A common tale for many young women is that at some stage they will end up on the oral contraceptive pill. Statistically this is highly likely as the pill is one of the world’s most commonly used drugs. A young woman may be advised to take the pill due to painful or irregular cycles, or it may be a cultural or social decision. I have heard many scenarios including school camp is coming up and I don’t want to have my period, unresolved skin complaints and of course for some it is purely a decision based on the most convenient form of contraception for them.
When the paradigm shifts from contraception to a desire for a natural cycle or a healthy baby, pill use must cease. For many women things will naturally return to a new normal and their cycle will re-establish itself without any intervention, but for others this is a longer process. I see many women in this position, which is particularly challenging and frustrating if their reason for coming off the pill is to have a baby. For some women, the process of “coming off the pill” will uncover problems that the pill has been masking for a long time. Common concerns include polycystic ovarian syndrome and endometriosis which often present as a lack of cycle regularity, no cycle at all, painful periods, and skin complaints. Temporary cycle disturbance is normal but you should anticipate a return of menstruation within around 3 months. If a problem has showed itself during this time then it is important to seek medical advice and get a clear diagnosis. When patients come and see me with test results or a specific diagnosis it means we can rule out any serious complications and also allows the treatment plan to be more specific to the patient.
As long term pill use can have significant impact on nutritional status and commonly interferes with the metabolism and absorption of key nutrients, it is essential to support the body and re-establish these levels. We know that vitamins and nutrients including B6, B12, C, folic acid, magnesium, zinc and selenium are particularly affected, which makes these nutrients an incredibly important focus for all women but especially those who are considering a pregnancy. Pill use, although common and convenient, does not come without concerns. It is important to understand that the pill switches off the body’s natural cycle and implements a chemical cycle. When coming off the pill it may take some time to achieve regular ovulation again. If your cycle hasn’t returned to a rhythm within a few months there is a lot that Naturopathy can do to support you.
Everyone must choose what is right for them when it comes to their health and personal situation. Having an awareness of the impacts the pill can help with planning for the future and understanding that it may take some time to regulate the cycle again. If you are using the pill for contraception only and are interested in other methods speak to a women’s health doctor about alternatives or seek out someone trained in natural fertility methods. There are other options available for women who don’t want to use the pill.
When women come to see me after coming off the pill | use a combination of nutrition and herbal medicine to help their body re-establish ovulation. These modalities improve hormonal balance, stabilise blood sugar levels, and improve digestion and detoxification. Nutritional changes and herbal medicine in conjunction with exercise and good quality sleep, significantly improve fertility outcomes. It is extremely rewarding to be part of helping get things back on track as nature intended and supporting women to learn more about their bodies, their cycle and their hormones.
Written by Georgia, our in-house Naturopath