My Experience on Hormonal Birth Control
Hi! My name is Laura and I am a Pelvic Physiotherapist who is passionate about normalizing conversations about pelvic health. I have a bit of a personal story to share with you today, so thanks for being here. I think sharing stories about our experiences can be a helpful strategy to take away the taboo about pelvic health. If you have a pelvic health story to share of any kind, feel free to contact me here!
I started taking the birth control pill when I was sixteen for painful period cramps. I used to have such extreme cramps that I would miss school and be doubled over in pain. In order to allow me to function, my family doctor recommended hormonal birth control. At this time this seemed like a reasonable solution, and as a sixteen year old I truly didn’t think about any long term consequences nor did I take the time to understand what being on birth control really meant in the long run.
Getting off the Pill:
In March 2021, my husband and I decided that we wanted to start to get ready to grow our family so I decided to get off of birth control to let my body have some time to normalize before a pregnancy. I did a lot of research at the time about steps to take to help restore my normal period cycle as quickly as possible, and I didn’t find much in the way of help. So, I went to visit my Nurse Practitioner and the only advice I was given was to monitor my cycle for one to three months because that’s how long it would take for my cycle to regulate. Afterwards, I decided to go to a Naturopath, who recommended eating broccoli three times/week, castor oil hot packs, regular exercise and hydration.
I was also having some other health issues at the time including extremely low iron, vitamin D and vitamin B12. To help with this, I started taking some additional supplementation of vitamins and minerals at the recommendation of my ND to support these deficiencies.
My period returned the first month I went off the pill, but for the first few months the length of my cycle ranged dramatically from 23-30 days. I had a lot of spotting for the first few cycles and it was really hard to establish my normal baseline. Because I was on birth control for so long, I also found it hard to understand what my normal was, because my body had been regulated by synthetic hormones for so long.
After the first three months, my cycle was relatively stabilized but I was dealing with a lot of PMS symptoms. Week three is my least favourite week of my cycle, and I know I’m definitely not alone in this! I had a lot of PMS symptoms including breast tenderness, headaches and a drop in mood. I continued to follow the recommendations from my naturopath but I just wasn’t making enough headway in my symptoms so I decided to try some additional strategies.
I did notice that there was an increase in pelvic floor muscle tension after going off of the pill. I found that I really had to modify how I was inserting my Diva Cup. I'm still trying to figure out if I need to change sizes or try a different position to insert the cup. Honestly, I don't think my pelvic floor is only being impacted by getting off the the pill, I have always struggled with pelvic floor tension. But there is definitely some correlation between going off of birth control and the ease of inserting my menstrual cup.
Six Months Later
By September, after continuing to have PMS symptoms, I had discovered the Gut Lab supplement Her. I did a little bit of research and found that shatavari root used in the supplement can be helpful for regulation of female hormones. The first cycle I tried this, my symptoms improved dramatically, especially the breast tenderness.
Intrigued about the possibility of healing my cycle with food, I did a little bit more research. After some research, I discovered the Soulful Sprout and her Mend Your Menstrual Cycle Program which I found to be quite helpful. You can find her website here. Then in November, Ashleigh the nutritionist from Soulful Sprout released some hormonal tea blends. The teas are designed to help support your body during each phase of your cycle. I ordered them instantly, and this is what really helped to bring my symptoms to a close. Finally, after almost eight months of going off of birth control, I was able to get rid of my PMS. Ps. I loved the teas so much that I have a discount code to share with you. You can purchase blends for 10% off with the code 'Laura10'.
In addition to working on fuelling my body well with food, I worked with a pelvic floor physiotherapist to help manage some pelvic floor tension. I also met with an acupuncturist to help with the PMS symptoms and finally, focused on managing my mental health in the midst of the pandemic. In addition, I re-established an exercise program five days a week ranging from yoga to HIIT style exercise. I want to recognize that I am truly privileged to have access to such great health care, both public and private. I am very grateful to have had the opportunities to try different avenues to heal my body.
Because I tried so many different things, I’m not entirely sure I could say which was the most helpful. But I do think that food is really powerful and can make a great change to your overall health, along with hydration, exercise and mental health management.
Where I’m at Now
Now, I’m at a point where my cycle is regular between 28-29 days with minimal symptoms of PMS. When I started this journey last March, I didn’t think that it would take this long to restore my cycle to a symptom free state. I wanted to share this story in the hopes that if someone else feels lost in their journey from hormonal birth control that they feel less alone. I also think it’s really important to note that while your period may return to a regular rhythm within a few months of being off hormonal birth control, PMS symptoms do not have to be your normal baseline and they can be changed or improved.
Finally, I want to note that this is not a blog for medical advice, this is a story of my personal experience and what worked for me. I would highly recommend that you seek advice from a physician or allied health care professional to figure out what strategies may work for you. If you have concerns about hormonal related symptoms, I would also strongly encourage you to speak to your primary care provider. If you need additional support, a pelvic floor physiotherapist, registered dietitian or naturopath are excellent practitioners to invite into your care team.
If you have questions about anything I shared in the post, feel free to reach out to me here, I look forward to hearing from you!