and then makes you ovulate and make progesterone!
A note of caution about Vitex: Please do not use vitex until you’ve been off of hormonal birth control for at least three months. I recommend 1,000mg a day taken as a single dose first thing in the morning before breakfast. Stop taking it on days 1-5 of your cycle, and then start again. Discontinue use after six months.
Hormonal birth control causes leaky gut, preventing your body from absorbing all the nutrients from your food. As they say in Ayurveda “you are what you digest.”.
This is why women who come off hormonal birth control are deficient in nutrients and minerals such as zinc, B12, magnesium, D3, copper, iodine and selenium-all nutrients necessary for ovarian health. So it’s imperative to replenish these levels ASAP.
3. Support detox pathways.
It’s important to open your detox pathways, as this is how you will flush out any excess estrogen in the body, as well as all the synthetic hormones you’ve built up from the use of hormonal birth control . Ways to do this are by going on a gentle food cleanse in tandem with drinking dandelion root tea, taking Glutothione, chlorella, and/or activated charcoal. NAC is also a great supplement. And of course, drink lots of water and eat plenty of liver supporting foods like broccoli, beets, and cauliflower.
4. Rebuild your gut.
Most women’s gut post hormonal birth control is in a state of inflammation due to leaky gut. You must get your microbiome to a healthy state in order to start digesting and absorbing your food properly. Do this by taking probiotics, eating 2-3 servings of fermented foods daily, and drinking gut healing bone broth and collagen.
5. Nourish your thyroid
If you’re thyroid is not operating properly, it can prevent you from ovulating and having a healthy period. To support your thyroid, take 150 mcg of iodine daily (nothing more unless advised by a trained practitioner), and replenish your stores of selenium, 1-3 brazil nuts a day will do the trick, or 150 mcg in pill form daily. I encourage you to take a serum ferritin test and if your levels are too low (you want a level of 50-200 ng/ml) then supplement as needed.
Okay, I know this is a lot of information to absorb, and it might be overwhelming at first. But please be reassured that although it might seem like the end of the world, you can and WILL get through this.
And know that you are not alone. Please contact me today for a 30-minute consultation, so we can get you on a 21- day individualized detox to get your hormones back on track, so you can start feeling the way you’ve always been designed to- healthy, happy, and PMS free!
Health Coach Jenna
- Briden, L. (n.d.). Period repair manual. p.34.
- Skovlund CW, Morch LS, Kessing LV, Lidegaard O, Association of HOrmonal Contraception With Depression. JAMA Psychiatry. 2016 Nov 1;73(11):1154-1162.PubMed PMID: 27680324.