Dr. Jolene Brighten was on the Pill for 10 years before she realized the damage it was doing to her system. Her gastrointestinal issues and mood swings were creating real challenges in her everyday life, but her doctor told her they were all in her head.
When she finally went off the Pill, she had a degree in nutritional biochemistry and was pursuing her medical degree. She had different symptoms now, and she started to put the information from the classroom to work in her own body. Through nutrition and other lifestyle changes, she discovered that she didn’t need a prescription to experience normal periods, to get her libido back, or to manage the acne that had come along with hormonal birth control.
Ever since, Dr. Brighten has been on a mission to help women understand and balance their hormones and care for their bodies in a way that allows them to live the way they want, without dealing with myriad undesired side effects. She wrote a book, due out in January 2019, called Beyond the Pill: A 30-Day Program to Balance Your Hormones, Reclaim Your Body, and Reverse the Dangerous Side Effects of the Birth Control Pill. It is this passion for women’s natural wellness that drove Dr. Brighten to create and host the first ever Post-Birth Control Syndrome Awareness Week, November 5-11, 2018.
What the Syndrome Is
Conventional medicine denies that post-birth control syndrome exists. While some women coming off the Pill don’t have an issue and their cycle returns within three months, that isn’t the case for everyone. Other women experience a range of symptoms, including headaches, hair loss, insomnia, depression, chronic yeast infections, irregular or painful periods, and difficulty conceiving. Perhaps the most baffling part of all these side effects is that the majority of women go on hormonal birth control to treat symptoms of other underlying issues, not primarily as a mode of contraception.
Laura Schoenfeld, a Registered Dietitian with a master’s degree in Public Health and a staff nutritionist for the Kresser Institute, has had clients whose cycles didn’t resume for months or even years after ceasing long-term Pill use. Schoenfeld found that “many women know very little about their cycles.” Nor are they fully aware of what the Pill does. She says, “the underlying causes of post-birth control syndrome can involve nutrition deficiencies, HPA axis dysregulation [adrenal fatigue], impaired liver detox, stress, and more.” These are problems that are unlikely to resolve on their own.
Why Awareness Matters
When you make the decision to stop using hormonal birth control—the Pill, the patch, IUDs, an implant, or a shot—you may not get the support your body needs as you experience the transition. Too many women find their concerns shrugged off by their healthcare providers, perhaps simply for lack of information.
Here’s what we know, due to recent research: The Pill depletes your body of certain key nutrients, which may, over time, lead to other issues like blood clots and depression. Focusing on whole foods, good fats, and foods with a low glycemic index can help your body rebalance its hormones—and maybe even be healthier than when you first went on birth control.
Charting your cycle with Fertility Awareness Methods (FAM) can help you measure signs of improvement toward hormonal balance on a monthly basis, in addition to practicing a natural form of family planning that’s more effective than the Pill. Schoenfeld recommends FAMs to her clients, because they “help women understand their fertility and overall health, which can be very empowering.”
What You Can Do
The Post-Birth Control Syndrome Awareness website features many presentations aimed to educate women experiencing post-birth control symptoms; the information ranges from traditional medicine (nutrition, lab testing, FAMs) to less conventional paths (think essential oils). In one session, naturopathic Dr. Pamela Langenderfer discusses how certain foods can help correct hormonal imbalances. In another, holisitic nutrition expert and personal trainer Jenn Pike explores what actually causes acne (perhaps it’s your gut health?) and thus how to remedy it. The information at the Post-Birth Control Syndrome Awareness website is free this week and will be available in packages to purchase thereafter.
Here at Natural Womanhood, you can find numerous free resources to read and share. If you’re concerned about the effects of hormonal birth control on your skin, mood, metabolism, fertility, PCOS, endometriosis, or any other element of your wellbeing on or off the Pill, you owe it to yourself to consider a better path forward.
Check out these resources to equip yourself to make a healthy transition:
- Coming Off the Pill With Good Nutrition
- Coming Off the Pill Into Fertility Awareness: Prepare for these Symptoms
- Getting Off the Pill: 4 Key Ways to Achieve a Healthy Transition
- Tips for Coming off the Pill from 5 Women Who Have Been There
- What Every Woman Getting Off the Pill Needs to Know Before Trying to Have a Baby
- Women Tell Us How They Felt After Switching to FAMs
Have you made the transition off hormonal birth control to more natural methods of charting your cycle? If you’ve come off hormonal birth control and have an experience you’d like to share, please leave it in the comments, or contact us at [email protected] We’d love to hear from you.