When the modern birth control pill came to market in the late 1950s, it was revolutionary for women’s rights and reproductive autonomy. Birth control quickly became an empowering choice for women to take matters into their own hands, control their reproductive health, and prevent unwanted pregnancies.
Birth control was slightly taboo when it first became available to the public. Because of this, it was marketed as a drug to regulate women’s cycles, with a contraceptive side effect. We have come a long way since then, with the first over-the-counter birth control recently being approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
There are many different kinds of birth control available today. The most commonly prescribed birth control is a combination oral contraceptive with the synthetic hormones estrogen and progesterone. When taken correctly, the pill works 99.9% of the time by preventing sperm from reaching the egg. The pill does this by suppressing ovulation, thickening the mucus in the cervix, and thinning the endometrium lining.
Although the pill has many positive attributes, research shows that oral contraceptives can interfere with a woman’s natural body cycle and create hormone imbalances. Additionally, many women experience side effects like mood changes and lowered sex drive.
With input from women’s health coach and fertility awareness educator Berrion Berry, we will explore the use of birth control, why women choose to stop using it, and how women can balance their hormones after stopping birth control.
Editor’s Note: Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical or mental health condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.
How to Balance Your Hormones After Birth Control
If you’re like many women today, you’ve been on an oral contraceptive since high school. Many changes are happening within the body during these prime adolescent years. Women go on birth control in the early years of pubescent development before understanding how their bodies work, what a normal cycle feels like, or letting the hormones do their things naturally.
Many women don’t understand that they may feel completely different off the pill. Berry pointed out that “the ACOG, American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologist has deemed the menstrual cycle the fifth vital sign and any disruption of a vital signs function for an extended amount of time can have negative implications.”
If you are experiencing health issues, changes in your bodily processes, or struggling with your mental health and moods, assessing your birth control use may be a good place to start. If you are planning to stop birth control and are not trying to get pregnant, it’s a good idea to look into other forms of birth control that aren’t hormonally based, like a copper IUD or condoms.
According to Berry, “Some women can expect falling right back into balance and aligned with their natural rhythm.” In contrast, others “can expect to experience post-birth control syndrome, which is essentially a slew of symptoms such as acne, weight gain, headaches, heavy periods, a lack of periods, low libido, and mood swings, the list goes on and on.”
When deciding to go off the pill or other hormonal birth control, it’s helpful to understand what that may entail for you. And if you’re trying to have a baby, you may want to know how to track your fertility cycle. Luckily, you can take steps to ease yourself into your body’s natural cycle. Here’s how:
Berry recommends not going cold turkey. If you have decided to quit taking the pill, try to transition slowly in a way that works for you. For example, you could start by skipping two pills a week, then skipping three, then skipping every other, and so on.
Taking it slowly will help your body compensate for the synthetic hormone it has gotten used to. Of course, be mindful that if you are not using your oral contraceptives as recommended, they will no longer be effective against pregnancy. It’s also good to know that you don’t want to try and conceive until you have been completely off birth control for 1-3 months.
Try Natural Remedies
Going the natural route is ideal when you stop birth control and work towards hormonal balance. You have spent time putting synthetic hormones into your body, which are technically considered toxins. It is time to let your body rest.
Berry recommends doing a reset, cleanse or detox to help remove the heavy metals and toxins accumulated in your body that make balancing your hormones difficult. After removing the bad stuff, Berry mentions it is imperative to “Remineralize the body through consuming micronutrients and minerals. This is one of the most underrated things, but it’s so crucial. Hormones need things like vitamin D, zinc, iron, calcium, manganese, and other nutrients and minerals in order to be created, stored, or released.”
Use Food to Help
Staying hydrated and well-nourished with foods that support your body during recovery is important. This means avoiding processed foods and reaching for fresh foods whenever possible. Put a focus on fresh fruits and dark leafy greens. Berry recommends supporting the liver by drinking beet, carrot, orange, and blueberry juice. Her favorite supportive food is berries due to their antioxidant properties.
Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kefir, and kombucha, help support gut health which has taken a toll from years of birth control use. According to Berry, “fermented foods not only have tons of nutrients, but they contain beneficial bacteria that can help improve gut, vaginal, & metabolic health and function.”
Herbs are an easy way to integrate healing foods that help flush and heal the body. Some beneficial herbs to keep on hand are:
There is a growing amount of research on mushrooms’ properties to assist us with hormone balance. Mushrooms are praised for their adaptogenic effect, which helps our bodies restore balance after a stressful event. Berry feels mushrooms are an incredible part of healing and a must for restoring hormones. Some of her recommendations are:
Consider Supportive Supplements
Sometimes it is difficult to get all the vitamins and minerals we need solely from our food. There are a few supplements that Berry recommends to help support your hormone journey. She recommends taking a pre/probiotic for at least 3 to 6 months. The goal is to help support the body and minimize symptoms while you transition off hormonal birth control. She recommends the brand Seed if you have been on birth control for over five years and Semaine Pre/Pro if you want something gentle and haven’t been on the pill as long.
Berry also recommends a good multivitamin, specifically PMS Elixir from Marea Wellness, because “there are so many great micronutrients and minerals that help replenish the body.”
Get Plenty of Rest and Accept it Takes Time
Depending on how long you have been on birth control and your lifestyle choices, your journey to hormonal health could take a while. In Berry’s experience, she sees it take women 3 to 6 months for their cycle and hormones to get into a natural rhythm again. Her best advice is to listen to your body, “for some reason, in Western society, we’ve normalized living with chronic conditions and symptoms like brain fog, fatigue, PMS, hormonal acne, and the list goes on and on. But often those symptoms are a sign that something is off.”
If you are thinking about stopping birth control make a plan to support your body with this transition. Be gentle with yourself and support your body with rest, detoxing, remineralizing, adding supportive supplements, and choosing healthy foods to stay nourished and hydrated.