Prepare by taking your nutrition and your health in hand
Are you scared to take the plunge and get off the Pill?
There is no need to be! In this post I’ll talk about covering your bases to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Hopefully be now you have followed the first three steps in getting off the Pill.
Step 1 – understanding how the Pill works (and its relatives the Mirena, Depo Provera and Implanon)
Step 2 – being aware of the side effects of the Pill (and its relatives)
And now it’s time for the fourth step – setting some good habits in place to minimise the chance of side effects of coming off the Pill.
So what kind of side effects of coming off the Pill are we talking about?
There are two types of side effects when coming off the Pill.
Problems that were already there before, which are masked by the Pill
First of all, anything that was there before you went on the Pill in the first place: acne, irregular periods, painful periods. My recommendation here is to see a good naturopath, integrative nutritionist or functional medicine practitioner. They can help solve the puzzle of why you had these issues in the first place, and help bring your system back into balance.
For example, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is the most common hormone disorder in younger women. The main symptom is irregular or infrequent periods. If this is why you went on the Pill fifteen years ago as a teenager, then there is a good chance you have this, and it should be investigated. PCOS will also make acne more likely and more severe. When I see women who have known PCOS and are deciding to come off the Pill, we put into place an action plan for their hormones before they even stop it, which includes stress management, exercise, dietary changes and nutrient supplementation. Once they come off the Pill, I add herbs to help regulate their hormones.
And then there is the problem of painful periods (dysmenorrhea). The great news is that herbal medicine can be very helpful for period pain. So can a gentle form of abdominal massage called visceral mobilisation. Additionally, nutrients are important. Supplementing with omega 3 fatty acids and zinc are just two things I use to improve period pain. I often use a combination of these techniques with women coming off the Pill to lower the chance of their returning periods being painful.
New problems, caused, promoted or triggered by the Pill
The main one we’ll talk about here is the fertility issue. Let’s say you’re coming off the Pill because you want to fall pregnant. It is important you don’t try to fall pregnant immediately when coming off the Pill. There are a few reasons for this.
The Pill depletes a number of nutrients from the body including zinc, magnesium, vitamin C and vitamin B6 (and more). Even more critically, it depletes folate, and it’s essential that you have good folate levels for at least 3 months before you fall pregnant, as folate is essential in the cell division processes that will ultimately lead to a healthy baby.
It often takes several months for the hormones to balance out after the Pill. While a 2014 study showed that a quarter to a half of women ovulated within three weeks after stopping the Pill, the rest of them didn’t!
But fertility is more than a return of bleeding, hormone balance and even ovulation. You can have all three of these back but still not be fertile if your cervix is not producing the right kind of mucus to help the sperm survive. A 2011 study compared women who had just stopped the Pill with women who had not been on it for a year. It showed that quality of mucus produced by the cervix was indeed compromised in women who had come off the Pill. Getting to recognise and interpret your mucus patterns is probably the most important aspect of understanding your fertility.
If you have chosen the Billings Ovulation Method as your new method of contraceptive, you’re in luck, as this system acquaints you with your mucus signs. If you have decided to forego contraception as you’re planning to fall pregnant, I would strongly recommend you learn the Billings Method and use it to track your returning fertility before trying to fall pregnant.
It’s important when coming off the Pill that you get some good habits in place. These include good stress management, a healthy, high-vegetable, unprocessed diet, and regular exercise. This will go a long way towards making it an easy transition.
What actions are you taking to prepare your body for coming off the Pill?