Going off the Pill: A Naturopath's Checklist - www.clarabailey.com

Going off the Pill: A Naturopath’s Checklist

Going off the pill after long-term use can feel like a daunting task.  You may be worried about the less than pleasant side effects such as acne, weight gain, hair loss or irregular periods (or no periods).  If you’re going off the pill to fall pregnant you may be concerned about balancing your hormones and getting your fertility up and running ASAP.  I’ve gathered together a checklist of how to safely and smoothly transition off the pill using diet, lifestyle and herbal remedies.

For all women, you can stop taking the pill at any time.  You will have a withdrawal bleed, and then the next couple of months will involve your body reawakening the pathways of hormone communication between your brain and your ovaries.  This may only take a month for some women, for others it may take longer.

Remembering what your periods were like before going on the pill is the best place to begin.  I recommend incorporating these suggested changes and remedies 6-8 weeks before stopping the pill – this will ensure the smoothest transition.  If you have already gone off the pill these guidelines still apply.

Transitioning to natural birth control.

If you are transitioning to the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) begin educating yourself and get a good handle on the principles before you stop taking the pill.  This shouldn’t take too long –  women I teach understand within 30 minutes – the mastery comes with the practice.  I’ve written an eBook that is about a 20 minute read with everything you need to know to get started.  Then I recommend investing in some reference books such as “Taking Charge of your Fertility” by Toni Weschler and “The Billings Method” by Dr Evelyn Billings and Ann Westmore.  You need to start charting for 3 consecutive cycles before relying on it as a birth control method.

If you are transitioning to another form of birth control (i.e. condoms, diaphragm, IUD etc.), make sure you have everything set up and ready to go before going off the pill. With that in mind, let’s launch into the dietary changes, lifestyle practices and natural medicines you can use to support your body:

My Periods Were Normal before Going on the Pill

  • Nourish and Restore your Nutrients by eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fish, modest amounts of pasture-reared (organic if possible) meat and healthy fats (think nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil and ghee).
  • Raspberry leaf and nettle nourishing infusion.  To a 1-litre glass jar or teapot, add 1/4 cup each of raspberry leaf and nettle teas and pour over with 1 litre of boiling water.  Allow to steep for 4 hours or overnight.  Drink 2 cups a day (refrigerate the rest for the following day)
  • Take 30 drops (about 1ml) of Schisandra extract in a little water before meals.
  • The above nourishing infusion is rich in many of the nutrients the pill depletes, but if herbal teas are not your thing, you can give your body a boost taking a good quality supplement of:
    • B vitamin complex – 1 a day
    • Magnesium (as citrate or glycinate) – 300mg twice a day
    • Immune nutrient complex (make sure it contains selenium, zinc, vitamins C and E).

Going off the pill natural birth control naturopath Clara Bitcon

Going off the Pill & Irregular Periods

If your period was irregular before going on the pill, it is likely that they will be irregular when you stop.
– In addition to measures outlined for “normal”, it will be wise to do some investigative work with a naturopath or holistically minded doctor.  Thyroid imbalances, gluten sensitivity, high prolactin, high androgens, blood sugar and insulin issues and low vitamin D can all be root causes for irregular periods.
– If you have a formal diagnosis (which means blood work + ultrasound) for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, starting treatment 3 months before going off the pill is ideal.

Going off the Pill & Heavy Bleeding

  • Follow the guideline for ‘normal’
  • If you didn’t investigate the causes of your heavy periods before going on the pill, work with a naturopath or holistically minded doctor to do some digging.  Undiagnosed endometriosis, uterine fibroids, thyroid imbalances and anaemia could each explain the cause of your heavy bleeding.
  • Cut dairy out of your diet.
  • Drink raspberry leaf and ladies mantle infusion.  1/4 cup of each to 1 litre of boiled water and steeped overnight and drink 2 cups daily.
  • When your periods do return, and if they are heavy, take fresh Shepherd’ Purse tincture, 1 ml in a little water every hour until the flow slows.

Periods Were Painful before Going off the Pill

  • Follow the guidelines for ‘normal’.
  • Avoid chocolate and coffee.
  • Take magnesium glycinate 300mg twice a day during the month, and when your period begins, increase to four times a day.
  • Take a high-quality fish oil with high EPA levels take 1000mg of EPA daily.  If you are vegan or vegetarian, take 1000mg of evening primrose oil daily instead (or 1 teaspoon).
  • Combine the Schisandra with an equal part Motherwort to have throughout the month, 2ml three times a day.
  • Add 0.5-1ml of cramp bark extract to your raspberry and nettle infusion and increase your intake to four cups throughout your period.

Printable moon map and fertility chart by Clara Bitcon Bailey Naturopath

I Experienced PMS

  • Follow the guidelines for ‘normal’.
  • Out of the supplement options, take a magnesium and B6 combination (Bioceuticals’ UltraMuscleze P5P is useful here).
  • Take an iodine supplement, 1000mcg a day (if you have thyroid issues, check with a naturopath first).
  • Combine the Schisandra with an equal part Motherwort to have throughout the month, 2ml three times a day.
  • If you also experience premenstrual migraines, add Wood Betony to the above mix. This means you’ll have 30ml of each Schisandra, Motherwort and Wood Betony and take 3ml three times a day in a little water.

I Experienced Tender Breasts Leading up to my Period

  • Follow the guidelines for ‘normal’.
  • Eat seaweed! Think arame, wakame or nori strips added to soups and salads.  Nori snacks.  Add kombu to soup stocks.  Gomascio and dulse flakes are tasty condiments.
  • Take an iodine supplement, 1000mcg a day(if you have thyroid issues, check with a naturopath first).
  • Raspberry leaf and red clover or violet leaves nourishing infusion,1/4 cup of each to 1 litre of boiled water and steeped overnight and drink 2 cups daily.
  • To your Schisandra extract, add 5% poke root extract (i.e. in a 100ml bottle you’ll have 95ml Schisandra and 5ml Poke) and take 30 drops three times a day.

I’m Concerned my Acne Will Come Back

Start all of the following 6-8 weeks before stopping the pill:

  • Avoid sugar and dairy.  If you experience regular digestive issues, cut out wheat products too.
  • Focus on eating foods from the broccoli and cabbage family: broccoli sprouts, cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts, cabbage, saurkraut etc.
  • Make a nourishing infusion by combining all of these skin, blood, liver, bowel and kidney cleansing herbs and adding 1/2 cup of the mix to 4 cups of boiled water and drink 2-3 cups a day.
    • 2 parts nettle
    • 2 parts clivers or red clover
    • 1 part calendula
    • 1/2 part yellow dock (if you cannot find, use raw dandelion root instead)
    • 1/2 part burdock
    • 1/4 part licorice (optional)
  • Take a zinc supplement (in citrate or glycinate form) – 30-50mg a day after food.
  • If your acne was cystic before going on the pill, add Oregon grape root to your Schisandra extract – equal parts of both, and take 2ml before meals.

What to do if after 3 months off the pill your cycle and symptoms have not improved?

At this point, if you have not yet got your period or if it is excessively heavy or painful, some deeper investigation with a naturopath or holistically minded doctor will help you uncover the root cause.  This is also the time to try taking Vitex (Chasteberry) as a wonderful hormone regulator.  The reason I don’t recommend taking it earlier is to allow the body the chance to fall into its own rhythm first.

I am quite particular with my dosing of vitex and have found that the following has worked the best in most cases.  Take 20 drops in a little water (or 1 tablet – specifics) upon waking. Keep it in your bathroom, and it will be easy to remember. It is best to try to take it around the same time each morning. After ovulation increase to 40 drops (or 2 tablets) – learning the fertility awareness method will give you a very clear idea of when this is.  If you’re not sure when this is, make the switch around the halfway point of your cycle. When you begin bleeding, stop taking. Once bleeding has stopped, resume again. It may sound complicated, but once you’re in the swing, it’s nice and easy. Occasionally some women can get frontal headaches, in these cases decrease the dose to 5-10 drops.

Going off the Pill: A Naturopath's Checklist

Women's Health Issues & Conditions

January 17, 2018

  1. bailey says:

    Wow I feel so grateful to have come across this article! I am about to get off of birth control and I could not be more excited. This feels really reassuring and I”m going to purchase these herbs today! It’s funny because my name is Bailey.. I’ve been trying to find the right OBGYN for like 9 months after some bad experiences.. Today I went to my new gyno, her name was Bailey. As I pulled up I realized her office was right off of Bailey Lane…. And then now I’m doing research to soothe the transition and I came across your article!! Amazing, it just feels divinely guided and I’m so excited to try this out. Thank you for sharing this Clara!

    • Clara Bailey says:

      Hi Bailey! Oh I love that synchronicity. Good luck with the transition!! All these tips will make a big difference. Take special care!

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