Your doctor may have told you that birth control pills can delay menopause. However, that is not true and if anything, they can contribute to early menopause . Many women are also put on the pill to treat symptoms of menopause. As you read earlier, synthetic hormones come with a lot of risks. Stopping the pill is your decision to make. If you do take that leap, you may want to consult with your medical provider first.
Post-Birth Control Syndrome
Something more and more women are going to start hearing about is Post-Birth Control Syndrome. If you have never heard of it and have taken birth control pills, I strongly recommend you read Dr. Jolene Brighten’s book, “Beyond the Pill.” Birth control pills can prevent unwanted pregnancies, but make no mistake, they do so by flooding your body with chemicals that change the way your brain communicates with your ovaries and reproductive system in order to either stop ovulation (progestin-estrogen pills) or thicken cervical mucus so much as to make it difficult for sperm to enter (progestin only), where they could fertilize an egg and make you pregnant.
Some women feel okay while on birth control pills. Personally, they made me sick to my stomach, depressed, and I also weighed the most I ever had. That doesn’t happen with everyone and a few women just glide right through without any side effects. However, one serious but not widely known side effect that doesn’t occur until later is Post-Birth Control Syndrome, which typically happens within 4 to 6 months of stopping the pill.
Symptoms of Post-Birth Control Syndrome
• Amenorrhea: complete loss of periods or just mild spotting instead of a full period. In fact, for some 3 to 6% of women, their period never returns.
• Irregular/Unpredictable periods: heavy bleeding, short cycles, or very painful periods with severe cramping.
• Hormone disorders: thyroid disorders such as hypothyroidism, infertility, and breast tenderness.
• Hair loss: birth control pills cause the hair to move out of the growing phase and into the resting phase too quickly, which is called telogen effluvium.
• Acne: many women go on the pill to heal acne, only to find going off the pill causes worse symptoms than before.
• Mood swings and disorders: Anxiety, increased episodes of crying, and depression are just a few side effects of hormonal changes caused by going off hormonal birth control.
• Hormonal changes. These can include infertility, hypothyroidism, HPA-axis dysfunction, and other changes you may not have experienced while on the pill.
• Weight gain/difficulty losing weight. Weight gain is common with the pill/hormonal birth control and can make losing weight quite difficult even once one goes off the pill (until you fully detoxify the body).
• Digestive issues such as bloating, gas, or diarrhea.
Post-Birth Control Syndrome Detox
Your liver is your main detox organ. That means it is responsible for moving synthetic hormones out of the body, especially when levels are too high. To help your liver to do this difficult task, it needs to be supported. Also, your intestinal tract needs to be functioning well so that hormones can be eliminated (no poop, no pass). Eating healthy, making sure you are having regular bowel movements, and supporting your liver are 3 major components of detoxing from synthetic hormones. I highly recommend you check out my program, “The 5-Day Detox”, available at DoctorCarissa.com. This is a quick and easy-to-follow diet that will provide you with the right amount of anti-inflammatory foods, fiber and liver-supporting nutrients to help clean you out and help you get your hormones back into balance.
Non-Hormonal Birth Control Alternatives
I am not saying that women should never take hormonal birth control. There may be circumstances where the risk outweighs the benefit. One of the most concerning to women getting off the pill is obviously the risk of becoming pregnant. My mom’s best friend stopped taking the pill because she thought she was in menopause and low and behold, nine months later a baby was born, 20 years after her last child.
My great-grandmother had 15 children, bless her. For me, three was plenty. For some, none is plenty. I have plenty of friends who are 100% content with being dog moms. Luckily, I know of some alternatives to birth control pills that I will share with you, in case you don’t trust your ovaries right now.
Fertility Awareness Method
Men are fertile every single day. Women aren’t. In fact, there are only six days that a woman is fertile during her monthly cycle. If you can avoid these days, you very likely won’t get pregnant, unless there’s some sort of immaculate conception happening. The Fertility Awareness Method, which means abstaining from sex or using a barrier method such as a condom during your fertile days, can be as effective as taking hormonal birth control when used perfectly. Of course, we aren’t all perfect, so the typical failure rate using Fertility Awareness Method ranges from 2-23%.
Cons: You have to track your ovulation and abstain from sex or use a barrier method on your fertile days. It does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases unless you use a barrier method. It has a high rate of failure.
Male condoms, female condoms, diaphragms, sponges, and cervical caps all prevent sperm from entering your uterus. These are sometimes used with spermicide.
Pros: Barrier methods (without spermicide) do not mess up your hormones, put toxic chemicals into your body, do not require a prescription, and are widely available. Condoms protect against sexually transmitted diseases.
Cons: Barrier methods may make sex less pleasurable, can be distracting during sex, and come with a higher failure rate (male condom 18%, female condom 28%, diaphragm without spermicide 12%, cervical cap without spermicide 8%) than some other methods . Some products may cause skin irritation.
Copper Intrauterine Device (IUD)
The copper IUD has been around for a long time and is a small device made of copper and plastic that is inserted through a woman’s cervix and into her uterus to prevent pregnancy by impairing sperm motility and changing the uterine lining so that a fertilized egg cannot implant and develop.
Pros: Set it and forget it. Once the IUD is inserted into place, you don’t have to think about it for 10 years or more. It is highly effective with a failure rate of only 0.6% . It won’t mess up your hormones either.
Cons: It can be unpleasant during insertion, can cause heavy periods, and there’s a small risk of the IUD coming out. It may increase the risk of infection or copper toxicity.
Withdrawal or Pull-Out Method
The oldest method of birth control, the withdrawal or pull-out method is exactly as it sounds: your partner pulls out his penis and ejaculates outside of your vagina.
Pros: You don’t need to do anything except hope your partner pulls out on time.
Cons: The typical failure rate is pretty high at 28% and you can’t have sex multiple times because sperm remains in your partner’s penis after the first ejaculation and can end up in your vagina.
Deciding on Hormone Replacement Therapy
Perimenopause and menopause are not disease states, however, plenty of women don’t feel healthy during this time and it’s important to have options. Any type of medication, whether hormones or drugs such as antidepressants, blood pressure and cholesterol medications, may result in unanticipated adverse effects, so every woman’s decision to use them needs to be a personal, well-researched assessment of their potential risks and benefits.