Pill Recovery 101, restoring balance when coming off of hormonal birth control
“Just as we shake our heads now when we look on the barbaric medical procedures of previous centuries, the day will come when we look back and see the pill for the crude instrument it was.” –Lara Briden, ND
The pill has become a cure-all; a sure-fire way to regulate the monthly cycle of all those with a uterus and ovaries. It’s also used to treat acne and moodiness. We’ve come to understand that it does so by regulating our hormones. Unfortunately, the cycle one might obtain from a pill isn’t a true cycle at all.
One of the most important things to grasp about the pill is that the hormones they provide aren’t true hormones. They’re synthetic, not natural or bio-identical. And when you’re having a pill-induced period, you’re not having a biological period.
Naturopathic Doctor Lara Briden refers to these periods as pill-withdraws, because the bleeding is happening because your body is withdrawing from the synthetics and bleeding. You’re not actually having a rhythmic shedding.
Additionally, the pill carries with it many side effects.
- Elevating blood pressure
- affecting cholesterol levels
- Hair loss
- Mood swings
- Low libido
- Blood clots
- Increased risk for breast cancer (2014 research demonstrated an increased risk for women aged 20-49)
- Weight gain
- Post-pill amenorrhea (lack of period)/Infertility after getting off the pill
- Vitamin/mineral depletion
- Abnormal pap-smears
If you experience any of these side effects… or even if you don’t… getting off “the pill” is an important step to healing.
Quitting the pill is as easy as that. You quit. But your body needs to recover and heal from the pill. And, if you’re one of the many women that were put on the pill for reasons other than to prevent pregnancy, you’ll need to address the underlying causes of your illness/disease that prompted your doctor to recommend the pill as medication. Coming off of the pill, then can look vastly different between any particular group of women. Let’s focus on just a few that will be helpful to everyone.
Because oral contraceptive is known to deplete the body of zinc and b-vitamins, one of the first things to do, even BEFORE coming off the pill is to supplement these. Remember, supplements that are food/herb based are the best source of supplementation, beyond your diet. Supplements that are whole-foods/herb based are the most bio-available to your body. Meaning, your body recognizes the nutrition in them and is able to absorb and utilize that nutrition.
As always, but ESPECIALLY when coming off of the pill, focus on nutrient dense foods like bone broths, coconut oil, nuts and seeds, nuts, and avocado. Not only do empty calories have no nutrition, but highly processed foods with lots of sugar will rob your body of nutrition it vitally needs!
I know this is going to feel impossible, and you probably are scowling at me through the computer screen, but your reproductive and glandular systems have been repressed for so long! You MAY cycle right away, or you may not. Or you may and it will feel something like death. Give them a chance to kick back in and get back in the swing of things before you panic. It can take 9 months to a year for the body to find its rhythm again. While you’re “waiting” keep building up your body with solid nutrition, good supplements, and learn some stress reduction techniques. This is exceptionally important if you are seeking to achieve pregnancy.
Pay attention to your periods
I like what ND Briden says about your monthly cycles. They are your monthly report card that let you know how your body is doing. If they’re terribly miserable and completely derailing, something is off within your body that needs your attention. It would be helpful for you to seek out the support of a like-minded, holistic practitioner who can help you navigate what those symptoms mean for your internal health
Track your cycles
I am a huge fan of the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility. I recommend it to every single female client that comes to me with reproductive/menstrual concerns. I believe woman are not taught enough about how their bodies function! In this book you will learn more than you ever thought possible about your menstrual cycle, and it does a great job of explaining exactly how to chart. and what you can learn from all of it.
When you are tracking your cycles you can better understand how your cycles are doing. You’ll learn how long each of your phases are, and if you are ovulating (or not). This can be a great tool when coming off of the pill, whether you’re simply seeking to understand your health, trying to conceive, or trying to avoid pregnancy.
A simple tea of red raspberry and chaste berry (vitex) can go a long, long way to helping you restore a healthy hormone balance and healthy cycles. While there are many, many other herbs that may be indicated for you based on who you are, these are two that should be easy to find and help.
You’re Not Alone
And remember, no one should have to walk a healing journey alone. Find a practitioner that is educated and a good fit for you that will help you navigate getting off the pill and help you recover from the reasons you were taking the pill in the first place. If you’re in the Grand Rapids area, I’m happy to help.
Period Repair Manual (available on Amazon)- I’ve referenced the book several times throughout this post, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has period and fertility concerns. There are lots of great, straightforward information about how the pill damages our bodies, and how we can restore balance to them.
Naturally Knocked Up (available on Amazon)- I’ve referred several clients to this book and everyone has found it to be very helpful in understanding how so many things in our every day life can be so disruptive to our health, and specifically, matters of cycles and fertility.
Taking Charge of Your Fertility (available on Amazon)- If you have a uterus you need to read this book! Even if you’re not seeking to achieve pregnancy, you will gain oodles of information and wisdom about how and why women cycle.