5 tips for coming off hormonal birth control

The launch of hormonal birth control in the 1960s was both liberating and empowering for thousands of women, who at the time had few options to help them enjoy sex safely without worrying about contraception. Hormonal birth control options allowed women to take control for the first time and feel fully autonomous in their own bodies.

But increasingly in recent years women have found that hormonal birth control simply doesn’t work well for them any longer. Side effects that weren’t fully explained when it was prescribed, fertility concerns and a desire to be more in sync with their bodies has influenced more and more women to reconsider. With dependency on hormonal birth control at an all-time high and many women using it for ten years or more, a severe lack of options has emerged for modern women who want to move away from hormones in favor of something closer to nature.

For those women who do decide to ditch hormonal birth control, the transition as they return to their natural cycle (or a non-hormonal method of birth control) can vary hugely. This subject is vast and complex – but there are some simple and easy things you can do to help make the experience less stressful and ease some common concerns which I’m going to cover today.

What to consider before coming off hormonal birth control

This really is a blog in itself, but there are a few things to note before you go ‘cold turkey’ with hormonal contraception. First and foremost, consult with a trusted doctor who can discuss the options and alternatives openly and sensitively with you. Remember, it is your choice and you should feel comfortable enough to discuss your concerns and reasons for considering the change candidly with your MD.

Second, if you originally opted for hormonal birth control because you suffered from severely painful and heavy periods, acne or other symptoms it’s especially important to seek medical support during the transition. I’ll go into more detail on this below, but specifically if you were prescribed hormonal birth control to mitigate symptoms of PCOS or endometriosis (especially if they weren’t diagnosed at the time) it’s crucial to have an MD by your side on this journey.

1. Be kind to yourself

Coming off hormonal birth control isn’t always an easy ride and mood swings can occur. Sometimes you’ll feel low, your periods may be irregular and unpredictable, and for those who do suffer with breakouts your confidence may be affected. Having a self-care strategy in place before you quit hormonal contraception can help with this immensely – ensuring you’re prepared for what’s to come and have plans in place to help you deal with any highs and lows. You might want to let trusted friends or family members know about your plans so that you have people to turn to should you need a pick-me-up.

2. Track your cycle

Whether you’re opting for a more natural method of birth control or not, tracking your cycle is a great way to get to know your body better, especially if you’ve been on hormonal birth control for a long period of time. Tracking your cycle can also help you to see how things are going and when you’re getting back to ‘normal’ (and what normal looks like for you). Being in sync with your body can also enable you to give it what it needs at each stage of your cycle – planning and implementing periods of rest and productivity when needed to pre-empt PMS, fatigue and those ovulation urges.

3. Help to balance hormones with diet

Load up on leafy greens and good fats to help your body as it readjusts to life without synthetic hormones. Eating lots of fibre will help your liver to excrete excess estrogen in your body and rebalance your hormones more quickly.

This is definitely a time to get your diet in check and really focus on nutritious, whole foods – avoid alcohol at all costs and cut down on sugars which can significantly impact upon your natural hormone production. You may find you need to supplement your diet initially to help ease the transition.

4. Avoid EDCs

Endocrine Disruptors (known as EDCs for short) are absolutely everywhere – and they can wreak havoc with our hormones. This is bad news for everyone – but especially anyone planning to come off hormonal birth control. At this time your hormones will naturally fluctuate as your body gets to grips with restoring balance – so adding EDCs in the mix won’t help with this process.

EDCs are found in plastics (bottles, food containers), beauty products (shower gels, face washes, shampoos) and household cleaners to name but a few. Eliminating as many sources of EDCs in your lifestyle as possible should reduce the potential impact they could have on your transition from hormonal birth control.

5. Get professional support if needed

The journey between hormonal birth control and back to basics can be easy for some – for others it’s a real rollercoaster ride. You don’t have to take that ride alone. Whether you find the process is getting tough or just want to have a helping hand as you make the change, don’t be afraid to reach out to a trusted professional. If you suffered from severely painful periods and/or heavy bleeding prior to starting hormonal birth control but never received diagnosis or treatment, it’s unfortunately likely these symptoms will return when you stop taking hormonal contraception. In these cases I strongly recommend seeking a diagnosis and speaking to a doctor who can start putting plans in place for the transition before you ditch hormonal birth control altogether.

For more help with hormone health you can download my free guide here or find more support here on the blog.