Stopping Birth Control Side Effects

Dr. Jolene BrightenPublished: Last Reviewed: Sex Hormones Leave a Comment

In my day to day at the office, I handle many topics regularly. You no doubt know, I talk about them on this blog all the time. PCOS, cancers, hormone imbalances, all sorts of issues plaguing women daily. This blog is no exception, it's all about one of the biggest concerns on the minds' of my patients: stopping birth control side effects.

Here's an example.

After 4 months of quitting the pill cold turkey, Paige came to me desperate not to go back. For Paige, stopping the birth control pill had side effects and at 33 she was now experiencing acne, was shedding hair everywhere and her period had returned with a vengeance. Paige had no idea what was happening in her body, and her doctor's only solution was to put her back on the pill to regulate her period. (P.S. the pill doesn't regulate your period.) In fact, it's a big reason why coming off the pill can be so hard.

Paige was experiencing post-birth control syndrome, something I see in my office every day.

She shared with me that she started taking the pill back when she was 16. She was not only experiencing acne then, but her cramps were so bad they’d bring her to vomiting monthly. The fear of that debilitating pain kept her on the pill for more than 15 years. And can you blame her? Her doctor had assured her that staying on the pill long term would be perfectly fine and that when she was ready to have a baby, she'd be able to transition off the pill without any hiccups in her fertility or her period.

Immediately after going off the pill, Paige found quite the opposite. Her period was triggering some major high school PTSD. “Have you seen that meme from Carrie? The one with all the blood? It was like that,” Paige said. And to top it off, she was dealing with painful cystic acne. I explained to Paige that a medication had been controlling her menstrual cycle and hormones for more than 15 years.

She was comforted to learn there's a lot of women who struggle after discontinuing the birth control pill, and it's something I happen to have a lot of expertise in treating.

As I reviewed Paige’s history with her it was evident that going off the pill wasn’t all bad, she now had better energy!

In this article, I want to share with you some of the common side effects that come with stopping birth control pills, plus the tips that have helped my patients, including Paige, heal. While post-birth control syndrome can be a tremendous pain in the ovaries (LOL!), there are also some positive benefits that come with kicking that pill. Keep reading because I'm sharing those too! 

Stopping Birth Control Pill? Here Are 5 Common Side Effects

Heavy, Painful Periods After Stopping Birth Control Pills

Paige shared that the first day her period came back, she was in a yoga class. She could feel the gush of blood and the warmth between her thighs as her period made its grand debut (at the expense of her favorite yoga pants). “I panicked, grabbed my mat and ran out of the classroom,” she shared. It made her feel like she was reliving her middle school days where her heavy periods sabotaged her favorite clothes and social life.

I think there's a lot of us that can relate. I know I certainly have my share of “my period ruined my life” stories from middle school.

If heavy periods is the reason you started the pill, chances are they’ll be back when you quit. That is, if you don’t take steps to clear your estrogen, reduce inflammation and support your nutrient stores. (More on this soon!)

Post-Pill Amenorrhea

Unlike Paige, some women’s periods just stop when they finish their last pill pack. In fact, quite a few women can experience what's known as post-pill amenorrhea. This is when your period goes missing for several months after stopping the pill.

If you're a woman who had a regular menstrual cycle before starting the pill, then you should expect your period to come back within 3 months of stopping the pill. Has it been more than 3 months? Then it is time to find out just why your period has gone missing.

If you had irregular periods prior to starting the pill, your period may take up to six months to return.

In my clinical practice, I recommend that women investigate their amenorrhea at after three months of missing their period. The longer your period stays away the harder it can be to get it back. Not to say it can't be done, I've had patients welcome their period back after more than 10 years of it taking a hiatus. 

Post-Pill Acne

Oh boy, how that acne can flare! Pimples, cystic acne, bacne, and zits where they’ve never been before—I've had patients present with all of these. But let me tell you there are a lot of things that you can do prior to stopping the pill to help prevent this. (If this is a problem for you then you'll be happy to know we cover this in my Post-Birth Control Hormone Reset program.)

And if you’ve already kicked the pill then no worries! There are lots that can be done to improve your skin and eliminate acne for good. Eating probiotic-rich foods, increasing dietary zinc, eliminating dairy, and taking hormone supportive supplements are just a few of the ways you can begin to improve your skin.

The acne that you experience with post-birth control syndrome is typically at its worst about three to six months after stopping the pill. In some women, it begins to improve after 6-8 months, but in my experience, it tends to hang around until you address it directly. I've treated women in my practice who have experienced relentless acne for years after stopping the pill. The good news is, they were able to eliminate it naturally without needing to suppress their hormones.

Mood Swings & Anxiety After Stopping Birth Control

Let's not forget that for as long as you're on the birth control pill, your brain and your ovaries aren't talking, so it's to be expected when you ditch that pill that they're going to take some time to come back online and start communicating again. And as they start talking again, there may be some ups and downs in your mood. This could result in symptoms of anxiety after stopping birth control.

Your body has been dealing with a combination of inflammation, blocked ovulation and nutrient depletions—any one of which can lead to mood issues.

I’ve seen women in my clinical practice have symptoms that vary from anxiety and debilitating panic attacks to feeling depressed and falling out of love with their life all while on the pill.

It might feel scary to come off the pill, but listen, you can do a hell of a lot more for your mood off the pill than you can on the pill. For however long you're on it, it's depleting nutrients, creating inflammation and doing a whole lot of things that are going to mess with your mood.

I recommend women work with a counselor or mental health specialist if they are experience extreme ups and downs with their mood and anxiety after stopping birth control. Leveraging a mental health expert alongside a Naturopathic or Functional Medicine Doctor can help you get ample support in breaking up with these hormones and rediscovering “you off of hormones.”

Loss of Libido & Fatigue After Stopping Birth Control

This was something Paige wasn't too happy about either. You see, her doctor had told her the answer to her low libido was as simple as stopping that pill. However, as a doctor who has helped thousands of women recover their hormones after using synthetic birth control, I can assure that you that a missing libido post-pill is more the norm. Libido and energy levels in general go hand-in-hand and you may suffer from fatigue after stopping birth control, only worsening the situation. And just like your mood, the only way to get your libido back is to kick that pill and to take steps to reset your hormones.

Eating libido supportive foods like dark chocolate, pineapple, spinach, and oysters are beneficial foods to get you and your libido back together.

Nourishing your adrenals is a huge part of your overall hormone health, including reclaiming your sex life, which is why it is one of the key topics I address in my Post-Birth Control Hormone Reset Program. For Paige adaptogens, along with a hormone friendly diet and daily mind-body practices were exactly what she needed to get her libido back on-line and take her orgasms to the next level. (Yes, women report better orgasms off the pill!)

6 Positive Side Effects of Stopping The Pill

Better Moods

For some women, coming off the pill does mean better moods and better libidos. For Paige, one of the biggest benefits she saw when she kicked that birth control pill was that her anxiety disappeared.

Well, Hello Sex Drive!

While she was understandably frustrated about her libido at first, Paige was excited the day she realized that her need for lube had reduced because she was no longer experiencing issues with vaginal dryness.

You see, the birth control pill can lead to vaginal dryness, which means a gal can need some extra support for that bow chicka wow wow. If that is true for you, be sure to opt for phthalates and petroleum free products. If you're wondering if green lube is a big deal—it is.

Paige supported her hormones, experimented with her partner and reclaimed her libido in a big way!

Yeast & Other Vaginal Infections

Paige also had way less vaginal irritation and itching. For as long as she could remember she had needed to treat a vaginal infection at least a couple times per year and her underwear had always felt a bit uncomfortable. “I had to be militant about my after sex routine or I’d end up with a UTI or yeast infection,” she shared.

If you're a woman who experienced chronic vaginal infections while on the pill, coming off of it may mean no more infections and a lot happier vagina.

Weight Loss

Some women gain weight on the pill. If that's true for you, one of the best ways to start kicking those extra pounds is to lose that highly inflammatory pill. While research has shown a moderate increase in weight on the pill, there are many women who report gaining 5-10 lbs that just won’t budge until they stop the pill.

Energy Boost

The pill robs you of the nutrients your cells need to make energy, plus seriously hinder the hormones that help you with your “get up and go!” The effect: symptoms of fatigue after stopping birth control. Feeling tired and more often. Many women report their energy levels gradually increase after stopping the pill. Of course, the added boost of adaptogens we gave Paige definitely helped her reclaim her energy and avoid those afternoon crashes.

Incredible Hair, Skin, and Nails

Paige started out losing hair, but within 6 months her head was covered in the fuzzy joyous sign of new hair growth! Some women experience increased acne with certain hormonal contraceptives, and others experience hair loss, itchy skiin other skin symptoms. Whatever your symptoms, they have a root cause and you can support your body in healing.

Paige was able to clear her skin, bump her natural glow and grow some luscious locks.

How to Reset Your Hormones Post Birth Control

While Paige's skin and heavy painful periods may have seemed like a big burden for her to bear, it was actually providing us incredibly useful data for us to biohack her hormones and reset her cycle. Here's what we did to get Paige's hormones back on track.

Hormone Friendly Diet

Step one was to replenish Paige’s nutrients big time. We got Paige eating a whole foods diet, focusing on anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense foods to replenish her nutrient stores that were depleted by the pill. Because she had been on it for so long without any nutritional support on hand, we also started Paige on a prenatal. Her blood work revealed she was low in her iron stores, although not yet anemic. This was likely due to her heavy periods. Supplementing with iron helped her prevent anemia and her periods from becoming heavier. This was also part of the secret sauce in getting her hormones back on track. 

Within weeks, Paige's energy was up. She said that she was feeling more motivated and her colleagues had noted that she was sharper at work. “I'm on fire and have never felt more on top of life,” she explained at a follow-up visit. 

Hormone Detox Support

We got Paige going on some much-needed estrogen detox support. Paige's symptoms and labs all pointed to estrogen dominance, so step was making sure that her liver was well equipped with the best nutrients to help package up that estrogen and move it out.

Including more vegetables in the broccoli and onion family, along with a 14-Day professional grade detox program helped support Paige’s natural detox pathways.

This benefited her skin, and helped her reduce her cramps and heavy bleeding by clearing estrogen.

Hormone Focused Mind-Body Medicine

We also got Paige rolling with some mind-body support. We needed to drop stress and get it out of the way so that she could get back to ovulating and get her progesterone levels up. Decreasing stress can help increase progesterone, which is opposed all that extra estrogen. Paige was dealing with low progesterone, estrogen dominance and way too many stress hormones. But she was able to 180 that business with some simple daily mind-body practices.

Stopping Birth Control Pills & Minimizing Side Effects

After three months on my protocol, Paige's skin was looking better than it had before and her periods were completely manageable. She was no longer having to pack an extra change of clothes to work or change her Diva Cup multiple times a day the first few days of her period. This was a huge relief for her. 

After relying on the birth control pill to control her acne and periods for so long, Paige was glad to be back in her body and in tune with her hormones once again. And for the first time without the pill she had one of those “easy periods” she had heard about. 

While the side effects of kicking the pill may seem too overwhelming, I want you to know I have your back in my Birth Control Hormone Reset Program. It is possible to balance your hormones naturally and even though it might seem scary, there are some serious benefits to ditching that birth control pill.

Birth Control Hormone Reset™

birth control hormone reset fix period problemsDiscover how to get off birth control, kick your unwanted hormone symptoms, and ditch those period problems for good!

In this 5 week program, you'll receive daily guidance to help guide you and your body back to better hormones. Within this program we support women who are on hormonal birth control, coming off hormones or struggling with the long-term side effects associated with hormonal birth control.

You'll receive the right information at the right time to help your skin clear, moods lift and energy elevated.

I invite you to explore all the benefits that come with blissful hormones that are in balance. Learn more about the Birth Control Hormone Reset.

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About The Author

Dr. Jolene Brighten

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Dr. Jolene Brighten, NMD, is a women’s hormone expert and prominent leader in women’s medicine. As a licensed naturopathic physician who is board certified in naturopathic endocrinology, she takes an integrative approach in her clinical practice. A fierce patient advocate and completely dedicated to uncovering the root cause of hormonal imbalances, Dr. Brighten empowers women worldwide to take control of their health and their hormones. She is the best selling author of Beyond the Pill and Healing Your Body Naturally After Childbirth. Dr. Brighten is an international speaker, clinical educator, medical advisor within the tech community, and considered a leading authority on women’s health. She is a member of the MindBodyGreen Collective and a faculty member for the American Academy of Anti Aging Medicine. Her work has been featured in the New York Post, Forbes, Cosmopolitan, Huffington Post, Bustle, The Guardian, Sports Illustrated, Elle, and ABC News. Read more about me here.