For many women, stopping the oral contraceptive pill can be a daunting task. There are a whole lot of unknowns when stepping into “post pill” life. If you started the pill as a symptom management strategy for things like acne and/or painful periods, stopping the pill understandably raises the fear of these issues returning.
You may have decided you want to stop taking the pill if you are ready to start preparing your body for pregnancy, or you may simply want to begin ovulating again (the pill prevents ovulation), have your menstrual cycle back and proactively address any menstrual health issues you may have had pre pill, as the pill cannot address any reproductive health concerns at a root cause level.
Regardless of the reasons driving your decision to stop the pill, preparing your body for this transition is always a good idea.
Here we will explore what you can do to make your transition off the pill as smooth as possible.
If you have decided you are ready to stop taking the pill, create a timeline for how this will look for you. You may want (or need) to stop the pill immediately for various reasons. However if you have some wiggle room with time, give yourself 1 – 3 months of preparing your body before stopping.
Whilst we all know the pill has an effect on the reproductive system, it also exerts a huge effect on the digestive system.
The pill can alter the microbiome, create intestinal permeability and compromise nutrient absorption. Common nutrients that can be depleted whilst taking the pill are folate, B12, B2, B6, zinc, magnesium, CoQ10, vitamin E, vitamin C and selenium.
In the 1-3 months prior to stopping the pill, focusing on supporting gut health sets you in good stead for your transition post pill.
You can support your gut health by:
- Increasing the amount and quality of your nutrient dense foods. Since the pill can compromise nutrient absorption, your quality nutrient intake needs to increase whilst taking the pill as well as afterwards to help replenish. Nutrient dense foods include organic grass fed meats, organic grass fed organ meats (liver, heart, kidney etc), organic pastured eggs, collagen, gelatin, wild caught fish, oysters, mussels and more!
- Opt for organic produce as much as you can. Industrial farming chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides can act like an antibiotic on the gut microbiome, altering the amounts of beneficial flora as well as causing inflammation within the digestive system and creating intestinal permeability. By reducing/avoiding these chemicals, you can help to unburden your digestive system and encourage the healing process.
- Nervous system support. The gut and nervous system are inextricably linked. A regulated nervous system helps to support a healthy microbiome, reduce inflammation and diverts blood and energy to the digestive system for optimal digestion.
- Consider herbs like aloe vera, marshmallow root, chamomile and ginger to help soothe and support the digestive system and gut lining.
The pill also has a big impact on the liver. The liver has to process everything we absorb and digest and prepare it to be eliminated.
You can support your liver health by:
- Reducing/avoiding endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) help to unburden your liver. EDCs can interfere with hormone production and elimination, change liver enzymes and can lead to liver damage.
- Utilizing herbs such as dandelion, milk thistle, green tea and nettles can help to support liver health.
What to expect post pill:
- Your period may not return straight away. In order for your period to re-establish post pill, you need to begin ovulating. Once you ovulate, you will get a period! If you have not had a period at all after being off the pill for three months (not including the first withdrawal bleed after you stop the pill active tablets) it’s time to start doing some investigating and getting some support from a women’s health practitioner.
- Symptoms that you had prior to starting the pill may return when you stop taking the pill.
- You may experience a new onset of symptoms you didn’t have before starting the pill. ● You may experience some skin changes/breakouts/acne after stopping the pill, even if you didn’t have it before starting the pill. The pill changes the structure and function of sebum glands, when you stop taking the pill, your sebum glands change and there can be a temporary over production of oil.
- You may begin to see changes in cervical mucus you haven’t seen before, or for a long time! As your ovaries kick back into gear and follicles start maturing, you will start to produce cervical mucus again, this is a great sign!
- If you are not stopping the pill for fertility reasons, think about what other method of birth control you are going to use instead of the pill. Your fertility and ovulation will return before you get your first period back, so don’t wait for that first period before thinking you need contraception.
Keep in mind, coming off the pill is an exciting time! Your menstrual cycle will return and you will begin producing sex hormones (oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone) again. These hormones have a profound influence not just on the reproductive system, but the whole body. Your body expects and is designed to receive these hormones in a cyclical way.
No matter what your experience is like when you come off the pill, support is available to you if you need assistance in getting your body back into thriving balance.