As a Holistic Reproductive Health Practitioner, I’m excited to see the trend toward women rethinking their birth control.
For many, the Pill can present very real and problematic side effects, from mood disturbances to life-threatening blood clots. For others, the act of popping a pill on a daily basis can seem out of place with the natural, health-promoting changes we're making in the rest of our lives. After all, when we’re swapping out our body products and food storage containers to avoid parabens, phthalates, and other endocrine-disruptors, it seems counterproductive to intentionally pop a pill that's designed to disrupt our hormonal system on a daily basis.
Fortunately, knowledge about effective non-hormonal contraceptive options are beginning to receive more widespread attention.
After nearly a decade of teaching women how to ditch the Pill and adopt natural birth control. I've seen both the highs and the lows of what this journey entails (and I’ve experienced it first-hand as a decade-long user of the Pill myself). While a woman’s individual health history will impact how her body reacts to coming off the Pill, I can tell you that knowing what to expect and putting support systems in place ahead of time can help ensure a more empowered experience.
Here are five things I wish everyone who was coming off hormonal birth control knew before they made the leap:
1. There are effective ways to manage your birth control naturally—but they require education and support.
Barrier methods and withdrawal are common natural choices and they can be effective when practiced correctly, however they do come with risk. That risk can be mediated by pairing those methods with education in Fertility Awareness Methods (FAM).
No, FAM is not the rhythm method! FAM is a highly accurate form of fertility tracking using a combination of cervical mucus observations, Basal Body Temperature (BBT) and cervical checks. When used correctly, it can be 99.4 percent effective at preventing pregnancy. Of course, it can be used in conjunction with other methods (like barriers and withdrawal) to enhance the efficacy of all three.
While there are books that teach the method, it can be difficult to learn on your own, especially if you have a history of irregular cycles. I suggest finding a practitioner through the Association of Fertility Awareness Professionals, or through the list of graduates from the Justisse College. Professional support will help ensure you achieve the full efficacy rate.
2. If you had reproductive health issues before the Pill, those issues will almost certainly return.
The pill is often prescribed to “treat” menstrual disorders like PCOS, amenorrhea, and heavy bleeding. However, it merely erases the symptoms of those conditions, not the underlying cause. If you have a history of menstrual disorders, be sure to enlist professional holistic support to help you address the root cause of your hormonal imbalance.
While this healing will take time, the process of truly listening to your body can help foster a deep connection that will serve you throughout your reproductive life.
3. Know that you may have developed digestive problems while on the Pill.
Hormonal contraceptives can be hard on the body. Among other things, they are associated with an increased risk of Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis (in women with a history of smoking). Use of the Pill has also been associated with lower levels of various micronutrients, like B vitamins.
These are all great reasons to come off hormonal contraceptives, but also another reminder of why it's important to attend to your nutritional health. I always encourage my clients to adopt a clean, nutrient-dense diet that supports optimal immunity and gut function—something we should all be doing anyway!
4. If you are planning to start a family, consider waiting a year, if you can.
Although previous studies have shown there's no fetal harm in becoming pregnant after ending hormonal birth control, research is ongoing and if you have the option and time to wait before trying to conceive, you may want to consider doing so.
In addition to potential benefits to your child, taking the time to address reproductive health issues will help ensure you are feeling your best before, during, and after your pregnancy.
5. Coming off hormonal contraception and getting to know your body can be one of the most profound acts of self-care and empowerment.
While women initially come to me to learn effective methods for birth control or for reestablishing hormonal health, nearly all my clients leave our work reporting something much deeper.
Whether it's an increased connection with your partner, greater sexual satisfaction, more stable moods, or feeling a deeper sense of connection the earth and her rhythms, connecting with your natural, un-medicated menstrual cycle invariably ends up feeling like a journey home to yourself.