BodyHealth IQ explores commonly asked questions about birth control with Dr. Aumatma, a Naturopathic Doctor, with a Master’s in Nutrition, who has been practicing medicine for over 10 years.
She specializes her practice solely on Fertility, Pregnancy, and Post-Partum, is the best-selling author of “Fertility Secrets: What Your Doctor Didn’t Tell You About Baby-Making,” and is a sought out speaker on topics of Fertility, Women’s Health, and Women’s Empowerment.
Dr. Aumatma was also awarded the “Best Alternative Medicine Practitioner″ award; she consults with clients locally in the Bay Area and works virtually with clients all over the world.
Q: First, let’s talk about benefits and side effects when transitioning off hormonal birth control. What can we expect? Is there a “best” kind of birth control or any that are considered 100% effective?
Each woman’s “best” birth control is specific to her. It should be based on an in-depth conversation about habits, willingness towards lifestyle changes, and her own hormones. From that, the “best” birth control can be chosen by herself and her doctor. But, it’s important to realize that the choice is a personal one. There’s no perfect birth control choice for everyone.
Transitioning off of hormonal birth control can initially feel like nothing. However, after 3 months, menstrual pains may get worse, periods may get longer or shorter, and/or they may become irregular. Any emergence of symptoms that were not there while on hormonal birth control is a SIGN. It is a sign of hormonal imbalances, that were being masked by the birth control. Do not be mistaken, the birth control is not treating your hormonal imbalances, it’s just masking your imbalances and giving you a “raincheck”… Unfortunately, many women who are led to believe that their hormones are getting balanced by hormonal birth control are in for a rude awakening when they try to start a family. Whilst trying to conceive, it becomes apparent that the hormones are more imbalanced than ever before and they will have to bring them into balance before they are able to get pregnant.
Q: How does the body transition from synthetic hormones to natural ones?
Our bodies will transition to our own natural hormonal rhythms with time. Generally, I suggest giving your body enough recovery time: in months, equivalent to the number of years you’ve been on birth control. I.e, if you have taken birth control for 10 years, expect at least 10 months for your body to regain its balance. You can speed up the process for hormonal balance by consultation with a Licensed Naturopathic Doctor/ Hormone Specialist.
Q: How long does it typically take for women to conceive after they’ve stopped taking birth control? Does this vary depending on how long birth control is used or the frequency of use? Can it cause infertility?
Time to conception after discontinuing birth control can vary quite a bit, and is unpredictable. Some women conceive on the very next cycle after discontinuing birth control, whereas other women can take months or years.
Although there is no clear evidence that it causes infertility, there is evidence that it causes the thinning of the uterine lining, which can make implantation extremely difficult, followed by the possibility of increased risk of miscarriage.
Q: What tends to happen in terms of period cramps? Heaviness of flow? Breast size? Weight? Headaches? Mood swings?
Hormonal fluctuations premenstrually, as well as during the menstrual phase can cause a series of symptoms that we label as “PMS.” In the luteal phase (post-ovulation) of a woman’s cycle, natural levels of progesterone are going to be higher, and there should be some presence of estradiol as well. One week to several days before the next period, if there is no pregnancy, the progesterone levels will drop. A sudden drop in progesterone, or a relative excess of estradiol can contribute to changes in breast size, increases in weight, headaches, and mood swings.
The heaviness of flow is dependent on hormones as well, but can often be an indicator for problems such as fibroids, polyps, polycystic ovarian syndrome, or endometriosis. If you bleed for longer than 7 days, or bleed through more than 1 tampon/pad per hour, or if you have to wake up at night to change pads, you should talk to a doctor.
Q: Is there anything women can do to prevent negative side effects?
Yes! Get your hormones in balance. When hormones are balanced properly, and you have a healthy lifestyle in place to keep your hormones from getting out of whack, you can rest assured to be symptom-free throughout your cycle.
Q: That’s really helpful. Can you also talk about what’s not-so-normal? AKA when to call the doc?
In my opinion, menstrual cycles should come with almost no symptoms, or at the most, very mild, tolerable ones. In other words, if you have any unpleasant symptoms with your menses, you should consider seeing a Licensed Naturopathic Doctor, as they are likely to be understanding of your experience, as well will work with you to determine the root cause so that you can live symptom-free.
Furthermore, as mentioned above, heavy bleeding is a reason to see your doctor immediately.