Post-Birth Control Syndrome: How You Can Balance Your Hormones Post-Pill
The fear to come off of ‘The Pill’ is real. It is all too common to see women who have been on the pill for 10-15 years. I have heard so many of these women say things like “I’m afraid my body won’t know what to do without the pill” or “I’ve been on the pill for so long, I don’t remember what I was like before the pill”. Nowadays many women start using the pill for what it was intended for, pregnancy prevention, but we know many women -up to 60%- start the pill to help with symptoms like acne, painful or heavy periods, irregular periods and PMS. The fear of these symptoms returning post-pill is a legitimate concern, and may even keep some of these women on the pill longer. Nonetheless, we are seeing a huge shift in millennial women – women are looking to ditch the pill and reclaim their reproductive health.
The Pill Problem
The pill is great at what it was designed for – preventing unwanted pregnancies. With perfect use, the pill is actually 99.7% effective . The problem is that many women, as already stated, have been prescribed the pill to “treat” symptoms like acne and PMS. The issue here is that the pill does not treat these underlying symptoms of hormonal imbalance, but merely manages them for the time being. This means that when you remove the pill, these symptoms will likely return – and they can even be worse after being suppressed for so long. Even in women who did not have symptoms before going on the pill, long-term use depletes many nutrients, disrupts your microbiome, and alters your hormones, meaning the transition coming off the pill may not be so easy.
To learn more about the way the birth control pill can affect your body check out this post on Everything You Need To Know About The Pill.
Post-Birth Control Syndrome
Post-Birth Control Syndrome (PBCS) is a collection of symptoms that many women experience about 4-6 months after stopping the pill. Some of the common symptoms include:
- Amenorrhea, or the loss of your period
- Heavy, painful periods
- Hair loss
- Depression or anxiety
- Gas or bloating….and the list goes on.
Even if you are not affected by these specific symptoms, if you weren’t addressing the nutrient depletions and the health of your gut while you were on the pill, you still have some work to do! This becomes especially important if you have come off the pill to get pregnant. Many of the nutrients that are depleted from the pill, like folic acid, are super important when it comes to growing a healthy baby!
So, what can you do?
I have some good news: it is possible to restore your hormones post-pill! But, it may take some extra TLC! Here are the top 3 things you can do to get your hormones back in check, post-pill:
Incorporate a hormone friendly diet
- This includes a diet high in nutrient dense foods to restore the nutrient depletions, good fats to support hormone production and anti-inflammatory foods so your gut can heal.
- Include things like brightly coloured veggies, leafy greens, good quality oils (coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil), avocados, grass-fed meats and nuts and seeds.
- Want to know the best foods for hormonal balance? Grab a copy of my HORMONE BALANCING MEAL PLAN (link: drbronwyn.com/hormone-ebook/).
- For many women diet may not be enough to replenish the depleted nutrients. I like to use a good quality multivitamin or a prenatal vitamin to really improve nutrient status in these women.
Show your liver some LOVE
- The liver is the most important organ for detoxification – it is where your hormones are broken down and eliminated. Your liver must be functioning optimally to ensure healthy hormone levels.
- Include liver loving foods every day like beets, dandelion root tea, garlic, and cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, kale, Brussel sprouts, etc).
- The liver generally needs some extra support during this phase, and I encourage women to work with a health care provider to create the best suited plan for you.
Catch some Z’s
- A regular sleep-wake-cycle is so important for regulating our hormones. Disruptions of sleep patterns, seen in frequent travellers and night shift workers, are linked to significant impairments in reproductive function like altered hormonal secretion patterns, decrease conception rates, increased miscarriage and increased risk of breast cancer .
- To regulate your circadian rhythm, here are a few easy tips:
- Maintain a consistent bedtime and wake time – yes, even on weekends!
- Ensure the room you sleep in is completely dark
- Limit bright lights at night & say good-night to your smartphone 30 minutes to 1 hour before bed
There are some amazing benefits to ditching the birth control pill and It is possible to balance your hormones naturally post-pill! Everyone responds differently to the pill, and thus, everyone has a different experience when coming off. If you are experiencing symptoms after discontinuing the pill, other investigations may need to be done to get a better understanding of your symptoms. This may include things like hormone testing, a thyroid panel, nutrient status, and other tests depending on your concerns. You are unique, and your health care should be too. It is best to work with a naturopathic doctor or functional medicine provider to determine the right treatment course for you.
Written by Dr. Bronwyn Storoschuk, ND. As a board certified naturopathic doctor, health advocate and professional problem solver, Dr. Bronwyn offers personalized care, appreciating the uniqueness of each individual. She works to optimize the health of women with ambition to enable a vibrant and thriving life. She has a special interest in Women’s Health, including hormonal imbalance, reproductive health and fertility, and weight loss.
1. Hormonal Contraception: https://www.sexandu.ca/contraception/hormonal-contraception/
2. Mahoney, M. 2010. Shift work, jet lag, and female reproduction. International journal of endocrinology. http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2010/813764