If you are thinking about stopping birth control, or you have recently stopped taking it, you may have some questions about how your body is responding. The time it takes for your body to balance after stopping birth control depends on a few factors including how long you have been on birth control and what type of birth control you are taking.
Regardless of the type of birth control you were on, it can take your body a couple months to get back to its natural hormone production.
Typically you can expect your period to come back in 3 months if you had regular monthly menstrual cycle prior to starting the pill. If you had irregular cycles prior to starting the pill, it will take longer and likely need support from nutrition and supplements to nudge the body into a healthy hormone production cycle.
The reason you need to give your body time after stopping birth control is because there are a few adjustments that need to occur.
1. Birth control is known to deplete vital nutrients in the body including B vitamins, magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, and zinc.
2. Birth control affects the communication between your brain and ovaries necessary for ovulation. These systems can take a little time to get back in sync.
3. There is inflammation present in the body. Think of inflammation as fog, it slows down systems and needs to be properly cleared from the body in order for the body to function optimally.
The recommendations in this article for nutrition and lifestyle will help support and regulate your body’s natural menstrual cycle. If you are not ready to stop birth control, these tips can also be helpful in preventing digestive or hormonal imbalances from developing.
But before we get to the good stuff, let's touch on some symptoms that can develop when stopping birth control.
Post-Birth Control Symptoms Include:
Irregular Cycle: heavy bleeding, painful periods, shorter cycles (<24 days)
Ammenorrhea - lack of period for 3+ months
Hormone Imbalances: acne, hair loss, hirsutism, tender breasts, infertility, headaches
Digestive issues like constipation, diarrhea, bloating, gas, and reflux
Changes in body weight or difficulty losing weight
Mood Changes including anxiety, depression, PMS, or mood swings
Increased inflammation and poor immune system
Working with a health professional is important when stopping birth control because you want to manage symptoms individually as they appear so that things do not get out of control. In my practice I prefer to meet with clients every two weeks as they are working to balance hormones because natural fluctuations are unavoidable so we want to stay on top of symptoms.
There is an increased risk if your period was irregular before starting the pill that you may not be able to get your period back without further intervention. To start, we need to gather specific data showing hormone levels in the body. We can gather this data through lab testing.
Tests to Complete When Your Period is Missing
If it has been three months with no period, or you have an irregular cycle, I recommend having the following tests drawn.
FSH, LH, and Estradiol. Test on the 3rd day of your cycle. Both FSH and LH are hormones that are produced by the pituitary gland in the brain. These hormones signal the ovaries to produce follicles and thicken the uterine lining, both essential for ovulation and therefore menstruation. Estradiol is the main form of estrogen in a menstruating woman’s body. Estradiol can become dominant in the body and cause other hormones to decrease, leading to a common hormone imbalance.
Progesterone Test between days 19-22 of your cycle. Progesterone will rise after ovulation has occurred. Progesterone’s main role in your cycle is to thicken the uterine lining so implantation and growth can occur during pregnancy. You can also identify a hormone imbalance by comparing estradiol and progesterone levels.
Full Thyroid Panel The thyroid panel includes pituitary (brain) hormone TSH as well as the thyroid hormones - T3, T4, reverse T3, and thyroid antibodies. We can look at the communication between the brain and thyroid when a full thyroid panel is done.
Cortisol Cortisol is best tested through saliva and should be collected periodically in a 24-hour period in order to have the most comprehensive and helpful reading. Cortisol will fluctuate throughout the day, so we want to make sure it is rising and falling in a normal pattern. Elevated cortisol levels can be another reason why progesterone levels are too low.
DUTCH Hormone Panel This is by far my favorite and most comprehensive test out there for hormones. I run this test in my practice often and has been extremely helpful in identifying the hormones and detoxification pathways that need to be supported for healing and balance. The DUTCH panel is a simple at-home collection since it uses dried urine as the sample. You can collect your sample at home and send it back to the lab through the mail. This test should be interpreted by an experienced health provider for you to get the most out of the results.
The loss of your period can be overwhelming to try and figure out on your own. Finding a health professional who can help you understand the process and guide you through a supportive and natural healing process is key.
A Whole Food, Low Sugar Diet
Cutting out a few foods is key. Eliminate added sugar, alcohol, and refined grains. This is your typical white breads, crackers, cookies, etc. that is recommended for every healthy diet.
Work on increasing fiber in your diet. I want this to be from whole foods and not a supplement. Your goal of 30 grams per day. You want to slowly increase fiber, about 5 grams every few days, to prevent constipation or GI distress. To increase natural fiber, choose foods like berries, greens, flaxseed, chia seed, whole grains, avocado, and almonds.
Eat high quality protein with your meals to help balance blood sugar and keep you full. For animal proteins make sure to choose organic. Plant-based proteins include beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, nut butter, and grains. If you are having trouble getting enough protein in your day, you can add a clean ingredient protein powder. Here is a favorite of mine.
Use plenty of spices and herbs in your cooking. Both spices and herbs are what I like to call, food medicine. They have long been studied and used in Ayurvedic medicine. These foods play a role in our metabolism, detox, hormone production, digestion, and more. Include foods and flavorings like ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, garlic, rosemary, basil, oregano, etc.
As I have said throughout this article, it is not easy to deal with hormone imbalances. I highly recommend starting with testing so that we know exactly what we're working with, and there is a starting baseline to work from.
Changes to diet, lifestyle, stress management, and exercise are important. I also work with my clients to balance hormones through a natural, supportive detox protocol and nutrition supplements. These are necessary when we are dealing with more severe cases of hormone imbalance like PCOS.
Interested in taking next steps to balancing hormones and healing your gut? Check out my Hormone Hub group program here!
Liz Riesen, Registered Dietitian
specializes in digestive and hormone imbalances. Often these conditions coexist and share common disruptive symptoms including mood changes, bloating, pain, irregular cycles, inflammation, and more. Liz is trained in identifying and healing food sensitivities, as well as balancing hormones naturally through nutrition and lifestyle.
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