Post Birth Control Syndrome
This is a series of symptoms and health issues that arise after stopping birth control. Many women start to experience symptoms within 4-6 months of coming off. Amenorrhea, hair loss and acne are tell-tale signs of this condition.
Is Post Birth Control Syndrome Real?
Absolutely and it can take awhile to heal if not done strategically! It happened to Katie and is the reason why she is so passionate about what she does now. Hormonal birth control is designed to shut down your entire reproductive system so pregnancy does not occur. It is not a root cause solution to your acne, PCOS or endometriosis. Whenever we temporarily shut down and suppress an entire body system like this, there are consequences.
Let's first explain what happens to your body when you are on the birth control pill specifically…
The pill contains synthetic versions of hormones like progesterone (progestin) and/or estrogen. These are not natural or bio-identical hormones. Your body grows accustomed to getting pumped with these synthetic hormones so it stops producing natural hormones on its own. Once you stop taking the birth control pill, your body can’t always restore its natural hormone production right away.
And that’s not all.
The pill actually decreases the good bacteria in your gut. This can cause gut dysbiosis which shuts down your immune system and leaves you susceptible to pathogenic bacteria, SIBO as well as parasites and yeast overgrowths. The pill also depletes you of essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. These include; B vitamins, magnesium, selenium, zinc as well as vitamin C and E. These nutrients all play vital roles in hormone production and metabolism as well as thyroid health. The pill suppresses your thyroid, burdens your liver, causes cervical dysplasia, dials up your inflammatory markers and puts you at risk for blood clots, multiple diseases and cancer. Obviously this isn't the case for everyone who takes the pill but they are real side effects that women should be informed of.
Common Symptoms Women Experience After Birth Control:
Amenorrhea (loss of menstruation)
Skin Issues / Acne
Blood Sugar Dysregulation
It’s important to know that when taking any form of hormonal birth control, you are not ovulating. It shuts down the communication between your brain and your ovaries. Therefore, your luteinizing hormone never spikes so you never ovulate. You need to be producing progesterone naturally in order to ovulate. The benefits of producing progesterone and thus ovulating regularly go way beyond fertility. Ovulation is the main event in your menstrual cycle for a reason and is one of the best indications of a woman’s health.
Benefits of Ovulation and Progesterone:
Without enough progesterone, your estrogen has nothing to balance it out so you can become very estrogen dominant and experience symptoms like period cramps, PMS, heavy bleeding, weight gain etc. Progesterone is very important for brain health, bones, mood, metabolism, fertility, libido and tons of bodily processes that make you feel your best. We also cannot use thyroid hormone properly without sufficient progesterone therefore disrupting our metabolism and all of our systems. Not ovulating goes beyond sex hormones. Ovulation is a key component for healthy skin.
What Causes Low Progesterone?
Lack of Protein & Saturated Fat
Any bleed you get while on hormonal birth control is not a true period but rather a withdrawal bleed. A true period requires ovulation to be present. The monthly bleed you get while on the pill is from ceasing the synthetic hormones and switching to the placebo pills. Increasing progesterone is the first thing we work on when clients are transitioning off of hormonal birth control.
How Does The Hormonal IUD Impact My Hormones?
Any hormonal IUD is essentially the same concept as the pill with a few small differences. It is administered vaginally so it bypasses the liver and the gastrointestinal tract when being absorbed which is beneficial. However, it also is a foreign object in your uterus that may be rejected by your body and immune system. It can increase your chances of disease/infection and can migrate up your body causing organ damage. We have seen clients have to go get surgery because theirs got lodged somewhere it was not suppose to. Another big difference is that it only contains progestin where as the pill contains both estrogen and progestin usually. However, your body is still receiving synthetic hormones and is unable to produce progesterone naturally. This means you are not ovulating and can still experience post birth control syndrome.
What About The Copper IUD (non-hormonal)?
It is administered the same way as as the hormonal IUD which again, comes with its pros and cons. However, it also increases copper levels in your body which can interfere with zinc absorption/levels and can lead to copper toxicity. When copper starts accumulating in the tissue with not enough bioavailable retinol, it's going to be unusable causing issues for energy production and your immune system. This is also problematic for women with thyroid issues. Secondly, copper has an affinity with estrogen meaning when copper levels rise so do estrogen levels. This is why many women experience painful, heavy periods when taking the copper IUD. A hormone imbalance called estrogen dominance is common with the copper IUD. So even though you are not taking synthetic hormones and are ovulating regularly, this IUD still causes hormonal issues that can look similar to the post birth control symptoms listed above.
How Do I Safely Transition Off Birth Control?
Increase Intake of Metabolically Supportive Foods
Increase Intake of the Nutrients Depleted
Decrease Toxic Load
Support Drainage Pathways
Minimize Stressors and Regulate Stress Response
Improve Digestion & Gut Health
You can't balance or test your hormones while on any form of birth control so don't worry about that aspect of healing until you have been off birth control for at least a month. However, the above are easy simple steps you can start doing now to make the transition easier and reduce risk of symptoms like acne when you come off. From a nutrition perspective, we make sure our clients are eating and digesting grass fed raw dairy, getting an abundance of grass fed organ meats in (beef heart tastes just like muscle meat!), high quality oysters and shellfish, pasture raised eggs, lots of organic fruits and typically a raw carrot salad with an adrenal elixir everyday. These foods are very nourishing so they will help replenish the nutrients the pill depletes. In addition, we often will recommend a magnesium and vitamin E supplement from Lifeblud in our shop.
It's ironic that medical doctors use birth control to treat acne when it really is a primary cause of acne because of all the internal systemic imbalances it can cause. Some people experience acne while on birth control and tend to get off rather fast. Others will spend years on birth control either suppressing acne they already had or getting completely blindsided once they come off. The pill is the only form of birth control that directly affects your gut as well as your hormones so it can have a much worse impact on your skin. Although we have seen other birth control methods like IUD's (hormonal and non hormonal), the shot and the patch cause horrible cystic acne as well.
What Causes Post Pill Acne?
Most hormonal birth control pills suppress sebum to an insane degree. Unfortunately, once you stop taking the pill, your body has no choice but to drastically increase sebum causing acne. It could be short term acne or long term acne. We call it rebound sebum production and it tends to peak about 4-6 months after coming off. It isn't immediate. Ceasing the pill can also cause a surge in androgens as those were being suppressed on the pill. This can definitely cause acne and may lead to a post pill PCOS diagnosis. We do not recommend healing your acne or post birth control syndrome by cutting sugar and dairy like most people on the internet are suggesting. Those are more band-aid approaches and we work to address the root cause.
Whether you choose to be on birth control or not, that is completely your choice and we will support you either way. We are here to educate so you can make your own informed decision on what is best for you. There are other contraceptive methods with side benefits instead of side effects such as the fertility awareness method. Head to our shop and pick up your Fertility Awareness + Metabolism guide- this has everything you need to know to avoid pregnancy (or conceive) naturally. If you are looking to come off birth control, are experiencing adverse effects or just want to know how to best support your body while on any form of birth control, this is what we are here for!!! Check out our 1:1 membership to learn more about post birth control syndrome, and how you can support your body to feel better. We offer in-person appointments in Toronto and online worldwide! Need a program to support your body while on or coming off birth control? We teach you all about this in The Acne Solution!