Quitting hormonal birth control can be both exhilarating and terrifying. Unless you're trying to become pregnant, you probably did it (or are thinking of doing it) because of negative side effects.
Yeah, they might have become unbearable, but that doesn't stop you from worrying about the new side effects that might happen when you come off. Or keep you from being tempted to throw in the towel and go back on them when you start experiencing your normal cycles after they had been put on the back-burner for so long.
Not only that, but with kicking hormonal birth control comes the fun of trying to find a new method of birth control — and possibly having to defend your choice to your doctor and partner. It's like a never-ending barrage of new things you have to figure out.
My own experience involved transitioning from a copper IUD to fertility awareness, but even though I didn't have the hormonal side effects of coming off of hormonal birth control, I still had the experience of getting my partner and doctor on board with a new method, relying on myself for my birth control instead of my doctor, and exploring exactly what my new options were.
Eventually everything turned out for the best (I even ended up becoming a certified fertility awareness educator), but the transition was nerve-racking. I now work with clients who are coming off hormones while switching to fertility awareness and I help them make the transition as easy as possible.
Here are the four things you should know about the process:
A lot of people come of hormonal birth control and immediately report feeling more like themselves, getting their sex drive back, and other positive changes. But as I mentioned above, you may also notice some unexpected side effects.
I've had clients who have had no problems at all and felt nothing but good, and others who have been so frustrated with issues that they have considered going back on the hormones.
You don't really know what group you will be in until you try, but expect more issues if you had period problems before going on hormones, if you have been on hormones for a very long time, if you went on hormones at a young age, or if you never had a child before going on hormones.
Some of the side effects you might experience include:
- breast changes
- a change in sex drive
- heavier or lighter periods
- mood changes
- more intense cramps
- anovulation (you don't ovulate)
- painful ovulation
- intensified PMS
- irregular bleeding
Just being aware that these things might happen can put you at ease, knowing they are temporary and pretty normal!
It can take some time for your body to adjust to making its own hormones again, so making sure to give your body the right environment to build and regulate hormones is essential to getting back to normal.
Some of the most important vitamins and minerals for your hormones are vitamin C, vitamin A, the B vitamins, zinc, and magnesium. Cholesterol is also super important for building up your hormones, so make sure that you're eating healthy fats and not trying to subsist on a low-fat diet if your hormones seem to be going haywire.
Overall, it's best to get your nutrients naturally from a healthy diet, but in some cases you may need to supplement after using hormonal birth control, especially with B vitamins since research suggests hormonal birth control can deplete them.
Your body is going to be working on clearing the synthetic hormones out ASAP, but you can help ensure that it does a great job by supporting the health of your liver. Your liver is where hormonal clearance takes place, so you want to make sure that your liver is healthy and that you aren't overloading it with other things to clear out before it can get to the synthetic hormones.
I recommend drinking lemon water in the morning, drinking herbal teas of dandelion root or milk thistle, avoiding alcohol, and avoiding sugar and trans fats.
It's a sad fact that most doctors don't tell you much about the non-hormonal options that are out there (if yours does, consider yourself lucky!) and can try to bully you into staying on hormonal birth control.
Besides information from your doctor, though, it can sometimes be hard to find good non-biased information out there (especially if you want to forgo all of the silly anecdotes that don't mean much when it comes to how something will actually work for you). Sure, you might know about condoms, but there are also diaphragms, the copper IUD, fertility awareness, and more.
It's extra hard to find good information on fertility awareness, which is a birth control method in which you chart your cervical fluid and basal body temperature in order to determine what's happening with your hormones that day and when you are fertile and infertile.
It's a great method of birth control by itself, if not invaluable in helping you navigate your body while coming off of hormonal birth control.