Learn more about how you can support your body with food, supplements, exercise, and more to support transitioning off birth control.
In this guide, we'll explore the effects of hormonal contraceptives, what to expect when discontinuing their use, and how to support your body's transition off birth control with diet and lifestyle adjustments.
No matter which method of hormonal birth control you use (e.g., the pill, ring, rod, patch, or IUD) they fall into one of two categories: combination methods and progestin-only methods.
Combination birth control methods, such as combination pills, patches, and rings, contain both estrogen and progestin hormones. Estrogen suppresses the release of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH), preventing ovulation. Progestin, on the other hand, thickens cervical mucus, making it harder for sperm to reach the egg and alters the uterine lining to prevent implantation.
Progestin-only birth control methods, like mini-pills, hormonal IUDs, and implants, solely contain progestin hormone. Progestin thickens cervical mucus, making it difficult for sperm to enter the uterus, and thins the uterine lining, reducing the likelihood of implantation. Ovulation can still sometimes occur with progestin-only methods; in fact, about 4 in 10 people who use this type of birth control will continue to ovulate (1).
Both combination and progestin-only birth control methods work to prevent pregnancy, but they can also have various effects on your body. These effects may include regulation of menstrual cycles, decreased menstrual pain, acne improvement, and reduced risk of endometrial cancer.
It's important to note that everyone's response to birth control can differ, and not all experiences will be the same.
You may be wondering what you can even expect from discontinuing birth control use. While symptoms vary from person to person, for all of us when we discontinue birth control, the body will undergo an adjustment period as it resumes its natural hormonal patterns. For some people this is a seamless transition, for others it is fraught with frustrating symptoms.
Combination methods can typically take a few months for ovulation to restart and regular menstrual cycles to resume, while progestin-only methods may have a quicker transition, with some individuals experiencing a return to their natural cycles within a few weeks.
Overall, most people typically see a return to a “normal” menstrual cycle in 6-12 months after discontinuing hormonal contraceptives. If you still have not gotten a period after this timeframe, it is important to consult your doctor and get screened for conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Let’s take a look at some of the symptoms you can expect during your transition off birth control.
Your menstrual cycle may initially be irregular or different from what you experienced while on birth control. You may notice changes in cycle length, flow, and symptoms such as cramping and PMS. These changes are typically temporary and should stabilize within a few months as your body readjusts.
If you were initially prescribed birth control to manage bothersome symptoms like heavy bleeding, painful periods, bad PMS, and irregular cycles in general, it is likely that these symptoms will return if their root cause has not been addressed.
If you initially started birth control to manage acne, hair loss, or hirsutism (irregular hair growth) you might experience a resurgence of these symptoms after discontinuing its use. This can often be attributed to the hormonal fluctuations that occur during your body’s transition phase of resuming its natural menstrual cycle.
Implementing a consistent skincare routine, managing stress, and consulting a dermatologist can help manage any acne and hair-related flare-ups.
Some individuals may experience emotional and mood changes as their hormones readjust. Mood swings, irritability, or mild depression can occur during this period. Practicing self-care, engaging in stress-reducing activities, and seeking support from loved ones can aid in managing these emotional changes.
Other people, however, find that their moods stabilize and improve after discontinuing hormonal birth control. As we preach time and time again, it depends on the person!
Certainly! Here's the continuation and conclusion of the article:
We know that hormonal contraceptives can cause various nutrient deficiencies that impact our health and wellbeing in various ways. While there are many ways you can support your body while on birth control, proactively addressing these imbalances in the weeks and months after you stop its use is also important and can make for a much smoother transition.
Focus on consuming a balanced diet rich in whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. This can help support hormonal balance and overall well-being.
Consider incorporating foods high in vitamins B6, B12, C, D, and E, as well as zinc and magnesium, which are essential for hormone regulation.
Stabilizing blood sugar levels can be beneficial for hormonal balance. Opt for complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, legumes, and vegetables, instead of refined sugars and processed foods. Include protein and healthy fats in your meals to promote satiety and steady energy levels.
Regular physical activity can help regulate hormones, reduce stress, and support overall health. Aim for a combination of cardiovascular exercises, strength training, and activities that you enjoy. Listen to your body and find a balance that works for you.
Following birth control usage, some individuals benefit from supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, evening primrose oil, or chasteberry (Vitex). Consult with a healthcare professional or a qualified nutritionist to determine if any supplements may aid in supporting your hormonal transition.
Note: Even over-the-counter supplements can be very powerful and interact with existing health conditions and medication. Be sure to only start a new supplement regimen with the support of a qualified provider.
Chronic stress can impact hormonal balance. Incorporate stress management techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, yoga, or engaging in hobbies that help you relax. Prioritize self-care activities that promote a sense of calm and well-being.
Adequate sleep is also crucial for hormonal balance. Prioritize a consistent sleep routine, create a sleep-friendly environment, and practice good sleep hygiene habits. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night.
Going off birth control is a personal decision, and understanding the potential effects on your body is essential.
Discontinuing hormonal contraceptives can be an empowering step towards understanding and reconnecting with your natural hormonal patterns. By supporting your body through this transition, you can embark on a new chapter of hormonal well-being and reproductive choices that align with your personal goals and values.
Be patient with your body as it adjusts and allow yourself time to adapt to the changes. If you have specific concerns or experience persistent symptoms, consult with your doctor or your Pollie’s care team for guidance.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. Consult with a healthcare professional before making any changes to your birth control or implementing new dietary and lifestyle practices. If you are not actively trying to conceive, make sure to use condoms or other barrier methods to avoid pregnancy.