Birth Control & Fertility
Types of Birth Control
Diet & Cleansing
Herbs for Hormonal Balance
Thoughts on Birth Control
I want to begin this article by first examining our relationship with Birth Control, especially those containing hormones. While I feel that it is important to have the freedom to choose whether or not we want to be pregnant during certain times in our lives, the more I hear from women whose cycles have been disrupted from the use of birth control containing synthetic hormones makes me wonder if there might be a better way. If we could educate ourselves, delve deeper into understanding what they do in our bodies, as well as learn alternative methods of preventing pregnancy that may be more beneficial to long-term health, we might be able to prepare for conception in a healthier way.
Birth Control and FertilityMany doctors will prescribe oral contraceptive (pill) birth control if you have fertility issues such as PCOS, Endometriosis, Ovarian Cysts or irregular menstrual cycles. While birth control may work for some time for those conditions the birth control does not address the key issue of why you have that fertility issue to begin with. Birth control may reduce pain, reduce the incidence of ovarian cyst or regulate your cycle for some time and then when you stop taking it your symptoms may come back. Many of you with these fertility issues still want to have children and taking birth control prevents that from happening. It is important to have clear communication with your doctor if you are still wanting to get pregnant while healing your body of your fertility issues at the same time. I have actually had women write in and say that their doctors did not make it clear to them that the pills they were prescribed for their fertility issues were actually birth control, which prevents pregnancy.
Daily we receive questions from women trying to get their menstrual cycles to regulate after coming off of birth control. When I speak of birth control I am speaking of the kinds that contain hormones or IUD (which may affect the uterus and menstrual cycle). Birth Control Pills, Intrauterine Device also known as IUD (Copper T, Mirena, Progestasert), Implant (Implanon), The Ring (NuvaRing), The Patch (Ortho Evra) and Injectable Progestin (Depo-Provera) all contain synthetic hormones except for the Copper T IUD.
Anytime between the time you stop using it and up to a year afterward is considered a normal time frame in which it will take for your body, on it’s own to regulate your hormones and start a regular menstrual cycle. If you were taking birth control to help regulate your cycles or for other fertility issues this average may not apply because your cycles may have not been regular to begin with. There are no guarantees that the birth control use is going to keep them regulated like when you were using it.
For some methods like the Implant or Depo-Provera some women do not get their menstrual cycle at all and it seems that these women have a harder time getting their menstrual cycles to come back.
Types of Birth Control
|Method||How it Works|
Birth control Pill
|Most birth control pills are combination pills, they contain estrogen and progestin. Some contain only progestin, but the majority of women use combination pills. These work by preventing the ovary from releasing eggs. They also thicken cervical mucous making it hard for sperm to reach the uterus. This method also thins the uterine lining which may prevent implantation.|
|Implanon||A thin flexible, plastic implant that is the size of a cardboard matchstick. It contains Progestin. The Progestin keeps the the ovaries from releasing eggs (ovulation). This hormone also thins the lining of the uterus which may prevent implantation.|
|Ortho Evra||This patch contains estrogen and progestin. These work by preventing the ovary from releasing eggs. They also thicken cervical mucous making it hard for sperm to reach the uterus. This method also thins the uterine lining which may prevent implantation.|
|Depo-Provera||This injectable shot contains progestin. Progestin keeps the ovaries from releasing the eggs, thickening cervical mucous to prevent sperm from reaching the uterus and thinning the uterine lining which may prevent implantation. Note: continued use of Depo-Provera may stop the menstrual cycle completely and it may take longer than average (9 months-1 year for the menstrual cycle to regulate after stopping it). Once you have gotten a shot of Depo-provera, side effects will not dissipate for 12-14 weeks.|
|Nuva-Ring|| This ring contains the same hormones as combination birth control pills.
The progestin and estrogen prevent ovulation, thicken the cervical mucous, and thin the uterine lining which may prevent implantation.
|IUD||The IUD prevents the sperm from moving correctly, preventing the sperm from meeting and connecting with the egg. It may also affect the uterine lining which may cause implantation problems, but there is no proof of this.|
|Mirena IUD||This IUD contains progestin which prevents ovulation as well as thickens cervical mucous. It also prevents the sperm from moving correctly toward the egg, preventing conception.|
I wanted to share this information with you so that you can see how these birth control methods directly affect hormones and the entire natural menstrual cycle. Progestin and estrogen contained in birth control is chemically created in a lab to imitate our natural progesterone and estrogen. When we use these birth control methods they are releasing hormones in our bodies at times they naturally would not, disrupting the menstrual cycle and preventing pregnancy.
Some estrogens are made from pregnant mare’s urine, but is more often used for hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in older women. Continued use of progestin has been linked to thinning of the bones when it is being used, it is important to talk to you doctor about this serious risk.
Natural Remedies To Bring Back A Healthy Menstrual Cycle
Step 1: Nourish and Cleanse
Natural Fertility Diet
Eating a whole food, nutrient dense fertility diet has been shown to increase the chances of pregnancy. Because hormones in birth control may affect our metabolism, digestion, and nutritional levels; eating properly is going to be very important when on birth control as well as afterward to replenish depleted nutritional levels.
Use of birth control containing hormones affects the levels of folic acid, riboflavin (vit.B2), vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin E and zinc. It would be wise to take a good whole food multivitamin during and after birth control use to prevent nutritional deficiency and restore already depleted levels.
Women using birth control consistently for 6 months or longer have been shown to have significantly lower levels of tryptophan, vit. B6 supplements can help normalize tryptophan metabolism.
Prolonged use of hormone containing birth control may also lead to anemia so you may also want to consider taking a wholefood iron supplement.
Birth control also changes the pH levels in the vagina, this may lead to yeast infection. Taking a good probiotic supplement containing Lactobacillus may support the body in maintaining healthy vaginal flora.
Prolonged use of progestin has been shown to thin the bones, be sure that you are eating adequate amounts of calcium rich foods like dark leafy greens, sesame seeds, seaweed, almonds, quinoa, chia, as well as limited amounts of organic dairy, yogurt, cottage cheese.
Fertility Cleansing for Liver, Hormonal and Uterine Support
The body may greatly benefit from some gentle cleansing of the liver and uterus when coming off birth control. The liver has to metabolize synthetic hormones and becomes overloaded and taxed during birth control use. The liver cleanse portion of the Fertility Cleanse helps to remove those excess hormones. The uterine cleansing phase may help to tone and cleanse the uterus. When a woman has not had a regular menstrual cycle for some time because of birth control use it may need some herbal support, the herbs in this phase are nourishing, supportive, toning and cleansing for the uterus. Because progestin has been linked to thinning of the uterine lining, the uterus may really benefit from uterine tonic herbs. These herbs also support hormonal balance and healthy cervical mucous.
Fertility cleansing may be a great way for anyone who is experiencing challenges when coming off hormonal birth control to create a foundation for hormonal balance and a healthy uterus for implantation. Fertility cleansing helps to create a “clean slate” within the body that helps the body to respond and utilize other natural remedies better.
Step 2: Herbal Support for Restoring Hormonal Balance and Promoting Ovulation
If you have tried to change your diet, are taking a whole food multivitamin and you still do not have a menstrual cycle yet you may want to learn how herbs for fertility can help promote hormonal balance, restore ovulation and bring back a normal menstrual cycle. Restoring a natural menstrual cycle is also important for egg health. Hormonal birth controls prevent ovulation which can decrease egg health. Our follicles require a normalized release of our natural hormones and adequate nutritional levels, synthetic hormones disrupt these which may impact egg health.
Once you have stopped using hormonal birth control your body may be confused and in shock. One day your body was receiving hormones and then suddenly it was not. On top of that your liver may still contain some of those synthetic hormones which may confuse the body further.
Fem Rebalance is an herbal blend designed with great consideration to women whose bodies may need support to restore hormonal balance when coming off of birth control containing hormones, HRT (hormone replacement therapy) or great times of stress including rapid weight loss or gain. This blend may help to restore proper hormonal function.
Suggested usage for this blend would be for 2-3 months after coming off of hormonal birth control. This blend is not recommended for use during fertility cleansing.
If you know you are not ovulating and you are struggling to get your cycle back you may want to learn more about this South Asian herb. One study showed that 67% of women who were not ovulating began ovulating after using Tribulus. This herb has been found to stimulate ovulation. Tribulus has been used traditionally for hundreds of years to promote healthy fertility in both women and men.
Vitex supports the hormonal feedback loop. This herb also promotes and has been shown to regulate ovulation. It has the ability to adapt to the individual hormonal needs of each woman. Because Vitex has proven effective for a variety of menstrual issues it may be a great choice to start off on the right foot to restoring a healthy natural menstrual cycle.
It has been shown to be most effective when used for 6-12 months consistently. Vitex is a remedy that has been shown to be very effective, but requires patience. It can take some time to achieve desired results, especially when coming off of birth control, but this herb is specific for regulating menstruation.
Dong Quai (angelica sinensis) is one of the most powerful females tonic and fertility herbs. Dong Quai tonifies and strengthens the uterus by regulating hormonal control, improving uterine tone, and improving the timing of the menstrual cycle.
Dong Quai works by promoting blood flow to the pelvis where it will stimulate an absent or scanty period. It also nourishes the blood (it is in nearly all Chinese herbal blood-building formulas). Dong quai, being iron rich is useful in treating iron deficient anemia. One of the best uses is it helps women who are not menstruating to invite their menstruation back. The increased circulation also helps to strengthen and balance the uterus. In rat studies it has been shown to help build the uterine lining.
We have learned that some types of birth control contain progestin, which may cause the uterine lining to become thin over time. Prolonged birth control use in some women has also been linked to anemia. Because Dong Quai is a wonderful uterine and blood tonic it may help the body to restore a healthy uterine lining and help prevent anemia.
Maca is one of the best supportive tonics for our endocrine system; which controls and produces many of our hormones. This root is very nourishing. Maca root supports overall hormonal balance and may greatly support our bodies through times of stress. An important aspect when dealing with discontinuing synthetic hormones is the stress factor. It is extremely stressful on our bodies to take synthetic hormones and then abruptly stop them. Maca may help to restore hormonal harmony once again.
Many women do not have a menstrual period for many months to even years after discontinuing birth control. If you have not had a menstrual period after coming off of birth control, you may want to consider RejuvaFlow. This is an activating herbal blend designed to encourage and promote healthy menstruation. It is a specialized herbal formula designed to help encourage or “re-start” the monthly menses that is missing due to hormonal irregularities. RejuvaFlow supports menstrual health by increasing circulation to the reproductive system, helping to “build the blood” and promote a normal, regular menstrual cycle once again.
Step 3: Restore Healthy Cervical Mucous
Once the menstrual cycle is restored, healthy cervical mucous production should be restored as well. If you find you are still struggling with lack of cervical mucous you may want to consider supplements that have been shown to help promote healthy CM production.
Cervical mucous production may be altered for some time as well since the hormones in birth control thicken cervical mucous for some time. Supplements that have proven results for restoring healthy CM are Evening Primrose Oil, Borage Oil, L-Arginine and Fertile CM. Be sure to drink plenty of water daily. At first you may also want to consider using a sperm friendly lubricant until your natural healthy cervical mucous is restored.
Step 4: Abdominal or Fertility Massage
Across the board massage therapy is one of the most supportive ways you can support the body in healing. More specifically fertility or abdominal massage focuses specifically on the reproductive system, helping to promote ovulation, support communication with the endocrine system, improve circulation to the uterus and ovaries (which strengthens the uterus and promotes healthy eggs); it also supports the body in ridding of those excess toxins and hormones. This type of massage is a great way to be directly connected to healing your fertility. You can find a practioner who specializes in fertility or abdominal massage or you can learn how to do this massage for yourself with the Self Fertility Massage method.
Additional Thoughts on Birth Control
The Love and Hate Relationship with Birth Control
We must give a lot of respect to birth control and the variety of options for birth control we have today. We now have more control than ever to choose when and if we want to have children. But regardless, I feel many women and men have lost their true relationship with their body, which also means they may have lost respect for birth control. Many continue to use it without thinking of the consequences of long-term use. It is important to remember that we are still creatures of the Earth, our bodies are made-up of the same materials as the Earth and we are filling them with foreign man-made substances that may greatly impact our health.
Choosing Birth Control Wisely
I am asking each person to be responsible for their choices and actions, research the facts on long-term side effects of birth control use so that when you choose to use birth control you are understanding that it may affect your fertility and health later in life. Weigh the risks; getting pregnant or not getting pregnant? How will getting pregnant impact my life? How will preventing pregnancy impact my health? How can you balance those choices to serve your highest good? Ask yourself, is this something I am willing to use long-term or is this a short-term goal? How will taking this impact my fertility? Are there better or safer options for me? There are options out there that may be just as effective as hormonal birth control, but may take more diligence when using them. Condoms, diaphragm, spermicide and charting your cycle (fertility awareness method, natural family planning, BBT, cycle beads and OPK) are some alternatives to hormonal birth control.
Be Patient, Be Gentle With Yourself
The body goes through a lot of confusion and stress when coming off of birth control. Be patient with your body, give it time to adjust to the intense hormonal shifts that have to take place. Expect that you may feel sad, angry, depressed and simply “off”. This is normal when any hormonal adjusting is taking place. Be gentle with yourself and how you are feeling. Know that you can work toward restoring your natural hormonal state and can move on to working toward trying to conceive through proper nutritional, herbal and natural therapy support.
If you have chosen to come off birth control to prepare for conception there are are many natural therapies we have covered to help you along the way. Many women are able to get pregnant regardless of using birth control for years, but some may have some lingering imbalances. Here are some of the natural options covered in this article:
1. Support hormonal balance with a healthy fertility diet.
2. Fertility cleansing helps to support the body’s natural ability to cleanse excess hormones from the system.
3. Herbs such as vitex, tribulus, maca and dong quai can help to restore hormone balance.
4. Promote cervical mucous production with natural supplements like evening primrose oil or L-Arginine.
5. Increase circulation to the reproductive system with fertility massage.
– Birth control guide at: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control (2015)
– Tori Hudson, ND. (2008). Women’s Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, pp 55-62. McGraw Hill
– Christiane Northrup, MD. (2010). Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, pp 394-412. New York: Bantam Books
– Romm, Aviva, MD. (2010). Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health. St. Louis, Missouri: Churchill Livingstone.