The hottest topic at the moment is women’s health. So many of us are put on the pill at a young age, and find ourselves in our mid 20’s questioning why exactly we are on the pill / have been taking the pill for 9 or so years. Maybe you had some acne as a teenager, and have stayed on in fear of it returning. Obviously it is also a form of contraception, which in itself is a major reason to be on, and stay on the pill.
But there is so much value in having a normal regular period that we aren’t told about when we are given the script at the GP.
Periods aren’t meant to be super painful, write you off for a week, cause your skin to go nuts or make you want to commit homicide every month. If these are issues you feel you are avoiding by taking the pill, then stay with me and keep reading.
A regular period is important for:
- Bone health
- Nutritional status
- Healthy moods
Oestrogen and progesterone play important roles in the quality and strength of your bone health, reducing risk of osteoporosis in later life. They also support growth and maintenance of healthy hair and help keep your moods level.
Not only that, having a regular (natural) period demonstrates that you have sufficient nutritional status to allow for a monthly bleed, which specifically can reflect your iron storage levels.
So what stops us from coming off the pill?
Post pill acne
Many women remain on the pill in fear of their skin breaking out when they come off it, or returning to acne problems that drove them to take the pill in the first place. The way that the pill clears the skin is that it suppresses sebum production (sebum is the waxy oil our skin makes naturally) and so this is often how it resolves and clears up problem skin. So when we stop the pill, your body has to re-establish its production of sebum (which can go a little wild) and this is how acne can occur.
If your period and ovulation are regular, and you learn how to pay attention to changes in your cycle, you can even use the natural fertility method as contraception. This involves taking your basal body temperature each morning when you wake up and tracking it over the length of your cycle. The core body temperature raises about 1 degree during ovulation, so after tracking your temperature for a few cycles you should be able to predict your “fertile window”. This is a period of time where you know you MUST use extra barrier methods such as condoms or abstain from sex to avoid becoming pregnant. You can use this same method when wanting to conceive, as this fertile window will be the best time to get busy on the baby making front.
After all this, when you do decide to come off the pill, you can develop post pill amenorrhea. Amenorrhea? Amenorrhea is a term meaning abnormal absence of menstruation. When I was first studying and learnt the term I remembered it in a way – “amen I don’t have my period”. But now I have come full circle and learnt why amenorrhea is bad.
Amenorrhea is actually the reason I became a Naturopath. I experienced post pill amenorrhea, and doctors and gynaecologists just told me that I could get my period back by going back on the pill (no thanks), otherwise there was nothing wrong with me, and that it would just be ~harder~ for me to have children one day. I was completely unsatisfied and there my passion for women’s health and fertility was born!
So how does amenorrhea occur? When you take the pill a gland in your brain called the hypothalamus detects hormones in your system. The hypothalamus is usually in charge of signalling your adrenals to create hormones as part of your cycle via an axis called the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal/ovarian axis. Because there are hormones in your system from the pill, your body stops producing hormones, and so ovulation doesn’t occur and so you can’t fall pregnant. When you take the sugar pills to get your monthly, it mimics the natural decline of hormones at the end of your cycle, so your uterus sheds its lining in similar fashion. Voila – fake cycle and no babies!
The hypothalamus then gets used to this hormone supplement, so when you decide to stop the pill, it needs to re-establish this signalling pathway so that your cycle can come back to normal. It’s kind of like it gets lazy.
For a lot of people it doesn’t return, or it is hindered by the following:
- Nutrient deficiencies created or exacerbated by the pill
- Weight gain – a common side effect of the pill
- Stress – trying/failing to fall pregnant immediately after stopping the pill
- History of menstrual issues/irregularity before starting the pill
This is where beautiful herbal medicine takes the lead. Herbs can be employed to hold your body’s hand while it relearns the patterns of the menstrual cycle and ovulation. From there, you have a pattern that you can use to track for your fertility, use as contraception, and to quite often put an end to hormonal breakouts, PMS, severe pain etc. caused by hormonal imbalance.
If you have any further questions about periods, the pill or your hormones, please send me an email and we can organise a free 15 minute discovery call to answer any questions you may have.
P.S if you are on the pill, and you aren’t ready to come off it yet – naturopathy can help support some side effects and deficiencies it causes – give me a call