The birth control pill can influence everything from our skin and stress responses, to our interest in sex and who we are attracted to — and going off it can affect us too. Whether we’re going off the Pill in preparation for pregnancy, or to reconnect with our natural cycle, there are ways to prepare for this “readjustment period”. We speak to naturopath Georgia Borowski about the process our body goes through when we cease the Pill, how to make the transition easier, and when to seek help.
WHAT HAPPENS IN OUR BODY WHEN WE GO OFF THE PILL?
The answer to this question lies in another question: What changed for you when you went on the Pill? The Pill interferes with the body’s natural cycle and every woman will respond differently to it. As the Pill uses synthetic hormones that are much stronger than the body’s natural levels, when you stop taking it you will likely experience a ‘withdrawal bleed’. This is the body’s response to a sudden drop in the hormones you are used to receiving and a change in the daily routine.
WHEN SHOULD WOMEN EXPECT THEIR PERIOD TO RETURN?
In an ideal scenario, a woman will start ovulating again within a few weeks of coming off the Pill. A true menstrual bleed will then occur 4 to 5 weeks after stopping the Pill. For others, it may take a few months. If it hasn’t returned beyond this, schedule a check-up with your GP.
ARE THERE ANY “UPSIDES” OR BENEFITS TO GOING OFF THE PILL, BESIDES PREGNANCY?
From my perspective, the answer is a big YES! For starters, there are fewer chemicals for your body to process each day, and you’ll have the ability to recognise changes in your cycle. For example, losing your period is a physiological response to your body not having the building blocks it needs to ovulate and bleed — if you are on the Pill and “bleeding” monthly, you’re not being given a vital sign that something isn’t right.
MANY WOMEN WHO HAVE BEEN ON THE PILL FOR A LONG TIME ARE DISCONNECTED FROM THEIR MENSTRUAL CYCLE. WHAT ARE SOME INTERESTING DISCOVERIES THAT MIGHT SURPRISE WOMEN WHEN THEY EXPERIENCE A NATURAL PERIOD?
The ebbs and flows of hormones give women so much: oestrogen released in our developing follicles stimulates our mood and promotes feelings of happiness, it benefits our bones, metabolism, sleep and much more. Progesterone reduces inflammation, calms our nervous system, impacts our thyroid and protects us from heart disease.
Around ovulation women produce a mucus, a fantastic reminder that we are heading into the fertile time of the month and a healthy sign hormones are on track! You may notice an increase in libido around this time too. Some women will also experience ovulation pains, temperature rise and breast tenderness — all signs that indicate they are ovulating.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET PREGNANT AFTER COMING OFF THE PILL? AND IS IT MORE DIFFICULT TO FALL PREGNANT IF YOU’VE BEEN ON IT FOR A LONG TIME?
It can happen straight away for many women. There are many factors that may impact other women who find it harder. The main thing is to support ovulation by creating a fertile body, through eating well, replenishing nutrients and regulating hormones. Herbal medicine is an incredible tool that naturopaths use to support ovulation and regular menstrual cycles for women coming off the Pill, and women generally.
MANY WOMEN GO ON THE PILL FOR REASONS OTHER THAN CONTRACEPTION. WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR THOSE WHO MIGHT HAVE SYMPTOMS RETURN?
Some women will transition off the Pill with no hiccups, while others may see a return of skin issues, anxiety, PMS, PMDD, PCOS or cycle irregularity. The Pill is only one option when it comes to supporting women with these conditions.
Whether it’s a GP, naturopath, acupuncturist or nutritionist, find someone you trust, and decide what is right for you and your circumstances. I have women come and see me who are taking the Pill, and I can still work and support them with nutrition and lifestyle advice — I’ll always respect a woman’s choice no matter what.
Georgia Borowski is a naturopath, nutritionist and herbalist who specialises in supporting and educating women through hormonal changes, fertility, pregnancy and postnatal care. You can find her at Women’s Health Melbourne where she consults in person, or online at naturopathgeorgia.com.au
Want to learn more about the birth control pill, and its impact on our bodies, and brain? Listen to our Taboo episode with Dr Sarah E. Hill: Your Brain on Birth Control. You can subscribe to the Taboo series on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts.