As a registered dietitian, I routinely work with women of all ages to help them balance their hormones, fight fatigue, move through sticky and slow weight loss, promote sleep—basically anything and everything hormone-related. I’m fairly versed in what to do and how to help my clients. But this time it was about me.
Rewind to about a year and a half ago, I was 28 and had been on birth control for six years (the Nuvaring). At the time, many friends and colleagues were telling me of their newly diagnosed polycystic ovary syndrome, newly found infertility, and hormonal issues—and they’d only pinpointed it once they had stopped taking or using birth control. This startled me. I, too, began to worry about my own fertility and period health as I had been put on birth control for "hormone balance" six years prior.
I decided it was time for me to discontinue the ring and see what happened.
After two months of being off the Nuvaring I felt normal—better than normal, even. I appreciated the monthly highs and lows of energy that most women experienced, and for the first time in a long time, I felt like I was in better tune with my body. A few weeks later at my annual gynecology visit, I discussed with my doctor my decision, and she was supportive, which was also welcome. Everything continued to feel good, and I felt that I had made the right decision.
Two months later, everything changed. My mood was ever turbulent, I cried sometimes without warning, my skin was broken out in every direction, my period was no longer regular, my boobs were swollen and painful for two to three weeks before my period, my sleep was irregular, I was absolutely EXHAUSTED, and frankly, I was miserable. I was so confused because I didn't know what had gone wrong or what had changed.
After doing some research, I learned that what I was experiencing can be a fairly common issue and is often labeled post-birth-control syndrome. From my research I learned that post-birth-control syndrome (PCBS) generally occurs between four and six months after stopping birth control and can include symptoms like hormonal changes, breast tenderness, acne, mood disorders and depression, stomach upset, and more. PCBS happens due to imbalances after our bodies start to produce hormones independently of the pill. It doesn’t happen to everyone, but it’s a major problem.
I had a very clear aha moment and felt somewhat relieved that this terrible feeling had a name…but now what? I reached out to my integrative medicine doctor who tested my blood, and sure enough my progesterone was really low (which can be a common issue both with PCBS and post birth control). So I started taking various supplements, giving in to my exhaustion, focused on eating for hormone balance, and was determined to find a way out. And so I did.
A year and a half later I’m finally feeling like myself, and though I’m sure with more information I could have helped myself sooner, what I learned throughout the process is and was invaluable to my health and my mental wellness. At this point I have used what I learned through my research, my own doctor visits, discussing with other practitioners and more, to help women suffering from hormonal imbalance and PCBS.
Here are my eight key strategies: