Author: Dr. Maryam Mahanian, DTCM, RAc
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Have you been on the birth control pill for a long time and now you want to get pregnant? Here are the best ways to get pregnant after coming off birth control pills.
Since the 1960’s, birth control has been given to SO MANY women, not only to prevent pregnancy but also to control acne, treat endometriosis, PCOS, ovarian cysts, menstrual cramps, irregular or heavy periods & mood swings.
The pill is often given to women very early in their reproductive years. Many women will take the pill for the majority of their reproductive life – all the way to the time that they decide they want to start a family. Unfortunately, by then the pill could have negatively affected their fertility.
How the birth control pill works & how long term use can negatively affect your fertility
The birth control pill introduces synthetic estrogen & progesterone into the body in order to suppress ovulation (ovulation is the release of an egg during the monthly cycle) so that women don’t fall pregnant. It essentially tricks the pituitary gland in thinking that there is enough estrogen and progesterone and therefore the pituitary gland doesn’t release FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinizing hormone).
One of the ovaries most important jobs is to mature the follicle for ovulation. The Pill prevents this from happening. Over time, the ovaries may “forget” how to do their job on their own because they haven’t been signaled with the right hormones at the correct time in the menstrual cycle.
As the Pill introduces synthetic forms of estrogen and progesterone to the body, this can then prevent the body’s natural, beneficial hormones from bonding to hormone receptor sites. Introducing synthetic hormones into the body may further exacerbate hormone imbalance by overloading it.
The Pill has been shown to thicken cervical mucus so that sperm cannot reach the egg. Healthy cervical mucus is important for conception because it helps sperm travel through the vagina and the cervix to meet and fertilize an egg.
In some unlucky women, cervical mucus that is too thick for them to conceive can last up to 30 months after they stop the birth control pill.
The birth control pill changes the uterine lining to make it unreceptive to the implantation of a fertilized egg. The body needs proper levels of progesterone to build a healthy uterine lining. By controlling the body’s estrogen and progesterone levels with synthetic hormones, the Pill doesn’t allow for the proper levels of progesterone to build a healthy uterine lining for implantation.
Top ways that the Birth Control Pill negatively affects fertility:
There are four main ways from a western medical standpoint that long term use of the Birth Control Pill can negatively affect your body so that it is more difficult to conceive.
- Irregular or skipped menstrual periods
- Thin uterine lining
- Suppressed or delayed ovulation
- Thickens the cervical mucus
Not dealing with underlying conditions such as PCOS or Endometriosis
First and foremost, because the pill is given to many women very early in their reproductive lives, there may be underlying conditions that are never dealt with as the pill masks these underlying issues. For example, the pill may be given for things such as painful or irregular periods, acne and mood swings. There may have been more serious conditions present such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or endometriosis. If a woman doesn’t address these conditions until they’re ready to conceive a baby it may be difficult or too late. Suppressing a condition that may have required surgery or some kind of medical intervention can put a hamper on plans to start a family.
Irregular, skipped or no menstrual cycles
Long term use of the pill can shut down the body’s ability to regulate its menstrual cycle – when coming off the pill, many women struggle with irregular cycles which makes it very difficult when trying to conceive.
Every woman’s body is different. Some come off the pill after 10 years and within just a few months their cycle picks up right where it left off before being on the pill. While other women find their cycle is totally thrown off.
Just because you’re off the pill, doesn’t mean the synthetic hormones are completely out of your system. And since your natural hormones have been suppressed for years, it may take time and additional support to get them balanced again.
Some women can have symptoms of PCOS after coming off birth control as the woman’s eggs aren’t maturing and not ready to ovulate.
The birth control pill has shown to have a damaging effect on the bacteria in our intestines. Long term use can cause overgrowth of candida albicans which can lead to yeast infections and food sensitivities, and impaired immune function and nutrient absorption.
Birth Control Pill usage in an IVF cycle – No Worries!
One note about the pill in an IVF cycle – don’t worry about this because it is a short burst of ovarian suppression. This shouldn’t cause problems in your endocrine system. It’s the long term use of the pill that’s more concerning for your fertility.
Chinese medicine perspective & your fertility – It’s all about the blood!
As said earlier, the estrogen in birth control thickens the blood and decreases blood flow. For women who suffer from heavy periods, the birth control pill can cause their periods to become so light that it is barely noticeable every month. Women love this! BUT this does affect your fertility in the future.
In Chinese medicine, we call this a pattern of blood deficiency and blood stagnation. If there is not enough blood to move to the ovaries and uterus, it easily gets blocked. Lack of blood flow to the reproductive organs can negatively affect fertility.
After going off the pill, if you experience irregular or skipped menstrual periods, delayed ovulation and/or scanty (light) menstrual flow, you are exhibiting a blood deficiency & blocked blood and Qi (energy) pattern.
Blood flow already naturally reduces substantially to the uterus as we age. Being on the Birth Control Pill is essentially adding more salt to the wound so to speak.
Things you can do to support your fertility after coming off the Birth Control Pill
So if you had been on the Pill for a long time and now want to have a child, please don’t panic! There are a number of ways in which you can get your reproductive system back into balance.
Consider regulating your cycle and creating a healthy uterine environment BEFORE forcing your body into being fertile.
I recommend going off the pill for AT LEAST 3 months before trying to conceive to regulate your cycle, nourish your blood and promote blood circulation to the reproductive organs. Even longer than 3 months would be ideal but I realize that can take some patience! It can take time to re-establish a healthy uterine lining and a regular cycle.
Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs
My all time favorite tools to help fertility after coming off the Birth Control Pill is Acupuncture & Chinese herbal medicine!
Acupuncture increases blood flow to the uterus (when administered correctly). It regulates the menstrual cycle, builds a healthy uterine lining and aids in ovulation. Combining acupuncture with chinese herbal medicine (particularly blood nourishing & blood moving herbs) enhances the nourishing & building of the blood. Seek out a qualified Chinese medicine doctor that focuses on fertility.
This is something I often teach my patients to do at home for a few minutes every day to enhance the effects of their weekly acupuncture sessions. Ask your qualified acupuncturist for some tips.
Moxibustion involves using a warming herb to essentially heat up specific areas of the body. I typically will show my patients how to use moxa (it’s very simple) and send my patients home with moxa sticks to use over their lower abdomen for five minutes per day. It’s very easy to use and feels nice and cozy. Ask your qualified acupuncturist about this.
Consume probiotic-rich foods such as fermented foods like sauerkraut, kombucha tea and kefir and supplement with high quality probiotics. This will repair the damage done by the Birth Control pill to the beneficial bacteria in the intestines & will address any overgrowth of candida. Proper digestion is central to good reproductive health because the nutrients you absorb are the building blocks for your blood which then nourishes the reproductive organs.
Homemade bone broth (see my blog post: Why I Love Bone Broth For Fertility)
I can’t say enough good things about bone broth. Drink one to three cups per day or use as stock in soups, stews, grains etc
Liver …I know what you’re thinking – Yuck!
But give it a chance. Liver is such an amazing blood nourisher and there are tons of recipes online that make Liver actually tolerable 🙂
Cooked warming foods & warm fluids.
Try to reduce the amount of raw cold foods in your diet such as ice cream, sushi, salads and iced drinks. These can be difficult on your digestion. Soups, stews, stir fry meals & drinking herbal teas are great choices.
Get moving but don’t over exercise or sweat too much. Sweating will deplete the fluids of the body and fluids make up the blood. Some examples of ways to get moving are gentle yoga (Not hot yoga because you’ll sweat too much) and brisk walks in the fresh air.
Incorporate Omega 3 essential fatty acids from fish oil into your daily regimen.
Have protein with every meal & protein at snacks. Animal protein such as organic grassfed beef or lamb are great. Animal protein is more effective than plant protein.
Eat dark cooked leafy greens and cooked cruciferous vegetables.
Sleep 7 to 8 hours per night. Try to get in bed before 10pm. Adequate sleep is so vital as it’s the time where the whole body restores itself.
Try to reduce stress. Stress constricts blood flow to the uterine lining and can cause delayed or no periods. It may help to even schedule time in your calendar to relax and de-stress. Guided meditations can be very helpful even just for a few minutes per day.