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Taking off the pill: jumpstarting a healthy cycle

Body, health and wellbeing

More and more women want to stop taking the pill and use natural contraception. "Better pimples than pills," warns Prof. Dr. Gerd Glaeske from the SOCIUM research center in Bremen, faced with trivialized risks and the neglected duty of gynecologists.

Generation pill still not abolished: According to the Federal Statistical Center for Holistic Enlightenment, the small colored tablets are still the most popular contraceptive in Germany. Over 70% of women between 20 and 29 years of age take the pill, and more than 40% of women over 30.

If you are now toying with the idea of ​​taking the pill off, then congratulations! A very good decision, because you are on the home straight to more health, naturalness and woman power!

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This article provides you with all the important information and tips about getting off the pill. Physical changes early on in “pill withdrawal” are normal and shouldn't prevent you from making a decision. With step-by-step instructions, you will learn how to stop taking the pill correctly and how to proceed afterwards.

Taking Pills Off: 3 Good Reasons

Hormones out of control, this is how you can imagine it when you stop taking the pill. But what does that mean specifically for you? The change will change your body. To your advantage in the long term. You can now find out what else you can look forward to:

1. Your libido increases

In 2016, Swedish scientists examined the connection between the pill and loss of libido in 3740 women (22, 25 or 28 years old). The result: women who used hormonal contraception had, on average, lower sexual desire than women who used natural contraception.[1]Hormonal Contraception and Sexual Desire: A Questionnaire-Based Study of Young Swedish Women.

Many women complain of a lack of pleasure when using hormonal contraception. A weakened libido can lead to relationship problems, frustration and not infrequently to self-judgment.

You have a right to your libido, even if you don't want to have sex in the near future. Because your libido is not only responsible for your sexual desire. It is an important part of your vitality and your motivation in life.

2. You are losing weight

Scientists found that pill withdrawal has a positive effect on body weight. Excess pounds that you may have put on through water retention of the synthetic hormones can disappear again after you stop taking the pill. So your weight will normalize on its own after a certain period of time.[2]Combination contraceptives: effects on weight.

Did you know that the pill increases sugar cravings and prevents the normal muscle building that would be expected from exercise? Artificial hormones cause fat to build up on the hips and thighs and it can cause cellulite. So girls, one more reason to refrain from the pill![3]Oral Contraceptives Impair Muscle Gains In Young Women.

3. Your health is improving

Let's go straight into the house: A high dose pill increases the risk of developing breast cancer three times.[4]Recent oral contraceptive use by formulation and breast cancer risk among women 20 to 49 years of age.

Even a moderate dose of the pill increases the risk of breast cancer by 1.6 times.[5]Effect of depo-medroxyprogesterone acetate on breast cancer risk among women 20 to 44 years of age.

However, it is very reassuring to know that the risk will drop back to a normal level after a year at the latest.

All hormonal contraceptive methods, including the pill, carry the risk of developing blood clots. Barbara Seaman wrote about this as early as 1969 in her book "The Doctor’s Case against the Pill" [6]Seaman, Barbara. 1995 The Doctor’s Case Against the Pill. Hounter House (CA); 25 app. Edition (July 1995). ISBN: 978-0-89793-181-6. Many years have passed since then and people continue to swallow the pill.

If you stop taking the pill, in all likelihood you will feel better. Your mood will lift, your energy levels will rise, and more regular cycles will result. At least that is what the experiences of most women show.

However, not everyone automatically feels great, because according to an extensive study of menstrual cycle behavior after discontinuing oral contraceptives, the transition can take months.[7]Cycle behavior after discontinuation of oral contraceptives. Just have a little patience, after all, Rome wasn't built in a day either.

What are the side effects of stopping the pill?

To understand why side effects can occur after stopping it, you should first understand the general mechanism of action of the pill.

The active ingredients in the pill are not real hormones, nor are they a substitute for the body's own messenger substances. The sex hormones estradiol and progesterone formed in the ovaries are not only important for reproduction, but also for mood, thyroid, bones, muscles and metabolism.

When you take the pill, your own hormone production is effectively switched off. After weaning, your body is forced to make its own hormones again.

You have to know that women, just like men, also produce male hormones (androgens). A certain amount of androgens is actually good. Unfortunately, stopping the pill can stimulate the ovaries to temporarily produce more androgens than necessary.

This excess can lead to a number of unpleasant side effects, which we will now address in the following section.

Post Pills Acne & Hair Loss

Temporarily, you could get pimples and more hair is coming off your scalp than you would like. Both symptoms can be traced back to the above-mentioned excess of male hormones, mostly caused by hypersensitivity.

Fortunately, most of the side effects are temporary and will usually go away with a little patience. The “pill withdrawal process” and the transition to a normal cycle takes between 6 and 12 months. Depending on how long you have been taking the pill, it can of course be faster.

If you are prone to acne or suffered from skin problems the last time you tried to quit the pill, then definitely start naturopathic treatment before you stop taking the pill (at least 4 weeks beforehand). This could greatly improve the temporary acne breakout.

Post Pills PMS

If you are like many women, then you will probably have a whole new experience when you stop taking the pill: PMS. This abbreviation stands for “Premenstural Syndrome”. If you've been taking the pill for a long time, then, possibly after years, you will finally have a natural cycle again.

Pill cycles cannot be compared to a real cycle. In a natural menstrual cycle there is an eternal ups and downs of hormones and these first have to adjust again.

PMS can occur 14 days before menstruation and is characterized by complex physical and emotional symptoms such as mood swings, anxiety, and mild irritability, among other things. However, once the bleeding begins, the symptoms disappear.

Post-pill amenorrhea

If you miss your period, don't panic right away. Rather ask yourself, "How were my periods before I took the pill?"

If your menstrual bleeding used to be very irregular, then there was already a problem back then, which now only comes back to life.

If your periods used to come regularly before you started taking the pills, you may experience temporary post-pill amenorrhea, or missed periods.

Here, too, you should wait and drink tea. Give your body the time it needs to adjust to the changes.

Excursus: The pill & vitamin D deficiency

The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM) published a clinical study in 2016 in which 1662 women (23 - 34 years of age) were examined for the connections between vitamin D and the pill.

It has been found that when hormonal contraceptives containing artificial estrogen are stopped, the amount of vitamin D in a woman's body can decrease.[8]Use of Estrogen-Containing Contraception Is Associated With Increased Concentrations of 25-Hydroxy Vitamin D.

When you stop taking the pill, you should make sure that your vitamin D levels are balanced and that there are no deficiencies.

Would you like to learn more about vitamin D? Then read our article Vitamin D Deficiency: How to Identify and Fix It.

Stop taking the pill: Step 1

The combination pill contains an artificial replica of the sex hormones estrogen and progestin with the task of suppressing ovulation. A mini pill, on the other hand, only contains progestin, which causes changes in the uterus so that sperm cannot penetrate and egg cells cannot implant.

If you want to stop taking the combination pill

The current blister pack should be taken until the end. This is followed by an artificially induced withdrawal bleeding, which should not be confused with a normal period.

Please be careful not to rush anything. If you just stop in the middle, it can lead to intermenstrual bleeding and strong hormone fluctuations.

If you want to stop taking the mini pill

If you take the mini pill, you can stop it immediately.

Stop taking the pill: Step 2

Now we come to the second step: After you stop taking the pill, your body starts to produce its own hormones again and cycle fluctuations can occur. Depending on how good or bad the hormonal balance is, there may be a lack of ovulation or a missed period.

Intermediate bleeding, spotting or prolonged menstrual cycles can also occur as side effects. These are all signs that your body is taking a while to balance hormones.

You should have your first proper period no later than 3 months after you stop taking the pill. You should plan at least this time for regulating your monthly cycle. To be on the safe side, consult a gynecologist if you experience pain, missed periods for a long time or bleeding persists.

Watch your cycle: step 3

From the day of your first period, it makes sense to “track” your cycle, i.e. observe and take notes on various patterns in your body. Use oldschool with pen and paper or one of the numerous apps such as “Flo” or “Femometer”.

In the female cycle, a lot of processes come together that have an impact on menstruation, ovulation, mood and energy levels. Our hormones control all of these processes.

By closely monitoring your body symptoms, you can determine whether you have regular or irregular cycles, when your next period is likely to come and on which days you will be fertile.

Tip: From now on only natural contraception? Easier than you think! With the help of a basal thermometer (ideally with Bluetooth function + app) it is super easy to find out whether and when ovulation has occurred.

Before you ovulate, your basal temperature is between 36.1 ° C and 36.5 ° C. After ovulation, the temperature increases by about 0.3 ° C when you wake up and stays at this level until your period.

3 tips for a comfortable cycle

A number of natural remedies can also help you with the challenges of the female cycle. The prerequisite for this, however, is that you take good care of yourself and know what phase you are currently in.

  1. Period pain can be relieved by taking magnesium, warmth, and relaxation. Tea preparations with goose weed and lady's mantle also have an antispasmodic and pain-relieving effect.
  2. If you have skin problems, you need the right skin care and possibly a change in diet. Consider cutting out cow's milk products, wheat, and sugar.
  3. Medicinal herbs such as lady's mantle, lemon balm and St. John's wort can help with PMS and irregular cycles. You should also ensure regular relaxation and exercise.

Conclusion on stopping the pill

Stopping the pill will only bring you long-term benefits. Although you should expect one or two (unpleasant) side effects at first, it's definitely a worthwhile path.

In a practical way, you get a free health check after you stop taking the pill, because now your body can finally show what your general physical condition is doing. Without any chemistry.

Stop the pill: 3 common questions answered quickly

Can I get pregnant immediately after stopping the pill? How long will the changeover take? We clarify this and much more in the 3 most common questions about stopping the pill.

If i stop taking the pill, how long will it take to switch?

Normally, the first natural menstruation will start after about 4 to 7 weeks. Anyone planning a baby should expect about 3 to 6 months to become pregnant after stopping the pill.

What do I have to consider when stopping the pill?

Depending on which pill you want to stop using, different rules apply. While the minipill can be discontinued immediately, with the combination pill you should take the blister to the end.

What happens if i stop taking the pill?

The first post-pill cycle always starts with a withdrawal bleeding. After the “pill stop”, the body first has to adapt and get used to functioning without synthetic hormones and instead stimulating its own hormone production, which control the cycle and trigger ovulation.

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Recha Kühne

Recha Kühne is a budding alternative practitioner and yoga teacher. Her training focuses on women's health, natural family planning and the female cycle.