Coming off the Oral Contraceptive Pill (OCP) results in 80% of user’s hormonal balance taking on average three months to regulate, however, it does often take longer and the symptoms that the OCP may have been prescribed for initially will still be present, potentially even exacerbated.
One of the most common symptoms associated with coming off the OCP is amenorrhea or an absence of periods. The reproductive system has essentially been shut down during the time the woman has been on the OCP and once these synthetic hormones are taken away, it takes a while for it to ‘wake up’ and function naturally again. This can be explained as mis-communication between the hypothalamus, pituitary and the ovaries, the three major control centres for reproductive hormonal control.
There is a general understanding that it takes a woman approximately eight years from menarche (first period) to develop her normal menstrual cycle. The problem with this is that many women will go on the OCP before that eight-year mark, halting their cycle’s maturation and putting it on hold until they come off the OCP. One of the biggest issues with this is that because their body wasn’t able to finish developing its natural rhythm, it must now pick up where it left off and this can look like irregular cycle lengths, bleeds and symptoms – which are all natural phenomena for a newly menstruating woman to experience while the body adjusts to this new phase of life but quite distressing for someone who believes they are more developmentally mature.
Many women come off the pill because they are now ready to fall pregnant, however, some women may have underlying conditions such as PCOS or Endometriosis that expressed as irregular cycles or symptoms when they were younger which were covered up by the OCP. Because of this, they have delayed their diagnosis and the necessary treatment, which has now also further delayed their fertility window, due to the belief that the OCP ‘cured’ their initial symptoms.
Women who want to fall pregnant often come off the pill and expect to conceive somewhat immediately. The difficulty with this is the unpredictability of ovulation and potential anovulation (lack of ovulation) for a period following coming of the OCP. On average, it takes four months to fall pregnant if both partners are perfectly healthy. For women post-OCP who may have underlying reproductive conditions or undeveloped cycles, it is expected to take much longer.
Another difficulty is nutritional deficiency which can hinder fertility. The OCP is associated with stripping nutrients from the body such as folate, magnesium, Vitamin D and B vitamins, all necessary for healthy conception. Replenishing nutritional status is an essential step for all women post-OCP, particularly for those women who are hoping to conceive. By restoring nutritional health, a number of symptoms may also subside with time such as pain, acne, mood changes, as well as healthy functioning of the reproductive systems natural rhythm.
Post-pill Syndrome might not be a medically recognised condition but it is a real phenomena experienced by most women who decide to come off the OCP. If you would like some help managing symptoms coming off the OCP please get in contact with a naturopath or if you would like to work with me, I'd love to help you.