If you are like many women who’ve been put on the pill for a variety of hormonal ‘imbalances’ and have been on it for years, you might be nervous about stopping the pill in case your symptoms return and rightly so!
The way the OCP works is by shutting down the communication between your brain and ovaries as the synthetic hormones replace your natural hormones.
Birth control also depletes certain nutrients integral for your nervous system, blood sugar regulation, energy levels and iron absorption.
If you’ve been suffering from hormonal acne, this may decrease as the synthetic estrogen and progestins decrease testosterone levels and sex hormone bunding globulin (SHBG) inactivates your homemade hormones because it senses that there are too many circulating now that you have so many synthetic ones in your system.
Less testosterone and its metabolites mean there is less sebum being produced which means there is less chance that the pores will become blocked and cause acne.
SO, when you decide to stop taking birth control, what happens to these hormones that have been suppressed and bound up? Initially not too much, you may experience a breakout here and there for a month or two after stopping the pill but for most people at the 4- 6 month mark their symptoms return! And often even worse than before!
This is because the SHBG that was previously elevated starts to wear off as your body realises it doesn’t have an excess of hormones and suddenly all the hormones you had prior to going on the pill are available for your body to use again, hello testosterone!
Some people find that their period doesn’t return straight away, this can be due to the breakdown in communication between your brain and ovaries as well as this increase in SHBG which can increase insulin resistance that leads to a disruption in ovulation.
As well as addressing the hormonal imbalance that existed before birth control, we often need to re-establish ovulation to maintain hormonal balance. If we don’t ovulate, we don’t make enough progesterone which can cause acne by increasing your sensitivity to testosterone and other androgens.
The most important step once you have stopped the birth control pill is to test your hormones to understand where they are before you supplement with herbs. This could mean the difference in the success of your treatment because some hormonal imbalances may appear to be one thing (high testosterone for eg) when they are in fact something else entirely (low progesterone).
Here is a list of herbs that can help post-birth control
Helpful for nervous system support and to increase iron bioavailability after depletion from OCP
Decrease levels of stress hormones to make sure they aren’t impacting
- Saw palmetto
Helps with a potential surge in androgens that might cause post-pill acne (if acne was a problem for you prior to going on the pill)
Re-establishing ovulation after being on the pill by increasing follicle-stimulating hormone
Helps to improve Insulin sensitivity if the pill has caused weight gain
- Rhodiola and Siberian ginseng
Nervous system support to improve mood and limit high-stress hormones that may be impacting your cycle
- St Marys Thistle
Liver support to help your body safely remove excess hormones and restore liver function if this has been impacted by long term medication
- Black cohosh and Shatavari
Support the production of female hormones
Regulate cycle and reduce PMS symptoms
- Licorice and Paeonia
Reduce sensitivity to androgen hormones
So remember, testing in combination with a detailed case history is integral to make sure you are on the right track with your hormones.