Planning to come off hormonal birth control? (Consider the following tips for a smoother transition)!
Did you know: 100 million women are currently on the pill and roughly 60 percent of them take it for non-contraceptive reasons (including heavy/ painful periods, PMS, acne, endometriosis and/or PCOS)?
This is in large part because many women are told by their doctors that hormonal birth control is the only solution for the symptoms they’re struggling with, and rarely given education or resources that would actually get to the root of the problem and relieve symptoms naturally. Since the synthetic birth control pill uses modified estrogen and progesterone molecules that are not a perfect fit for the hormone receptor sites in our body, this can manifest in many uncomfortable side effects and symptoms, which ironically, are many of the same symptoms the birth control pill is often prescribed to "fix!"
With a combination of synthetic hormones, the birth control pill actually stops your body from ovulating (releasing an egg) and producing its own natural (endogenous) hormones, while preventing sperm from reaching your eggs and having the chance to fertilize them. Progesterone is the female sex hormone that we only produce upon ovulation, which is known as our "calming," balancing hormone that keeps estrogen's growth activity in check, helps regulate the menstrual cycle and plays a key role in our mood, fertility, sleep and stress! Without sufficient levels of progesterone, we can experience intense PMS and period pain, fertility struggles (and difficulty maintaining a pregnancy), weight gain, sleep issues, mood swings and more. And with the lab-made hormones present in your body via the pill, you may gain weight more easily, feel extra emotional, lose your libido (the pill can tank natural testosterone levels), have trouble sleeping, develop skin conditions, experience increased inflammation and even become deficient in key vitamins and minerals like the B's, magnesium, zinc and selenium (among many other related symptoms). It's also important to note that if you experience a "period" on the pill, it is NOT a true period but rather a withdrawal bleed from the sugar pill week.
As much as you are protecting yourself from pregnancy by using hormonal birth control (though many women forget to take the pill consistently and thus, pregnancy CAN occur), it's important to understand that synthetic hormones released into your body can trigger side effects that have a significant long-term impact on your endocrine function and overall health and happiness…and there are safer solutions for relief of many of the symptoms women are often given birth control to manage.
Please note: You may currently be on the hormonal birth control pill and not experiencing any symptoms (maybe you even feel great!), but keep in mind that the longer you use hormonal birth control (i.e. the longer your natural hormone production is suppressed), symptoms can become more severe. Additionally, if you come off the pill without an intentional plan, the symptoms the pill was suppressing (acne, PMS, painful periods, etc) can come back with a vengeance and/or new symptoms may develop. Dr. Jolene Brighten goes deep into this concept known as "post birth control syndrome" in her book, Beyond the Pill. This is not meant to scare you, but rather to incentivize you to transition off the pill in a way that supports your body so that you can feel your best and get more in tune with your unique body and hormones!
Below we include a review of some of our top suggestions for transitioning off hormonal birth control with less side effects and symptoms (while still being able to prevent pregnancy and/or prepare for one!).
NOTE: we cannot advise on exactly how -or- when to stop using the pill, as that is an individual decision that must be made by you and communicated to your doctor. However, implementing the following diet/lifestyle and supplement suggestions can greatly support your hormones in the transition off hormonal birth control, and can also be followed before coming off birth control!
(We recently posted a reel HERE with tips for communicating with your doc, if you know you want to come off B.C.)
#1 UTILIZE CYCLE TRACKING APPS AND/OR CALENDARS
We are huge advocates of getting attuned to your menstrual cycle: understanding where you are in each phase of your cycle (menstrual, follicular, ovulatory & luteal), what symptoms correlate to the different phases and when you are ovulating and need to take extra precautions when having unprotected sex.
The following tools not only provide helpful education and data, but some of them include insights to help support your mind and body during each phase of your cycle.
- NATURAL CYCLES
One of our favorite suggestions as an alternative to hormonal birth control for pregnancy prevention is the Natural Cycles Birth Control App, which is considered 98% effective with "perfect use" and 93% effective with "typical use." This is the first FDA cleared app-based birth control that works by identifying your fertility from your basal body temperature.
With any cycle tracking method, we highly suggest also tracking your cervical mucus for increased accuracy detecting your most fertile days (more on this is covered below, under #2- "FAM Method").
How N.C. works: you take your temp first thing in the morning, enter the reading into the app, and it will predict if you are either: fertile and should avoid sex and/or use protection (i.e. RED days) -OR- if you're likely NOT fertile that day and are in the clear (GREEN).
You can also customize your settings to clarify if you're planning a pregnancy or wanting to prevent pregnancy, and you can even track stages of fetal development if you are pregnant! You will also receive personalized messages and reminders correlating to your specific needs and goals.
Pro-Tip: It’s really important that you’re consistent in taking your temperature for accurate results, so we recommend setting the thermometer on your bedside table or on top of your cell phone so that when you wake up, it’s the first thing you do and can immediately enter the temperature reading into the app.
Also: certain factors like being sick, having alcohol the night before and not sleeping well can throw off the results so be sure to read the directions for accurate temperature inputting (they have simple tutorials on how to use the app properly!)
- TEMP DROP
As an even more accurate temperature tracking, devise we LOVE Temp Drop: a wearable armband and sensor that tracks your core temperature continuously throughout the night and allows you to sync your data to the app when you wake up (use code AFYOURHORMONEBALANCE for a 10% discount). You can track your symptoms to verify ovulation, learn about your cycle phases and tune into your monthly patterns. Tempdrop’s algorithm learns your unique nightly and monthly temperature patterns, filtering out disturbances for accurate results which is a MAJOR bonus that Natural Cycles doesn’t offer. If you are a new mom or someone who gets up multiple times throughout the night, travels frequently, etc, this would be the most accurate way to get your temperature readings. Want to learn more about tempdrop? Listen to this podcast HERE.
- MY FLO PERIOD APP by FLO-LIVING
Another option for cycle tracking is the MyFLO Period App by Flo-Living. This app works by analyzing everything you share with it about your body (including your moods and symptoms like back aches, low libido, breast tenderness), helping you detect and eliminate unwanted symptoms as well as teaching you how to optimize your health and wellbeing in alignment with the 4 phase of the cycle.
While MyFLO does not take basal body temperature into account, it does help you track and predict your period, and gives you suggestions to best support your body during each phase of your cycle. It includes recommendations for what kinds of foods to eat, exercises to try, and even social events to say “yes” to! You can enter any symptom and it will provide suggestions for alleviating them with lifestyle adjustments, such as diet and movement suggestions!
You can also sync the app with your partner so they can be more aware and better educated on what you’re experiencing and how best to support you!
Note: Apps like this will ONLY give you a predicted ovulation day based on the average length of your cycle, but do not know exactly when you ovulate. This is something you must track via ovulation signs and symptoms. See our health coach @bodyblissbyjess' reel on that here!
- MENSTRUAL CYCLE TRACKER E-BOOK
Created by hormone practitioner @themaddiemiles, this e-book helps you learn how to track the four phases of your cycle so that you have ultimate body literacy! If you are more traditional and prefer a pen to paper approach, this is a wonderful, affordable tool (just $15). Make tracking your cycle easy and fun via the printable menstrual cycle tracker AND basal body temperature chart. This is the perfect way to get women more in-tune with their body from a young age.
#2 THE FERTILITY AWARENESS METHOD (FAM)
FAM is an evidence-based method of charting your menstrual cycle that uses a combination of observable biological signs unique to each woman, including:
A. Cycle tracking using an app or calendar (see options discussed above)
B. Basal body temperature (like Natural Cycles)
C. Cervical fluid consistency (learn more here) AND cervical positioning - which not all women include in their observations but it's also very helpful!
FAM helps you connect better with your body's unique signaling to help you feel more confident about your hormones and overall health, and understand when you are the most fertile!
When combining cycle tracking + basal body temp + cervical fluid observations, this method is highly effective at both planning and preventing pregnancy. We recommend listening to this podcast episode by the fertility awareness queen, Lisa Hendrickson, to learn more and feel empowered to get started.You can also tune into THIS episode on the Fitnessista Podcast where our founder Candace Burch and health coach, Jess Suchan dive into the Fertility Awareness Method in more detail!
Phexxi® is a newer hormone free birth control prescription vaginal gel that is FDA approved to prevent pregnancy, and you use it only when you need it. How it works to prevent pregnancy: when semen enters vagina, the vaginal PH rises to about a 7 but Phexxi keeps the natural PH between 3.5-4.5 which makes the environment inhospitable to sperm, lowering the chance that sperm and egg can meet. It is shown to be 86% effective with typical use and 93% with perfect use. However, in THIS interview on the Healing Hormone Podcast, Saundra Pelletier (CEO of Evofem Biosciences, the makers of Phexxi) clarifies that the FDA made the brand include women who didn’t use the product at all or who who used it incorrectly, after sex (see below for the correct way to use it). In a research study, the brand conducted with 25,000 acts of sex, 100 participants got pregnant = 99% effectiveness rate. Participants were required to use the contraceptive as intended, right before or within an hour of sex. Note: women on the hormonal birth control pill forget to take it an average of 2-4x per month which actually makes it 92% effective with typical use.
How to use it correctly: Insert Phexxi in your vagina with the applicator (like a tampon) up to an hour before you have sex. It’s made to stay in place during sex and starts working right after you insert it, and is effective for up to an hour. You must use a new applicator EVERY time you have sex, even if it's within the same hour and it must be inserted BEFORE you have sex — it won’t work if you put it in afterwards.
Follow the directions on the package or Phexxi website to make sure you put Phexxi in your vagina the right way.
#4 THE COPPER IUD / PARAGARD
One of the few non-hormonal birth control options available today is the copper IUD.
This IUD is a copper wrapped T shaped device that sits inside your uterus and prevents pregnancy by deterring sperm with the copper. Many people are drawn to this option because they can last up to 10+ years, there is no daily upkeep (or pill to remember taking!), and they are 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. This method is convenient, and you can keep it in for years or get it removed whenever you want.
That said, we highly encourage reading the pro's and con's list HERE to guide your decision as many women experience heavier bleeding after having the copper IUD inserted (though this can be temporary for some), and the insertion process may feel quite uncomfortable. However, in terms of efficacy: this is one of the the best long term, non-hormonal birth control options available for women today.
NOTE: Discuss all of this with your OB/GYN to suss out the right choice for you.
#5 LIFESTYLE / DIET / STRESS MANAGEMENT SUGGESTIONS
In addition to tracking your cycle and/or utilizing non hormonal birth control, it's incredibly important to consider implementing the following lifestyle adjustments for a smoother transition off hormonal birth control!
“A 30 day program to Balance Your Hormones, Reclaim Your Body, and Reverse the Dangerous Side Effects of the Birth Control Pill”
This book is a FABULOUS resource for transitioning off the pill, as it helps readers:
- Identify potential root causes of hormonal issues
- Discover a pain-free, manageable period free of cramps, acne, stress, or PMS without the harmful side effects that come with the pill
- Detox the liver, support the adrenals and thyroid, heal the gut, reverse metabolic mayhem, boost fertility, and enhance mood
- Transition into a nutrition and supplement program, with more than 30 hormone-balancing recipes
- ++ simple diet and lifestyle interventions
- Consider our "Hormones in Harmony Course"
This six week course reviews the fundamentals of natural hormone re-balancing, and is hosted by YHB's mother/daughter team, Candace, Rye + Jess, as well as a group of insightful health and wellness experts.
You'll walk away with a clear understanding of what your master hormones do, common imbalances, related symptoms along with actionable tips to naturally rebalance your hormones with nutrition and lifestyle adjustments. It also includes a full module filled with suggestions for regulating your period, tracking your cycle, safely transitioning off hormonal B.C. and understanding the non-hormonal birth control options available today.
Learn more about the modules, guest speakers and our team HERE.
- Focus on "Intentional Nutrition"
These are the top diet adjustments we would suggest before, during or after transitioning off the pill:
- Incorporate anti-Inflammatory foods! Eating a diet rich in leafy greens, fatty fish, and extra virgin olive oil, avocado and coconut oils can help reduce symptoms related to use of synthetic birth control
- Increase your fiber intake to at least 25-35 grams per day (chia + flax seeds, avocados, raspberries, lentils, beans etc). Increase slowly + up your water intake to prevent bloating and constipation.
- Balance blood sugar levels by including protein (20-25 grams) + healthy fats (2-4 servings) + fiber (1 serving) + leafy & cruciferous greens (1-2 servings) at every meal! Download our "Sexy 6 Formula" for building a hormone balancing meal for free HERE.
- Consider hormone-free protein sources (such as Thrive Market + Butcher Box + Vital Farms), which offer high quality grass-fed, wild-caught, pasture-raised options.
- Repair the gut with grass-fed bone broth, a high quality probiotic and probiotic rich foods like sauerkraut, kimchi and goat's milk kefir to repopulate the good bacteria that we need for proper digestion, energy and hormone balance. Play around with what works best for your body.
- Reduce your caffeine intake (consider Four Sigmatic elixirs and use code yhbalance for 10% off your order) OR try our Health Coach, Jess Suchan's superfood latte blends (here), which are sugar-free, organic, energizing and detoxifying with code BALANCE10 for 10% off. She currently offers matcha, cacao, chai & turmeric blends!
- Key Supplement Suggestions:
These are our top supplement adjustments to help alleviate side effects that can crop up when transitioning off hormonal birth control
- Quality multivitamin or prenatal with iron. We love Ova Moon Prenatal Multi-Vitamin (to support fertility, pregnancy and postpartum) Taking this would help replenish what gets depleted by hormonal B.C. and can take the place of: B complex, zinc, biotin, selenium & chromium supplements. It also has 2,000IU Vitamin D (safe dose is up to 5,000 IU) & 200mg Magnesium (safe dose is up to 300mg). Use code BALANCE for 20% off.
- Vitex/ chasteberry –we encourage testing your hormones FIRST to ensure you need it, but vitex is renowned for helping re-establish regular cycles by increasing ovarian production of progesterone.You can try this tincture + use code "balance5" for a discount.
- Evening Primrose Oil is used to support various symptoms that pop up after the pill, including helping reduce hormonal acne. Also, check out the the book "Clean Skin from Within" for more!
- Complete B-complex, birth control pills are known to deplete some of the essential B vitamins (note: a b complex also included in above "Ova Moon MultiVitamin")
- Magnesium is another essential mineral the birth control pill depletes. You can load up on food based sources of magnesium like leafy greens, cacao and avocado (magnesium is also included in the "Ova Moon MultiVitamin")
- Liver-supporting supplements like milk thistle (also in tea form) and vitamin C will help your liver process all those artificial hormones from the pill!
- Key Lifestyle adjustments:
We can’t underestimate the impact of chronic stress in our lives, and must also be aware of toxic chemicals found in many of our personal care products (often referred to as ‘endocrine disruptors’) that mess with our hormones and can increase the number of symptoms we experience.
- Prioritize self-care, meditation, mindfulness and meals away from distractions
- Say "no" to too many social events and obligations that can elevate cortisol "stress hormone" levels and impact your hormones and your cycles
- Schedule in daily movement that you love to bring down feelings of anxiety (walking, biking, swimming, resistance training, Pilates, dancing etc)
- Reduce toxins in your environment by switching to more natural makeup, body care and cleaning products (check our Instagram and product swap out posts!)
- Avoid plastic which are hormone disruptors and found in everything from food storage containers to water bottles, straws, shower curtains and cookware!
- Continue your education
We've included some resources to further your education on hormonal birth control and best methods for transitioning off it naturally!
We hope this information gave you the tools you need to begin transitioning off hormonal birth control with a plan and method that feels supportive and empowering for you!
Got questions? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org