Coming Off the Pill?
Coming Off the Pill? Some Useful Tips to Help You Get There
Getting on a contraceptive pill is comparatively simple, however when a woman wishes to come off the pill, the process becomes more involved and time consuming.
For many women, the pill is an important form of contraception throughout much of their fertile years and its value cannot be underestimated with its promised sexual liberation and the ability to choose when they want to have children.
In fact it is the contraceptive of choice for Australian women (39% of women) aged 18-44. However getting off the pill is a personal choice and the reasons are varied.
Reasons for Coming off the Pill
- Health reasons – concerns about developing deep vein thrombosis, heart attacks, strokes, cancer, side effects associated with the pill.
- To start a family – the pill can have long term effects on fertility.
- To ‘see what happens’ – coming off the pill will allow the body to find balance and obtain a healthy cycle
A Brief Look at Types of Oral Contraceptives
Progestogen dominant pills don’t usually stop ovulation but they do thicken cervical mucous and change the womb lining so fertilised eggs can’t implant. Side effects of these pills can be dryness of the vagina and sometimes sustained weight gain, depression, loss of libido, an overwhelming sense of laziness and breast symptoms. A relative progestogen dominance is likely to make acne and unwanted hair problems worse.
These oral contraceptives contain the two hormones oestrogen and progestogen which work by preventing women from releasing eggs and causes cervical mucous to thicken. There may be breakthrough bleeding, nausea, breast tenderness and mood changes.
The Pill and Cancer Risk
Prolonged use of birth control pills increases the risk of cervical cancer and liver cancer yet decreases the risk of ovarian, uterine and endometrial cancer. It is believed that oral contraceptives slightly increase the risk of breast cancer but ten years after stopping the pill, the risk returned down to a level similar to if a woman had never taken birth control.
What Happens to the Body Once Stopping the Pill?
The synthetic hormones from the oral contraceptive will be excreted from a woman’s body quickly – usually within a few days.
After this time a woman’s body will start producing her own hormones in order to restart the menstrual cycle. Many women will start to ovulate within a few weeks after stopping the pill but for others it may take several months.
At this stage the body is being asked to do something that it hasn’t done in years – to ovulate and to have a natural period. The body should be back to a ‘normal’ menstrual cycle within 2-3 months after stopping the pill.
For those women who had problems ovulating before starting the pill, these problems are likely to still exist.
Women who had normal ovulation prior to taking the pill will likely have normal ovulation after stopping the pill although there are reports of women starting to have irregular ovulation after stopping the pill.
Potential Negatives While a female is on the pill, her own hormones are in a state of suspension. When she comes off the pill any pre-existing hormone imbalances will still be present. Signs or symptoms of this include cramps, excessive bleeding, acne and irregular periods. These will most likely return with a vengeance.
- Amenorrhoea: Some women may experience no period at all after coming off the pill
- Skin Problems: There is a possible increase in acne on the face or other parts of the body – especially the upper back. Once hormone levels normalise this can reduce in many cases. Many women may find they develop dry skin as well.
- Weight Fluctuations and PMS: Oestrogen dominant pills may cause weight gain and water retention therefore some women find some weight loss once they come off the pill. There may be increased breast tenderness, nausea, headaches and up and down moods.
What Can Be Done? It is important that a woman has realistic expectations when coming off the pill – the process is not going to necessarily be perfect or easy and it will take time for a woman’s cycle to revert to normal.
The amount of time this will take varies from woman to woman and can be dependant on the type of oral contraceptive used, the duration the pill was taken and any pre-existing conditions.
The goal is to support the body’s natural detoxification system by focusing on the liver, the gut and endocrine system.
Herbs Cleansing teas such as nettle, red raspberry and red clover will help to nourish a depleted system. Tribulus terrestris is known to stimulate ovulation and Mediherb Tribulus Forte may help with this.
Vitex agnus castus adapts to the hormonal needs of a woman as required, Dong quai is an excellent uterine tonic. Maca (in capsule or powder form) is a useful inclusion to support the endocrine system.
Evening Primrose Oil (rich in omega 6) is useful for restoring cervical mucous.
Foods Nourish the body with a healthy, nutrient dense and alkaline diet: green leafy vegetables, goji berries, black beans, organic meats and eggs.
To reduce any potential inflammatory process limit alcohol, dairy, refined carbohydrates, soy products (as they are oestrogenic) and processed foods. Include healthy fats such as coconut oil.
Help! If any of this information is confusing or you feel as though you need a bit of extra help please contact your Emed Practitioner today. You may also want to consider additional testing like a Female Baseline Hormone Profile or Full Cycle Female Hormone Profile. By testing your hormone levels, we can pinpoint hormonal imbalances and prescribe individualised treatment protocols
- The Pill – What You Need To Know
- The O Factor – Oestrogen Dominance
- Dong Quai
- The Pill – Are You Sure It’s For You?