Let’s face it; if a girl’s period is irregular, heavy, or painful when she goes to her family doctor, the first line of treatment will be to go on the pill.
Her well-meaning conventional medical doctor may tell her that the pill can minimize acne, even out moods, regulate menstrual cycles and optimal health seems to be restored! Almost like magic?
She may receive a very minimal amount of information about the potential risks of the pill and led to believe that the benefits far outweigh the risks.
These risks include blood clots, higher blood pressure, gall bladder disease, infertility, increased risk of cervical and breast cancer.
But, hey this young girl is not worried about all these diseases, let alone her fertility, she simply wants to regulate her cycle and feel and look good!
Fast forward 10-15 years later and she now wants to have a baby.
She decides to come off the pill and while some women are able to have regular menstrual cycles relatively quickly, for others it is simply not the case.
They struggle with the same health issues they had before they went on the pill and in many cases these symptoms are now worse.
Achieving Fertility After Hormonal Birth Control
Birth Control Impacts Nutrient Levels
There are studies that indicate the birth control pill can decrease certain nutrients in the body. The pill is found to lower vitamin B6, B12, B2 levels, including folate, vitamin C, copper, magnesium, selenium and zinc.
Plus due to the depletion of our soil and consumption of the standard western diet (which includes a heavy reliance on processed foods) our nutrient levels can already be low.
All of these nutrients play a vital role in the menstrual cycle and can contribute to irregular periods, no periods (amenorrhea), no ovulation, alternating cycle length or bleeding for long or short length of time. They also play a role in fertility and conception.
How Do We Restore Nutrient Levels?
The best suggestion is to eat a nutrient dense diet with targeted supplementation when needed! I always recommend switching to the fertility diet! It’s low in inflammatory foods and high in nutrient dense foods, which help prepare your body for baby.
- It’s best to take a professional grade prenatal that has methylated folate and not folic acid. Research indicates that as much as half the population may have impaired methylation via the MTHFR gene and need a more bioavailable form. Always opt for folate with “5-methyltetrahydrofolate” (5-MTHF)
- Add in foods rich in B vitamins such as dark leafy greens, poultry, shellfish and eggs
- Consume foods with vitamin C such as dark leafy greens, citrus fruits and berries (plus they are great for your immune system!)
- Don’t forget to have foods that are high in magnesium such as brazil nuts, poultry, eggs and grass fed meats
- Make the switch to organic produce and grass fed, wild caught, antibiotic free meats and fish. If the cost is prohibitive opt for the dirty dozen or clean fifteen.
The Pill Disrupts Your Gut Flora
We are just beginning to understand the role of the microbiome and our health.
Essentially when we come out of our mother’s womb our microbiome starts to take shape. The first microbes are acquired through the vaginal canal and breast milk contains beneficial bacteria too. So if you were born via C-section or bottle-fed you are slightly behind from the beginning.
The microbiome represents the number of microorganisms and their collective genetic material present in the human body or environment. The Human Microbiome Project is developing research resources to enable study of the microbial communities that live in our body and the role they play in human health.
There are huge benefits to having a healthy microbiome, from improved skin health, joint health, mood issues, digestive health and autoimmune disease.
However, stress, antibiotics, poor diet and chronic medications like the pill can negatively alter the microbiome, which can potentially impact your fertility.
How Do I Restore My Microbiome?
- Consume a good quality probiotic.
- Consume more probiotic rich foods such as probiotic drinks, bone broth, kombucha, sauerkraut and kimchi which can all help to restore the beneficial gut bacteria
- Add more living plants into your diet, such as cilantro, parsley, basil and lemon balm
What to Do Next?
It may take some time to restore your cycle after taking oral contraceptives, or your cycles may be restored right after stopping the pill.
Since I deal exclusively with women trying to conceive I typically find that symptoms such as irregular periods, no periods, heavy periods and painful periods are quite common. And yes, many of these women have recently come off the birth control pill.
It’s the classic chicken or the egg. For many women they were prescribed the birth control pill because of symptoms with their menstrual cycle. When they come off the pill these issues are typically still present. Others find that they now have other health issues and their menstrual cycle is disrupted after coming off the pill.
Preconception health is so important, but many women rush right into trying to have baby without fully preparing their body for pregnancy.
Remember it only takes 90 days for the egg to renew itself and the life cycle of the sperm is 70-80 days, so in a very short period of time you can dramatically improve your health and impact the health of your future child. If you have been on the pill for any substantial amount of time, it may take longer to restore your health. Do not worry, however, it can be done.
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I definitely feel like “the pill” messed with my gut flora and that was even before I read this article. I am now working on rebuilding my Microbiome. Some great advice here.