Looking to switch to a non-hormonal method? Trying to get pregnant? Simply seeking a change after experiencing unwelcome side effects? The transition off hormonal birth control can be liberating. Yes, liberating! Hormonal birth control did NOT work for me. Big thanks to physicians like Dr. Daniel Amen for presenting the research like: “taking birth control pills causes structural changes in the brain, alters neurotransmitter function, and messes with mood regulation.” Not to mention a study from Live Science. It found that the hypothalamus in women taking oral contraceptives was 6% smaller than in women who weren’t on the pill.

For me, I belong to the generation of women who were prescribed the pill as a teen for irregular cycles and acne. And now those teenagers are WOMEN I see every week in practice. They come in for Hormonal Imbalances, PCOS, Fatigue and Depression (and infertility). PCOS was the first symptom I experienced within a year of coming off of the birth control pill. Then the depression and anxiety were in full force a year or two after THAT. All because I went to my doctor in my early twenties for Brain Fog, Mood Swings and Fatigue! The very puzzle I was trying to solve became more complicated. But seriously — how LAZY is this? Prescribing a young woman the birth control pill for well-known hormone imbalances without any testing?!

It’s for this reason that I’ve spent over the last twenty years trying to learn about my body and peel back the layers of my many Hormone Imbalances (some were caused by the pill, some were caused by my work-hard-play-hard lifestyle and others are a consequence of my genetics). 

How to transition off your hormonal birth control

If you’re feeling the side effects like I was and you are ready to transition off hormonal birth control, here are some tips.

  1. Consult with Your Healthcare Provider: Before making any changes to your birth control regimen, it’s crucial to discuss your plans with a healthcare provider (NOT me or this blog post. This is not medical information). 
  2. Finish Your Current Pack: To avoid mid-cycle bleeding and to keep your cycle more predictable, consider finishing your current pack of birth control pills. 
  3. Support Your Body Through Lifestyle Choices: Engaging in regular physical activity, maintaining a balanced diet, ensuring adequate hydration, and managing stress can all support your body’s transition off hormonal birth control. I mean, come on, these are things you should be doing for your HEALTH and HORMONES anyway. 
  4. Monitor Your Menstrual Cycle: After stopping hormonal birth control, it may take some time for your menstrual cycle to regulate. I list my favorite options below. 
  5. Expect a Transition Period: It’s normal to experience a transition period as your body adjusts to the absence of externally supplied hormones. This period can vary from a few weeks to a few months.

What about the non-hormonal IUD? 

Going the IUD-route is a PERSONAL decision and one that requires “risk analysis” that only you can do. When my doctor recommended the copper, non-hormonal IUD to me, I was legit concerned with the known side-effects, at that time, which were: severe pain following the procedure, perforation and expulsion. But some women never experience any of this! If you are currently using a hormonal or non-hormonal IUD and it works for you, then Brava you probably shouldn’t even be reading this. 

I will tell you that in all the years I’ve been practicing Functional Medicine, women are no longer just being prescribed IUD’s for pregnancy prevention; rather to correct Hormone Imbalances (PCOS, heavy or infrequent cycles, unwanted hair growth or loss, PMDD, acne, brain fog, PMS, migraines, etc). And the women who transitioned from the standard birth control pill to an IUD are frustrated with their fertility struggles because it has become difficult to Balance Hormones and reclaim their cycle. 

What I use instead

I find fertility trackers like Temp Drop and cycle trackers like Clue to be amazing chemical-free alternatives. In my opinion, cycle tracking is the way to go because it is a chemical-free way to nail down ovulation to the day (Temp Drop does a really good job of this!). Tempdrop tracks body temperature and other physiological parameters throughout the night, to help you determine ovulation patterns and fertile windows. Below are some others to help you track.  

  • The Inito Fertility Monitor measures four critical hormones: Estrogen, LH (Luteinizing Hormone), PdG (Progesterone metabolite), and FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone). 
  • Mira offers hormone scores, levels, and trends for LH, E3G (estrogen), and PdG.
  • Daysy allows users to monitor their menstrual cycle and determine fertile and infertile days, supporting natural family planning efforts.

Get back to basics 

The role of diet and lifestyle in hormonal health cannot be overstated. The foods we consume not only provide the energy and nutrients necessary for our daily activities but also play crucial roles in regulating and balancing hormones within our bodies. 

  • Diets rich in phytoestrogens (found in foods like flaxseeds, soybeans, and sesame seeds) can modulate estrogen activity in the body.
  • Consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, prevalent in fatty fish, walnuts, and chia seeds, has been associated with reduced inflammation.
  • Foods high in refined sugars and processed carbohydrates, for example, can lead to spikes in insulin levels, thereby affecting the delicate balance of other hormones, including those involved in reproductive health.
  • Focusing on nutrient-dense foods can significantly support hormonal fluctuations.

Lifestyle plays a part

Beyond diet, lifestyle choices profoundly affect hormonal balance. Stress management techniques, such as mindfulness meditation and yoga, have been shown to positively influence hormonal health by reducing cortisol levels, a stress hormone that can disrupt other hormonal functions when chronically elevated. Additionally, regular physical activity and adequate sleep are paramount in maintaining a balanced endocrine system, as they help regulate stress and support overall well-being. Follow me on INSTAGRAM for more tips like these!! 

Don’t forget to explore more of my blog posts and reach out if you have any questions.

The information provided in this blog post is for informational purposes only. The information is a result of years of practice and experience by Dr. Francesca LeBlanc. However, this information is NOT intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician. Do not use the information provided in this post for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing medication or other treatment. Always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal or homeopathic supplement, or using any treatment for a health problem. Please, do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional advice because of something you have read on this website.