I’m continually amazed by the sheer volume of women I encounter who are ready to part ways with their pill (or any hormonal birth control for that matter), either because their sex drive has plummeted or completely disappeared, they are finding that sex has become painful, they are experiencing other side effects like gut problems, chronic yeast or urinary tract infections, hair loss, irregular periods and maybe even amenorrhea (no periods).
All of these symptoms are very clear signals from your body that something is wrong. They might be statistically normal but I promise this is not the way your body was designed to function.
You may not be one of these women who experiences symptoms and instead you’re ready to come off because you want to get pregnant. That’s great too! I do recommend waiting at least six months after coming off the pill before trying to conceive because you want to make sure your body is in prime shape to nourish a baby. Additionally, there is evidence that woman who conceives immediately after coming off the pill are more likely to have premature deliveries.
First Thing You Need To Know
You can stop the pill at any time. Luckily, the pill is one of the few drugs that you can stop without having to wean off of it. Some women stop midway through their current pack while others prefer to finish it out. It’s completely up to you. When I was coming off the pill 10 years ago I finished the pack, but I’m a Virgo perfectionist who didn’t want to screw anything up!
Recommendations Before Coming Off The Pill
These suggestions will help to mitigate any of the negative side effects you might experience.
Start taking a great B Complex
One of the key sets of nutrients depleted by oral contraceptives is the vitamin B Complex, especially B2, B6, B9 and B12. I recommend Thorne Research Basic B Complex, or at least a B Complex that has the Methylated B vitamins in it. This is a good place to start, although if you have an MTHFR gene mutation you might need to further explore what type of B vitamins are right for you.
Minerals To Be Included in Your Diet
Zinc, magnesium and selenium can become very depleted while on the pill. Most women are already mineral deficient when they start the pill because of the standard western diet so it’s crucial to start building back up your stores of these minerals. When a woman stops BC and is deficient in these minerals she might develop a series of issues.
For instance, post-pill amenorrhea is fairly common. Or you may have a very irregular cycle, where the cycle length is alternating, you bleed for a very short of period of time, there’s a shortened luteal phase, there’s no ovulation, or ovulation is happening twice in one cycle. It can show up in many different ways.
For a zinc deficiency, try pumpkin seeds, red meat and shellfish. You can also supplement with zinc and I recommend Designs for Health Zinc. For magnesium, include lots of dark leafy greens, avocados, nuts and seeds. I’ve also found supplementing with 300mg a day of magnesium glycinate can be very helpful too. For selenium, try Brazil nuts (they have a very high amount of selenium), organ meats like liver and kidney along with oysters.
Include Probiotic-Rich Fermented Foods In Your Diet
Another problem I see with women who’ve been on birth control for a while are gut problems and/or chronic vaginal infections. There is evidence that oral contraceptives alter gut function by messing with your gut flora. I dealt with it myself many years ago and I continually see it in my clients.
The problem is that altered gut flora will in turn affect hormone regulation so it’s extremely important to get your guts back on track. While the solution is nuanced, I recommend including probiotic-rich foods as a starting point – sauerkraut, kim-chi, other fermented vegetables and water kefir. If you’re not down with fermented veggies (it’s an acquired taste for some!) then try taking probiotics like Dr. Ohhira’s or Prescript Assist.
Healing your gut will depend on how long you’ve been on the pill and whether you had gut & digestive problems before going on it.
Focus On Healthy Fats and Protein
You need fat and protein to build hormones. Without the right amounts you will continue to stay stuck in hormonal imbalance land. Make it your goal in life to get good quality fat and protein into each meal or as many meals as you can. I recommend a palm-sized portion of protein, a couple ounces of healthy fats (think avocado, fatty fish, nuts and seeds, coconut oil/coconut butter) and lots of raw and cooked veggies.
When To Come Off The Pill?
Start Tracking Your Cycle
Get an app on your phone, so you can begin to understand your own unique menstrual cycle. You’ll want to start by recording your first day of bleeding (your withdrawal bleed) which is also the first day of your cycle. You’ll also want to record any symptoms you experience throughout the month – emotional symptoms and physical ones too. If you’re feeling really motivated, I suggest taking your basal body temperature along with charting your cycle. This will help you pinpoint exactly when you actually ovulate again for the first time.
If you want to learn more, you can check out my 1-hour recorded webinar on how to begin using natural birth control, specifically the Fertility Awareness Method developed by Toni Weschler.
The body eliminates toxins through your liver – it’s like your own personal garbage processing and disposal plant. Your liver also plays a massive role in helping your body rid itself of excess or harmful hormone metabolites so it’s crucial that you make sure it’s functioning at it’s best. Many women complain of horrible acne once they come off the pill and it’s likely due to poor phase 1 and/or phase 2 liver detoxification.
Address Your Stress
This is by far the most daunting of them all isn’t it? Many of us make commitments to address our stressful lifestyles but it’s a hard commitment to keep. It’s certainly something I continue to grapple with, especially as a business owner. While there isn’t any clinical evidence that oral contraceptives impact our adrenal health, there is lots of evidence showing that worn out adrenals are connected to hormonal imbalances.
You simply can’t fulfill your goals and live your purpose if you’re dealing with adrenal fatigue and feeling chronically exhausted. So, you have to make a decision – are you okay with the status quo or do you want to feel good enough to actually live and enjoy your life.
As you can see, there are a number of factors to consider when coming off the birth control pill. You’ve got to nail down the basics like diet, supplementation, detoxification and stress management in order to ease the transition. Hopefully this list is a good starting point for you.