So you finally made the decision to get off the birth control pill and now you’re finding that your gut health is out of wack, your skin is breaking out like crazy, and worst of all — your period is gone (amenorrhea).
Post-birth control syndrome is real and typically takes place in the months after getting off the pill. For some the symptoms may only last a month, for others, it might take years to re-align; either way, there are things you can do to relieve the symptoms after stopping birth control.
I got on the pill when I was practically a child because I had horrific PCOS symptoms. My doctor continued to increase my dose for years until I was on a dose that stopped my period altogether. I quickly realized this was insanity and concerning medical advice, and got off the pill immediately.
Unfortunately with that came years of difficulty with obscure symptoms from loss of menstruation to acne, to gaining weight, and incredibly high estrogen levels.
Why was I so depressed in the middle of the month? Why did I feel bipolar? Was my hormonal acne ever going to clear up?
Luckily I discovered a few women’s health doctors online who were talking about all of my menstrual symptoms and even more comforting — talking about how to heal after taking birth control. Let’s chat about what post-birth control syndrome is, the symptoms that come with it, healing your relationship with your period, and the steps you can take to heal your body and balance your hormones.
What is Post-Birth Control Syndrome?
Okay, so you finally decided to cease your hormonal birth control. Congratulations! Yet just days after getting off the pill you start to notice a variety of adverse symptoms. You might start to notice that you are having frequent mood swings, your digestive system is out of whack, and you have some period problems that you normally don’t encounter.
So, what should you do? For many women, and for very understandable reasons, the seemingly only way to deal with these symptoms is to get back on your hormonal birth control. While it has the potential to remove the symptoms you have experienced, it is not a good long-term solution. But more importantly, we must understand what is first happening and why it happens.
✧This effect is called post-birth control syndrome (PBCS)✧
The symptoms of birth control syndrome may arise within the first month of getting off of birth control but might not show up until 6 months after. The symptoms can be drastic or mild. Symptoms can include (more on this below): headaches, hair loss, mood swings, and even total loss of your period.
Now, these symptoms can be absolutely terrible to experience, which is why going back to hormonal birth control seems like a reasonable option. It might sound like the side effects are worth it, but it can hurt you in the long run.
However, birth control options such as pills and IUDs can have long-term side effects on your body, especially if you are going to try to get pregnant eventually.
How long does it take for your body to regulate after birth control?
Like many things when it comes to health, the time frame it takes your body to regulate post-birth control depends on your specific body. Some females bounce back quickly after the pill, their nutrients replenish, their gut flora balances out, and even their menstrual cycle regulates. For others, it’s not as easy.
Coming off the pill, you might experience irregular periods, gut imbalances, weight gain, mood symptoms, nutrient deficiencies, and even fertility issues. It all comes down to your own personal makeup.
How long does it take for hormones to balance after birth control?
Similar to your overall body adjustment, it typically takes your hormones anywhere from three months to years to balance out. Depending on your hormone dose, it may take your hormones shorter or longer in comparison to others.
It also depends on how aggressive you are in balancing out your hormones post-birth control. If you go full-force with what you are eating, how you are supplementing, and even in your exercise, they might balance out quicker than if you did not pay close attention.
Can birth control cause long-term effects?
Unfortunately, when you take birth control it can throw off major bodily functions like metabolic health, gut health, general endocrine health, among others. That said, many symptoms will arise shortly after you cease taking the pill, as your body starts to readjust. Sometimes, when we have been incredibly impacted by the pill, we might need assistance from things like foods, supplements, or even adjusted exercise to get our bodies back on the right path.
Since we are dealing with hormones, there are two things we need to understand about our hormones and body: a) every cell has a receptor for your natural hormones and b) your hormones will have an impact on your physical system. Because of this, the synthetic hormones, that are found in birth control pills, have an effect on your body and hormone health in particular.
Here are 10 common symptoms you can experience if you are undergoing PBCS:
- Blood sugar dysregulation
- Leaky gut
- Hair loss
- Heavy and painful periods
- Irregular periods
- Amenorrhea (loss of menstruation)
While the 10 symptoms above are more common post-birth control symptoms, you can also experience the following too:
- Bowel changes
- Digestion issues with food that was once normal for you
- Inflammation (and other immune imbalances or problems)
- Gut dysbiosis
- Brain fog
- Lack of sex drive
- Adrenaline dysfunction
Your symptoms can vary, from mild to drastic, but if you experience the above symptoms after you stop taking your hormonal birth control pills, then PBCS could be the reason behind it.
When it comes to treatment and diagnosis, women often face another problem aside from the pain of PBCS: it is hard to find a women’s health doctor who can really understand PBCS. It’s either that the doctors believe that medicines will only affect your reproduction system or that because the symptoms would only show up after months (sometimes, even years) since you stopped taking hormonal birth control, it is hard to pinpoint these symptoms as PBCS.
I always suggest looking for OBGYN’s who mention something about naturopathic medicine or holistic medicine in their bio.
Post-Birth Control Syndrome – How to Heal Your Hormones
As mentioned earlier, while it might seem enticing to go back on the pill once you begin to experience PBCS, it’s just another bandaid. Luckily, there is a way for natural healing. You can heal your PBCS using the following step-by-step approach, which is used by many well-known hormone doctors like Dr. Jolene Brighten.
Dr. Jolene Brighten also has a book called Beyond the Pill that shares a wealth of knowledge on post-birth control syndrome, the effects of using birth control, and living life ‘beyond the pill.’
- Identify your specific hormonal imbalance
- Replenish your nutrients and refresh your system
- Heal your gut health
- Detox from the pill
1. Identifying Your Specific Hormonal Imbalance
The first step towards healing from PBCS is to identify what specific hormonal imbalance is going on in your body. Keep in mind that hormonal birth control impacts most, if not all, of our systems, including our brain, gut health, thyroid, etc. This is the reason why we experience symptoms like migraines, amenorrhea, and even depression when coming off of hormonal birth control.
2. Replenishing Your Nutrients
When we take birth control, it can potentially deplete many essential vitamins and minerals in our bodies. Studies show that some of the most common vitamins and minerals that can be depleted by birth control include:
- B vitamins (including riboflavin, B2, B6, B12, and folic acid)
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
This one study details that Vitamin D levels can even drop as much as 20% after a woman starts taking hormonal birth control.
While it is always important to eat a nutrient-dense diet if you are just getting off of birth control, it’s extra important to focus on what you are putting in your body in particular. Aim for high-quality foods that will nourish your body and add a plethora of nutrients to replenish the nutrients your body was depleted of while on the pill.
- Focus on eating whole foods (which are often high in nutrients)
- Aim to get a variety of vegetables and fruits
- Lastly, get tons of proteins and high-quality fat
Once you follow these steps, your hormones will start to level out again, your blood sugar will be optimized, and you will get the essential vitamins and minerals that you once had lost because of birth control. Following this protocol does not promise to fully heal, but it can at least get you on the right track.
If you are still on hormonal birth control and planning to get off, aside from eating highly nutritional foods, it is important you supplement with targeted vitamins to elevate your absorption of nutrients and reduce the effect (or possibly even avoid) of PBCS.
3. Healing Your Gut-Health
Hormonal birth control methods, aside from reducing the number of vitamins and minerals in your system, have also been shown to be the cause of a leaky gut (or intestinal hyperpermeability), dysbiosis, and increased risk of inflammatory bowel disease. It is essential to healing your gut in this process because healing your gut can lead to increased estrogen levels, a very necessary condition to heal your hormones. So, how do you heal your gut?
Like I mentioned above, eating nutrient-dense, fiber-packed foods in addition to fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and water kefir can help support a healthy microbiome. In addition, seed cycling is a technique that can support gut health and simultaneously help balance hormones.
Another important factor is making sure to replenish your intake of zinc, which is helpful in healing your intestines. Zinc can often be found in pumpkin seeds, red meat, and oysters. You can also eat bone broth to further support your gut healing.
First, no, you don’t need to force your body to detox synthetic hormones. Your body detoxes daily on its own, but when it has had crucial nutrient depletions caused by birth control this can be a bit more of a struggle. In addition, the impact of birth control on your gut may impair the elimination of excess hormones. Not to mention that hormonal birth control alters your liver at the genetic and structural levels.
Your body actually detoxes on its own on a daily basis. However, once you’ve lost essential vitamins and minerals and have hurt your gut, the detoxing process can be impaired as well.
The first two steps above are actually already covering this part – replenishing your body with the proper nutrient options and healing your gut. That’s how you detox. Not by drinking a drink labeled “detox,” which is essentially a laxative.
To further optimize the natural detox process, you can add liposomal glutathione, which is considered the “mother of all antioxidants.” Get at least around 100-200mg on a daily basis.
N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is also another important compound in the detox process. It is great for things like fertility, gut function and health, and improving your mood. Take around 600-900mg twice each day.
Learn to Love Your Cycle By Getting to Know Your Cycle
This was a long and somewhat wordy post, so thank you if you made it to the end. I hope this helped you learn more about your health post-birth control and the harmful side effects you can experience from hormonal contraceptives.
I did my job if you leave this article feeling even just a little bit more in control of your health. At the end of April, I did a series of stories on this topic. If you want to watch them you can view them under my stories highlight “birth control.”
I also offer an e-book called “Learn to Love Your Cycle By Getting to Know Your Cycle” that teaches you how to get more in tune with your body, balance out your hormones, and truly appreciate your cycle.
P.S. If you’re interested in learning more about hormone health and healing hormone imbalance, check out a few of my other articles here: