Should I come off The Pill?

If I had a dollar for every time I was asked that question, I would have a seaside mansion.

Ahhh, the Pill. It’s given us so much power over our reproduction!

A lot of adolescent girls are put on the pill to do everything from “regulate their hormones“ (which is total BS) to clear their skin to help with premenstrual symptoms and reduce pain.

These are all completely valid things to want help in treating.

These are all problems that I’ve experienced as well, and all problems that I was prescribed the Pill for (along with depression).

Out of the hundreds of women that I have treated, I can count on one hand the number of them who had never been on the Pill.

It’s a commonplace medication, and has been for generations.

I have no qualms with the Pill being in existence, or the users of it that experience enormous benefits from being on it.

I do, however, have qualms with how little the average user of the Pill actually knows about how it works and it’s impact on the body.

I am usually the first person to tell these women that:

  • they haven’t actually had a period whilst being on the Pill - the bleed from the sugar pills is just due to an absence of synthetic hormone, and the bleeding that occurs is what is called a “withdrawal bleed“… it is not a period!!

  • their reproductive system has effectively been shut down whilst being on the Pill

  • it can take up to 12 years to restore the function of the pathways that the Pill inhibits

  • it hasn’t “regulated their hormones“ at all, it’s just hid your normal hormone picture in the background and played Lead Role

  • it changes your microbiome

  • it changes the structure of the brain and can worsen anxiety and depression in susceptible people

  • it inhibits vitamins and minerals, like B9 and zinc

Something I’m often asked after this conversation is, should I come off the Pill?

And that’s where I consider all the aspects of that person, like stress, diet, lifestyle, gut health, before I answer that question.

It’s not up to me whether you are on the Pill or not, and this isn’t a decision I would ever make for someone. All I do is give information.

And the information that’s important to know in the consideration of coming off the Pill is:

  • the problems the Pill was prescribed for are likely to return, so having a plan around assessing and treating them is important

  • your hormones will be all over the shop for at least a few months, and sometimes a few years, so ensuring you have good functioning detoxification pathways and healthy gut/bowel function is vital in being able to assist natural hormone regulation

  • having a clean diet will set up the foundations needed for all healthy function, but it’s especially important where there has been acne and skin problems in the past

  • having techniques and support around stress management is also essential, as high stress hormones like cortisol will reduce the production of your reproductive hormones, worsening hormone imbalance

This is where I come in, and for my patients, I have a thorough understanding of all of these aspects and can advise accordingly.

Some people are ready to go down this path in the beginning of treatment, and for others I advise that it be a goal we work towards, and spend the start of treatment putting in place all the foundations we need for the transition to be easier.

For example, if you have been on the Pill for years to treat acne and you now want to come off, but you have poor nutrition and gut function, and you’re only pooping once every two days and drinking 2 cups of water, in a high stress job (which is usually why you’re only drinking 2 cups of water!)… then my first steps are going to be improving your health in other ways before we remove the Pill and increase your chances of getting rebound post-pill acne anyway.

If you are choosing to come off the Pill, here are a few things that are super common to happen when you come off the Pill, just so you’re prepared:

  1. It is totally normal to have increased discharge. Your body has been in an estrogen dominant environment, and hasn’t gone through the hormonal cycle that produces changes in the vaginal secretions. It’s common to have minimal discharge whilst on the Pill, and (if you do have discharge) for it to be quite thick. When you come off the Pill, you can increase a change in vaginal secretion as your ovaries wake up and start to do their job, and for the first 3 months (sometimes longer) more volume of discharge throughout the day. Totally normal. Don’t worry (unless it becomes itchy or smelly, then (without worrying) seek some help from people that know lots about vaginal health (like Wendy)!

  2. It is totally normal to not get your period straight away. For some people it can take a few months to get their period, and this is because your ovaries have been asleep and haven’t ovulated! When you start to ovulate again, you will get your period. I have seen people who have gone 9+ months without their period after stopping the Pill, and it’s smart to have these sorts of things investigated to help speed up the process of getting those hormones back in balance to bleed!

  3. The bleed that happens right after stopping the Pill may not be a normal period, but actually just a withdrawal bleed, as mentioned above

  4. It is totally normal to have polycystic ovaries when you stop the Pill. This is also because you haven’t ovulated! Investigations into why you haven’t had your period after 3 months might lead you to a diagnosis of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome… which is often a misdiagnosis because women are so often diagnosed with PCOS on ultrasound only (which isn’t right… for the record). if this happens, once again, you should seek some help because it’s usually estrogen dominance or high cortisol that’s the causing your period to stay away!

Once again, for the record, I do not care if you are on the Pill or not.

My only question is, is it actually helping you?

And, maybe if enough women become informed about how the pill actually works and the side effects of it, and think it’s weird that we don’t have another option to contraception… then maybe… just maybe, something will change.

But until then, I hope this has helped in some way! Here’s some other blogs we’ve got on the Pill.

Love,

Emily (Naturopath & Herbalist)