The Pill has been used as a female contraceptive since 1960. It is currently used by approximately 150 million women worldwide, and is one of the most popular and well-known prescription medications.
Many women are on the Pill for reasons other than birth control, such as acne, severe PMS, painful periods, endometriosis, and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Using the Pill for these reasons does in fact help with symptoms, but it does nothing to get to the root cause of what is going on inside a woman’s body that is causing or contributing to these issues. The most common cause of conditions such as these, is hormonal imbalances, which can be corrected by much safer, more natural methods (see my Hormone Balance Quiz if you think you may have a hormonal imbalance).
So what is so dangerous about the pill, you may be wondering? Let’s first take a look at how the Pill actually works..
How the Pill works
The Pill contains either a combination of estrogen and progestin, or just progestin (the mini-pill). These hormones work to stop ovulation from happening (so pregnancy isn’t possible), and to thicken the cervix so it is harder for sperm to reach an egg.
All of these extra hormones need to be metabolized and excreted by the body, which happens in the liver, and requires high amounts of certain nutrients. Namely, the B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium and zinc. Because these nutrients are being used up quickly to metabolize excess hormones, the body can become depleted easily, leading to decreased fertility, inability to deal with stress, anxiety, depression and lowered immune function (to name a few).
Aside from nutrient deficiencies, there are some other nasty side effects of hormonal birth control, including weight gain, decreased libido, nausea, breast tenderness, moodiness, headaches and yeast overgrowth (candidiasis), as well as an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, blood clots and deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
Another strange and largely unknown side effect of the Pill is how it changes our attraction to other people. Women are normally attracted to those with very different genetics than their own, so as to produce healthier offspring. When a woman is pregnant however, she is more drawn to people with similar genes, such as family, as those are the people more likely to protect her and nurture her and her baby. When a woman is on the Pill, her body thinks she is pregnant all the time, so she will be more likely to be attracted to people with similar genes – making offspring less robust and healthy.
Men are also affected by this. They are instinctually drawn to women who are ovulating (as this is the best time to impregnate them), and are not as attracted to women who are pregnant, as they are not “available” anymore. So in effect, women may find they are not attracting men as much when they are on the Pill.
What happens when you stop the Pill
Because the Pill prevents ovulation from happening, and many women are on the Pill for years, it can take a while for cycles to return to normal and ovulation to resume once a woman stops taking the Pill. This may take anywhere from a few months, up to several years.
While the body is trying to rebalance itself after being on the Pill, women may notice some of the following symptoms due to hormone fluctuations:
Back pain and cramps
Heavier, irregular periods at the beginning
Heightened sense of smell
Irregular ovulation and menstruation
Weight gain or loss
More severe PMS
Post-pill amenorrhea (absence of a period)
Cervical fluid may be erratic and out of sync with ovulation
Once the body has rebalanced itself and hormones are cycling normally again, women can look forward to changes such as thicker and better hair growth, improved sleep, fewer hot flashes, more balanced and happier mood, increased libido, better skin, less PMS and more energy.
How to make the transition faster and easier
There are lots of things one can do to help rebalance the body after quitting the Pill that will help to regulate hormones and flush the excess out of the body, including diet and lifestyle changes.
The main dietary changes that will aid the body in regaining hormone balance, is avoiding phytoestrogens, and eating the right fats.
Phytoestrogens are estrogen-like compounds found in foods such as soy and flax. We want to avoid these because the body is already overloaded with estrogen and is trying to excrete the excess (introducing more estrogen will only make this harder).
The ‘right fats’ are omega-3 fatty acids and healthy saturated fats. These will help to rebalance hormones in the body. Omega-3’s can be found in oily fish such as wild salmon, and in the fat of grass-fed beef. Above all, avoid rancid fats and oils, trans fats, industrial oils, and omega-6 fatty acids.
Lifestyle changes that will help this transition include getting more sleep, reducing stress, exercising more, and getting massages and practicing yoga.
Being kind to the liver will help tremendously as well, as this is the site of hormone metabolism in the body. The better the liver is functioning, the quicker and more efficiently the body is going to be able to get rid of excess and synthetic hormones.
There are many reasons to stop taking the Pill – better health, desired pregnancy, lack of dangerous side-effects, and better self-awareness. There are also many safer alternatives to hormonal birth control, such as the Fertility Awareness Method, which is easy to learn and helps a woman track and record when she is fertile or infertile. This method is just as accurate as the Pill in preventing unwanted pregnancies (when done correctly), and can also tell a woman a great deal about what is going on inside her body in terms of gynecological health. It can also help couples become pregnant by indicating exactly when a woman is fertile.
If you are considering going off the Pill, or if you have recently, check out my e-guides on Balancing Hormones, and Rejuvenating the Liver for more in-depth information and guidelines to help with this transition.