This week, November 5-11, marked the first ever Post-Birth Control Syndrome Awareness Week. Hosted by Dr. Jolene Brighten, the effort sought to help women “make informed decisions about birth control—whether you want to get on, get off or reverse/prevent side effects.”
Dr. Brighten was on the Pill for 10 years before she realized the damage she was doing to her system. Her moods were unreliable and she’d developed acne from her prescription. She was already trained in nutritional biochemistry and was on her way to a medical degree. Despite her doctor not taking her concerns about her side effects seriously, she knew there had to be another way.
Like the majority of women, Dr. Brighten was on the Pill to treat symptoms (in her case, very heavy periods), not as a method of birth control. She dove into understanding how our hormones work—both naturally and with medication—and developed a protocol for coming off the Pill and living a healthier life. Her findings will be published in January in her forthcoming book, Beyond the Pill: A 30-Day Program to Balance Your Hormones, Reclaim Your Body, and Reverse the Dangerous Side Effects of the Birth Control Pill.
This week, she hosted over 50 hours of online presentations that explore why the Pill does what it does to women’s bodies and how we can counteract those side effects. Brighten believes, “there’s a reason you’re feeling fatigued, frazzled, irritable and struggling with your hormones. There is a root cause to autoimmune disease, PMS, fertility issues, brain fog, chronic pain, and digestive disorders.” Treating the symptoms doesn’t remedy the issue, and chances are that an unresolved issue will continue to rear its head in other ways down the line, perhaps most painfully when a woman is trying to conceive.
The Pill—as well as the patch, implant, shot, and IUDs—work by manipulating a woman’s hormones. Especially when ingested for years at a time, the damage caused can be challenging to undo. The symptoms that triggered the prescription may still be present, and new issues like Pill-induced acne now need to be managed as well. Some women have an easy transition and their period resumes within three months. But for others, it can take time for the body to regulate. Still, conventional medicine doesn’t always recognize this as a real problem.
Post-birth control syndrome can present itself in a range of symptoms, experienced four to six months after going off of hormonal birth control: headaches, hair loss, libido loss, mood swings, insomnia, depression, chronic yeast infections and UTIs, acne and rashes, irregular periods, and difficulty conceiving. According to Dr. Brighten, “It is well documented that birth control leads to nutrient depletions, mood symptoms and scarier side effects like cancer, blood clots, strokes, and heart attacks. And women round the world have complained of post-birth control syndrome symptoms since the introduction of hormonal birth control.”
It’s unfortunate that the struggle of going off the Pill has been overlooked for as long as it has. Trading symptoms for side effects is not a winning solution.
Thankfully, as more and more women turn away from the Pill, their concerns are being taken more seriously, and more resources are becoming available in femtech and beyond. Post-birth control syndrome can be treated with a combination of good nutrition (restoring the key nutrients the body lost while taking the Pill), improved sleep patterns, supplementation, stress reduction, and a particular focus on the gut and liver. For those who have looked to the Pill for contraception, there are plenty of more natural, healthier, evidence-based options to track your fertility, as well as your overall health. Charting your cycle can take a variety of forms, but all of the modern charting methods have one thing in common: no harmful side effects, and a healthier, stronger you.
The road to a healthier, happier, hormone-balanced life is no longer one any woman needs to walk alone.