Breaking up with hormonal birth control:

You’ve had the conversations and watched your besties come off the pill and now you’re finally ready, you suspect the pill is no longer right for your body. But you’re worried about the post pill syndrome that may follow. 

You will probably feel much better when you stop hormonal birth control. Better moods, more energy, increased libido and regular cycles. You may however develop some post-pill problems such as post-pill acne, amenorrhea (missing periods), weight gain, heavy or painful periods. 

The good news is that there’s a herb here to help and nutritional medicine to support your transition. There is so much natural support to prevent major symptoms, bring your hormones back into harmony and start regular cycles again.  

Firstly, it’s important to understand what the contraceptive pill is, how it works and what it does to your body. 

How does the pill actually work? 

The pill works by shutting down ovulation and stopping the ovaries from releasing an egg each month. Lets think of it like this – taking the pill is like pressing pause on the production of all your reproductive sex hormones.  

There are 2 types of pill: 

  1. The combined pill – this pill contains synthetic forms of both estrogen and progestin. The combined pill works by shutting down ovulation and causes cervical mucus to thicken. 
  2. The mini pill – this pill contains progestin only. The mini pill works by thickening cervical mucus and thinning your endometrium, which makes it harder for an egg implantation. 

Common symptoms experienced when transitioning off the pill: 

Your body’s sex hormones have been shut down whilst you’ve been on the pill (and for some women that can be a very long time). So it can be quite common for new symptoms to pop up as your bodies is trying its best to push play and ‘switch back on’ to produce sex hormones again. 

Some common symptoms can include: 

  • Irregular or missing periods 
  • Post pill acne – this usually occurs 4-6 months after stopping the pill. 
  • Anxiety 
  • Post pill PCOS 
  • Heavier periods 
  • Painful periods 
  • PMS 

These symptoms are usually a result of a withdrawal from the strong synthetic form of estrogen, a sudden surge of androgens and a delay in regular ovulation.  

Nutrients depleted on the pill: 

Let’s now take stock of some of the key nutrients that get depleted whilst on the pill: 

  • B-vitamins 
  • Folate 
  • Magnesium 
  • Selenium 
  • Vitamins C and E 
  • Zinc 

When to start the prep work: 

It’s a good idea to start working with a naturopath 2-3 months before transitioning off the pill. By preparing and supporting your body with the right herbs and nutrients in every possible way you can minimize these post pill symptoms. 

Supplements to support your transition of the pill: 

Remember there are a few key nutrients that were depleted whilst you were on the pill so it’s important to restore these nutrients with the right supplementation. This is where working with a women’s health naturopath is important. 

  • B vitamins and magnesium – your liver needs all the help it can get to help move out synthetic hormones post pill. So does your mood and energy levels, that’s where quality B-vitamins come in, plus a decent dose of magnesium to help reduce possible painful periods and PMS. 
  • Zinc – the holy grail supplement for women’s health, particularly post-pill. Zinc is a natural androgen blocker that can reduce testosterone and improve androgen symptoms such as acne. 
  • Vitamin A – to support your body’s skin cell turnover – post pill acne no thank you!
  • A good quality mineral – trace mineral supplementation plays an important role in hormone health, maintaining healthy blood glucose levels, energy production, antioxidant mechanisms and immune health. It can also help to restore key minerals that are depleted on the pill such as selenium.  

Herbal medicine is here to help:  

  • Chaste tree (vitex) – Chase tree is an amazing herb for women’s health it promotes ovulation by boosting dopamine and lowering prolactin. It also helps relieve symptoms of PMS, breast pain and acne. Important note: don’t start chaste tree too soon after stopping the pill. It’s best to allow the pituitary gland and ovaries to start communicating with each other (possibly for the first time in years) before introducing chase tree. You can always look to chaste tree after a few months if things become a little tricky. 
  • The paeonia and licorice combo – These herbs work synergistically to reduce testosterone and support regular ovulation. 

Herbs are wonderful options. However, it’s recommended to work with a qualified naturopath who can prescribe the right herbs for your body at the right time. 

Nutritional Support: 

The pill alters your gut microbiome, impacting gut flora and can overburden the liver affecting digestion and reducing nutrient absorption. 

With that being said, you want to focus on building up good gut health and replenish nutrients through good quality nutrition. Limit the obvious things like alcohol, sugar and processed foods and coffee as these things can be an extra load on your liver. You also may want to limit dairy products during this time if you’re prone to acne.

Instead focus on good quality proteins, antioxidants (colorful fruit and vegetables) and healthy fats like avocados, nuts and seeds, olive oil, eggs and fatty fish like salmon. Add in plenty of bitter foods to support liver detoxification – dark leafy greens, rocket, kale, dandelion and green tea. Plus gut loving goodies such as bone broth, sauerkraut and kimchi.

Whilst the post pill symptoms and side effects may seem overwhelming, it’s important for you to know that it’s very much possible to balance your hormones naturally and minimise the side effects of breaking up with the pill. Plus in this blog we haven’t even touched on the serious benefits you will gain from breaking up with the pill. 

As mentioned I highly recommend working with a naturopath if you’re thinking about making this transition. If you’re needing support or have more questions please reach out for a complimentary call by clicking here.