Your Guide to Going off Birth Control
Adolescent girls and young women are often prescribed birth control methods for reasons other than to prevent pregnancy. These birth control methods - such as the pill, patches, rings and shots - 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). While hormonal birth control methods may work for a short period in controlling conditions and reducing symptoms, they never address the root cause of the issue. Benefits include reducing pain, reducing the incidence of ovarian cysts, and cycle regulation. However, once the medication is stopped, all the signs and symptoms of the condition will reappear.
There are many reasons that women typically want to stop using hormonal birth control, including the desire to:
Increase libido and sex drive
Have a more fulfilling sex life
Eliminate gut problems and imbalances that the birth control method has established
Stop chronic yeast and urinary tract infections (side effects of synthetic hormones)
Stop hair loss
Regain control over one’s menstrual cycle
Restore nutrient levels in the body
Most of these reasons, aside from wanting to get pregnant, are signs from your body that something is wrong and that your body isn’t functioning properly.
It’s essential to keep in mind that when going off of a hormonal birth control method, 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, such as pain, acne, and mood swings, will most likely come back without the ongoing effects of synthetic hormone regulation. You’ll have to be prepared to address these symptoms naturally, which requires knowledge and patience.
This guide will help you to resolve any adverse impacts the birth control has caused and will help you to restore health and vitality in your body, establishing a natural hormonal balance without the need for synthetic hormones.
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 or quit any other method mid-cycle, it’s ideal to stop after your period in order to prevent possible inconsistencies with your cycle.
Also note that if you’re going off your birth control method in order to become pregnant (how exciting!), you can stop at any time but it’s recommended that you wait at least six months before trying to conceive. You want to ensure your body is in an optimal state to nourish a baby. Hormonal birth control methods can deplete the body of essential vitamins, and women who conceive immediately after coming off birth control are more likely to have premature deliveries.
Before Stopping Birth Control Prepare your body beforehand by focusing on the following:
Consume Fermented Foods
These probiotic-rich foods address gut health issues and chronic vaginal yeast infections, which are often the result of hormonal birth control methods. Birth control alters microbiome balance, which affects overall body functioning and health including hormone regulation. It also changes the pH in the vagina, which can lead to yeast infections. Great fermented foods to include in your daily diet are raw sauerkraut (found in the refrigerated section of your grocery or health food store), kimchi, kefir, natto, miso, kombucha, and tempeh. Healing your gut is a long process which will depend on how long you’ve been on birth control and your diet.
Focus on Healthy Fats & Protein
Healthy fats and high-quality, clean protein sources are necessary for the body to properly build hormones. Aim to include fats and proteins in every meal and snack. Appropriate amounts matter: a palm-sized portion of a complete protein source (i.e. organic, grass-fed meats and wild-caught fish) or a slightly larger portion of incomplete proteins (i.e. plant-based foods such as beans and nuts) is generally adequate for most women.
Eat Plenty of Calcium-Rich Foods
Prolonged use of progestin (the synthetic form of the hormone progesterone) contributes to the loss of bone mass. To support bone health, consume foods that are rich in calcium and that also contain magnesium, to ensure appropriate use of calcium in the body. Good food sources of calcium and magnesium include dark leafy greens, sesame seeds, seaweed, almonds, quinoa, chia, and small amounts of organic dairy products for those without a dairy sensitivity.
Vitamin B Complex
The B vitamins are crucial for overall health and especially reproductive health, and are significantly depleted by hormonal birth control methods. Vitamins B2, B6, B9, and B12 are notably reduced. Make sure to follow dosage instructions from a natural health practitioner or the label. If you have an MTHFR gene mutation, ensure the form of the B vitamins is right for you (i.e. a methylated version).
Test your genetics through companies like 23&me & work with a holistic practitioner to support epigentics.
Zinc, Magnesium, & Selenium
Not only are these three trace minerals significantly depleted by birth control methods, they’re also common deficiencies in those consuming the Standard American Diet. Building up stores of these minerals is essential for overall health, as well as for preventing post-birth control amenorrhea (lack of menstruation). They help address irregular cycles and ovulation issues. Good food sources of zinc include pumpkin seeds, organic grass-fed beef, and shellfish. Good food sources of magnesium include dark leafy greens, avocados, nuts, and seeds. Lastly, good food sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, organic grass-fed organ meats, and oysters.
Cleanse the Liver & Uterus
Your liver is the most taxed organ when taking birth control medications. It has to metabolize the synthetic hormones put into the body daily. Cleansing the liver will support the detoxification of excess hormones, bringing them into a proper balance, and will ensure a healthy state of all other organs. The uterus is another organ that will have been taxed by hormonal birth control. Progestin often causes thinning of the uterine lining. Dietary and herbal support methods are needed to tone and cleanse the uterus to ensure proper functioning.
Prepare Your Skin
When external hormonal support is stopped, hormonal fluctuations can occur and these can be responsible for breakouts. You can minimize the chances of acne flare-ups by supplementing with evening primrose oil and chaste tree berry while using slightly acidic topical skincare products to balance the skin’s pH.
Mentally Prepare for All Changes
Before quitting your birth control, it’s essential to realize and accept the fact that the change will likely result in new obstacles and unwanted symptoms for a period of time. Once you gain control of your hormonal levels naturally, the symptoms will eventually disappear.
After stopping birth control
Once you’ve quit your birth control method, focus on the following to regain balance and optimal vitality
Track Your Cycle
Keep in mind that your cycle may not be regular for a few months after stopping birth control. It’s crucial that you begin to understand your unique menstrual cycle, which might be slightly different month-to-month. There are great mobile apps you can download to monitor your cycle, such as MyFlo. Practicing patience and tracking diligently are very important at this stage. Start recording on the first day of your cycle, which is when bleeding begins. You want to record the timeline, as well as any symptoms you experience throughout the month and when - physical and emotional.
Tracking your cycle can be a form of natural birth control if you take your basal body temperature daily. Doing so will help you determine when you are ovulating.
*Be extra careful during the first 3 months, until your cycle regulates, unless you are trying to get pregnant! Also- be aware that tress or major life changes like a move can shift your hormones & ovulation cycle.
Explore Yoni steaming for hormone regulation
Steaming helps improve stagnation and remove old residue in the vaginal canal and womb space. If blood from the previous menstrual cycle has not been properly removed and cleansed, the body identifies it as a foreign substance. This activates muscles in the abdomen to attempt to push it out of the body. This muscle contracting action results in painful cramps. Doing vaginal steams can assist the body with cleansing the uterus, speed up blood flow, and improve circulation, which enhances the body’s own cleansing mechanisms. This practice can be highly beneficial for those looking to regulate their menses.
Adding herbs to the process can enhance the effects.
Beneficial herbs include: lavender, white sage, nettle, rose, chamomile, dandelion, mugwort, and calendula.
*Do not steam during your period, after ovulation if you are trying to get pregnant.
Continue Liver Detoxification
When you’re no longer putting synthetic hormones into your body, your liver will be able to detoxify and eliminate any excess hormones. This will help to regulate your cycle faster and to reduce acne, which is a common side effect of quitting hormonal birth control methods. Include foods and herbs that support liver functioning into your daily diet, such as cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, etc.), green tea, grapefruit, beets, and garlic. Supplementation is also helpful in assisting liver detoxification. The supplement N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) helps your body to produce glutathione, a powerful antioxidant and detoxifier. DIM is another supplement that helps the liver break down harmful estrogens and create more good estrogens.
Address Your Stress
Your adrenal glands manage the stress hormones, and when they get worn out, related hormonal imbalances can occur. The same compound, pregnenolone, is responsible for the manufacture of cortisol (the stress hormone) and all of the sex hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. If you’re chronically stressed, the body begins to make high amounts of cortisol, which means there’s not enough pregnenolone to also adequately produce the sex hormones. This leads to a hormonal imbalance, which will worsen the symptoms of any other conditions related to hormonal imbalances.
Restore Healthy Cervical Mucus
Once your menstrual cycle is restored, your cervical mucus and its fluctuations should also naturally repair - however, in some cases, it does not. Various supplements can help to promote healthy cervical mucus production, including evening primrose oil, borage oil, and l-arginine. Proper hydration is also essential for cervical mucus production.
Exercise that involves sweating, deep breathing, and movement helps the body to eliminate excess hormones and to 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, mindfulness, and journaling, is an ideal way to manage temporary adverse side effects. Yoga, Tai Chi, and pilates are great options that incorporate both movement and relaxation.
Alcohol can imbalance hormonal levels and create inflammation in the body. This means that the symptoms that will naturally occur as a result of going off of hormonal birth control will be intensified by alcohol consumption. Especially in the first weeks and months of change, reducing or stopping your consumption of alcohol can greatly ease the transition.
Support Hormonal Balance with Herbs
The following herbs can aid in restoring a regular menstrual cycle, promoting hormonal balance, and encouraging healthy ovulation:
Helpful as it supports the hormonal feedback loop and assists in regulating ovulation. Vitex is most effective when used for 6-12 months as it’s a slow-working (but highly beneficial) herb.
Take: In tincture form, 3x per day
This herb strengthens the uterus by regulating hormonal control and improving uterine tone, and helps to regulate the menstrual cycle. It promotes blood flow to the pelvis, which stimulates menstruation. Dong quai is also high in iron, which is excellent for women who experience iron-deficiency anemia.
Take : In tincture form, 2 x per day
This herb is a supportive tonic for the endocrine system, which controls and produces most of the body’s hormones. It aids in supporting overall hormonal balance and helps the body to better manage stress.
Take : Powder -1 tsp per day in smoothies or tonics
The decision to go off hormonal birth control is generally a wise one, but it won’t be without its set of challenges and side effects.
By following this guide both before and after you quit birth control, you can greatly reduce any adverse effects and speed your path to recovery and rebalancing.
As you help your body to find equilibrium and hormonal balance, you may soon find that the reason you were put on hormonal birth control in the first place no longer applies at all.