Post-Birth Control Syndrome: What it is and How to Heal it with Food
Let's start with a check-in. How are you doing today? Meet yourself where you are and continue to give yourself grace. I'm so happy to have you here today!
In this post we're looking at Post-Birth Control Syndrome - what it is and what you can do about it. Are you ready sis? I'm super excited for you to learn from what I'm sharing today. Let's go!
In this post you will....
. learn what post-birth control syndrome is
. take a quiz to determine whether or not you have PBCS
. discover how the pill disrupts your hormonal health (while you're taking it)
. get a free guide to detox your liver + start balancing your hormones
What is Post-Birth Control Syndrome (PBCS)?
A few weeks ago I started reading Beyond the Pill by Dr. Jolene Brighten. I was quite eager to get my hands on this one because I'd heard her speak about the effects of birth control on a podcast before, which really peaked my interest. Chapter 3 of the book forms the basis for this blog post. In this chapter Dr. Brighten, a naturopathic doctor and expert in women's medicine, breaks down the symptoms of and natural remedies for PBCS.
"Post-birth control syndrome is a term that refers to a collection of signs and symptoms that arise when you stop taking the pill. These can be symptoms you are suppressing with the pill, or they can be added side-effects the pill created that your body is waking up to." These symptoms include depression, anxiety, headaches, mood swings, acne, painful periods, infertility, hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone), intestinal hyperpermeability (leaky gut), pill induced PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), infertility, immune symptoms and even amenorrhea (a loss of your period). Uh, that sounds a bit scary right? But the lovely thing about information is that it empowers you with the choice to be proactive. This information is not meant to frighten you, but rather to give you awareness and to help you make informed choices for your wellbeing.
Symptoms of PBCS typically appear within four to six months of stopping the pill. This happens because the pill prevents pregnancy by shutting down your body's natural hormone fluctuations. Instead, the pill delivers a consistent dosage of synthetic hormones (estrogen and progestin for the combined pill and progestin only for the mini-pill) with the exception of the sugar pills that stimulate a withdrawal/pill bleed. This means that the dialogue between your brain and ovaries, via the hypothalamus-pituitary-ovarian (HPO) axis, is shut down. When you stop taking the pill, your body has to undo that shutdown which can lead to hormonal havoc.
What is a syndrome?
A syndrome, according to medicinenet.com, is "a combination of symptoms and signs that together represent a disease process." A syndrome is not to be confused with a disease; you may only need to have a minimum of two of the symptoms to qualify as having the syndrome. As you will see in the PBCS syndrome quiz later in this post, you need only to have at least one symptom to be possibly suffering from PBCS.
How do I know if I have PBCS?
Take this quiz to find out (which is a direct excerpt from Beyond the Pill). Whether or not you are on the pill, or even if you are on a different form of hormonal contraception, presenting with any of these symptoms is a sign of hormone imbalance and needs to be addressed to improve your hormonal and overall health.
If you've come off the pill and have noticed a variety of uncomfortable symptoms, check the [points] that apply to you:
I haven't had a period for three months after stopping the pill
My periods are heavy/painful
I've been struggling to get pregnant
I've been diagnosed with hypothyroidism since starting or stopping the pill
I have terrible acne that won't go away
I've been getting migraines, especially right before I'm about to get my period
I have frequent headaches, especially around my period or cyclically
I've noticed recent hair loss
I feel depressed or have been diagnosed with depression since starting or stopping the pill
I have trouble with high blood sugar or hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar)
I struggle with anxiety, nervousness, or worry since starting or stopping the pill
I feel gassy or bloated
I've noticed changes in my bowel movements
I suffer from inflammation or other immune imbalances
If you have one or more of these symptoms, and especially if you have several of them, you are likely suffering from PBCS.
Adverse Health Effects of the Birth Control Pill (BCP)
In recent months I have developed quite a heightened awareness of how conventional medicine is not always right. In fact, science in itself does not have the answers to everything; the very basis of the scientific method is curiosity and exploration. Regarding women's health and the BCP, conventional medicine is pretty fixed in its views. Yet here's what Dr. Brighten, who initially began her training in conventional medical school, has to say about it all:
"Like many doctors, I was taught initially that the pill had little impact on fertility. It was only once I entered my advanced fertility curriculum that my clinical instructors began to share that women should come off of hormonal contraceptives years before they want to become pregnant because there may be a significant delay."
It seems that what we've been led to believe is fact is not quite fact at all.
Here's a CliffNotes version of the side effects of the BCP: the pill diminishes nutrients, aggravates inflammation, causes destabilised insulin and disrupts your gut microbiome. All of these side effects have the potential to hinder your fertility. So apart from leading to PBCS, the pill also does a number on your health while you're taking it. I think it's really important to be informed about this. If you need a bit more info on this topic, hit me up by clicking here so that I can send you the recent publication of my newsletter. Use the subject "birth control newsletter" so I know what to help you with.
Why your period may disappear after taking the pill
Research has found that women who come off the pill may experience serious changes to their cycle. These changes, which may last months...or even years, include longer cycle lengths, shorter luteal phases, and anovulatory cycles (cycles where no ovulation occurs). Studies have shown that anovulatory cycles may last up to nine months on average, and that it can take up to nine months to normalise your cycle after taking the pill.
When it comes to periods disappearing after stopping the pill, this can be really alarming. As much as may of us many have a love-hate relationship with our period, we know that we're still somewhat healthy when Aunt Flo comes knocking each cycle. So it can be really distressing when she goes MIA and you don't know what's caused it or what to do about it. Post-pill amenorrhea (pill induced period loss) can last four to six months, or longer without medical intervention, after stopping the pill. Remember the HPO axis that I spoke about earlier in the post? The disruption to the communication between your brain and ovaries is also at play when your period goes missing. Interestingly enough, I spoke to an old high school friend recently about how she's still trying to regulate her cycle months after stopping the pill. This is real stuff guys.
So what do you do when you've quit the pill and you've lost your period? Fortunately, there are steps that you can take on your own to rectify this situation. I'll be sharing some of this info in the next section.
Vitamins and minerals to nurture your cycle back to health
I love writing about this stuff because I'm also on this learning curve myself. Although I have a consistent period after removing the contraceptive implant four-ish months ago, my period only comes every 40 days. That's still a bit too long, so I'm right here with you sis.
Alright, so how about an action plan?
The first step is to take care of your liver. If you missed my blog post about detoxification and its importance for hormone health, check it out here. In that post you'll learn about how your liver is involved in breaking down and eliminating used hormones, and what happens when those hormones are not properly escorted out of your body. I also have a free guide, hormone-supporting liver cleanse, that will help you re-set your hormones.
The pill also depletes key hormone-protecting nutrients from your body. These are: zinc, magnesium, selenium, folate, vitamin B2, B6, B12, vitamin C and vitamin E. Before getting to supplements, food is the best place to start. We've got to make sure that we're supporting our bodies with adequate nutrition so that they can do what they do best. No supplementation regiment will work without proper nutrition. So let's take a look at where we can find these nutrients in food:
B Vitamins: bananas, sweet potato, spinach, grass fed beef and liver, pasture-raised chicken, wild-caught fish. For B2: organic, full-cream, grass-fed yoghurt. (I will do another blog post about the importance of eating clean animal products and where you can find them locally).
Magnesium: fish, spinach, almonds, molasses, dark chocolate, brazil nuts, sesame seeds and avocados. Although starting with whole foods is recommended, in the short term replenishing magnesium with a supplement is a better option since magnesium is hard to restore with food alone.
Zinc: pumpkin seeds, red meat, oysters, eggs and other shellfish
Selenium: eggs, brazil nuts, wild-caught fish, oysters, organ meats (e.g. liver) and other animal proteins.
Vitamin C + E: eat lots of fruits, veggies and healthy fats. For vit C specifically, eat citrus fruits, bell peppers, strawberries, tomatoes and broccoli. For vit E, eat healthy fats and fatty fish. If you need a refresher on healthy fats, download my guide The Secret to Losing Weight...and Keeping it Off.
Folate: leafy green veggies, broccoli, asparagus
That's it for today sis! I hope you're enjoying this content - leave me a comment below or DM me on @heysis.sa to let me know! It would mean so much to me to hear from you. Also if you have any burning questions you'd like for me to help you with, follow the same steps to reach out to me. Also, why not share this post with a sister in your circle? I don't know about you but this information is revolutionising my life. I love knowing that I have control over my total mind-body health.
All my love sis!
Other Articles You Might Like
1. Beyond the Pill by Dr. Jolene Brighten