Coming Off The Pill: How to Get Off Birth Control Safely

Looking to come off hormonal birth control?

Have you recently come off the pill and noticed you are experiencing horrible acne and painful periods or complete absence of your period?


Or are you thinking about coming off the pill but are too scared to go back to how your periods were before the pill?


This is a common topic asked by so many of my clients who have decided to come off the oral contraceptive pill (the pill) for various reasons.


Maybe you were put on the pill for contraceptive reasons, for bad acne, for PCOS, for endometriosis or for many other hormonal issues and now you’ve decided it’s time to come off the pill.


Welcome to your ultimate guide to coming off the pill.


You’ve decided to naturally balance your hormones!


Well done, this is something that should be celebrated! 

What is the pill?

Firstly, it is important to understand what the pill is and what it does to your body. Let’s start with the basics. 


The pill works as a contraceptive method by shutting down ovulation by stopping the ovaries from releasing an egg each month. 


It’s easier to think of it like this - the pill causes your hormones to go to ‘sleep’ whilst it overtakes your cycle and natural hormones.

There Are 2 Forms Of The Pill: 

  • Combined pill: this pill contains synthetic forms of both hormones estrogen and progestin. The combined pill works to stop your body from ovulating as well as causing your cervical mucus to thicken to prevent pregnancy.

  • Mini pill: this pill contains only progestin and no estrogen. This pill works by thickening your cervical mucus and thinning your endometrium to make it harder for egg implantation to occur to prevent pregnancy. 

Why quit the pill?

This is a decision entirely up to you and if you feel better on the pill then, by all means, it’s your decision to stay on it especially in cases of endometriosis, many females notice a positive difference when on the pill. 


 I have many clients, however, who have struggled majorly from being on the pill and during the process of coming off the pill. There are many reasons you may decide to quit the pill such as: 

  • Wishing to conceive
  • Wishing for a more natural contraceptive method
  • Wanting to quit putting synthetic hormones into your body and causing hormonal imbalances 

Common issues experienced when on the pill:

Many females decide it’s time to come off the pill when they start to notice many pesky symptoms such as:

  • Mood disturbances
  • Bloating
  • Increased anxiety
  • Depression
  • Spotting between periods
  • Nausea
  • Breast tenderness
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Weight gain 

    Are you relating to any of these reasons above? Keep reading for the ultimate guide to coming off the pill and other hormonal contraceptives.

When to quit the pill

There’s nothing saying you can’t quit the pill whenever you want, however waiting until the end of your current pill packet is usually the best idea when your ‘period bleed’ would be expected anyway.


Before you come off the pill, ask yourself; “What were my periods like before I went on the pill?”. 


This will give you an indication of the symptoms you may expect once coming off. 


For example, if you noticed you had heavy bleeds with a lot of pain, this may become an issue for you once again. 


You can avoid this by getting to the root cause of your period issues and balancing your hormones naturally. 

Common issues experienced when coming off the pill:

Your body’s natural processes have been shut down for quite some time so, it can be quite common to experience random and new symptoms popping up out of nowhere when you decide to come off the pill as your body is trying to crank into action and produce your hormones naturally once again.

Below is a list of common symptoms you may start to notice:

  • Irregular/missing periods
  • Post-pill acne
  • PMS symptoms creep in
  • Nutrient depletion
  • Mood issues/anxiety increases
  • Post pill PCOS
  • Breast tenderness
  • Pain and more cramping
  • Heavier flow 

    These symptoms are usually a result of the withdrawal from the synthetic form of estrogen in the pill as well as a sudden surge of androgens alongside experiencing a delay in establishing regular ovulation once again.

When to start preparing your body for coming off the pill

It’s a good idea to start preparing your body 2-3 months before coming off the pill to help with an easy transition process. 


By preparing your body and supporting it in every way possible, you will minimise the possibility of all those pesky symptoms popping up such as acne, emotional disturbances, etc).

Action steps to come off the pill

#1 Improve dietary choices

Diet is one of the first aspects of your health that should be addressed when you are coming off the pill. 


Ensuring you are receiving adequate nutrients for hormone production is crucial in achieving a natural cycle post-pill. 


We want to support the natural production of estrogen and progesterone whilst ensuring your levels of androgens (the pesky hormone that is linked with that post-pill acne you may be experiencing) are kept to a minimum.

Eat More Of This:

  • Include healthy fats

  • Have adequate protein

  • Adequate carbs: opt for complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, quinoa, sweet potato, etc.

  • Green leafy vegetables: to support your liver detoxification processes

  • Cruciferous vegetables: to support estrogen metabolism (outlined below)

  • Progesterone supporting foods: as your body is not ovulating whilst on the pill/it may not ovulate for some time after coming off the pill, it is important to support progesterone levels. Remember: progesterone is only produced after ovulation. There are some specific nutrients indicated to help with progesterone production including:

    1. Vitamin C-rich foods: such as broccoli, capsicum, citrus fruits, berries, etc.
    2. B6 rich foods: poultry, walnuts, bananas.
    3. Vitamin E-rich foods: sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds.

  • Phytoestrogen-rich foods: Increase your intake of these in order to naturally balance your estrogen and progesterone levels and help your body naturally produce these hormones. Phytoestrogens are important in regulating estrogen levels in your body which is important after being on the pill as the pill contains synthetic estrogen and you want to aim to remove this from your body.

Phytoestrogen rich foods include:

1. Flaxseeds (ground)

2. Organic tofu or tempeh

3. Soybeans

Eat Less Of This:

  • Sugar and processed/refined foods: avoiding sugar during this period will give your body the best chance at naturally balancing its hormones once again. High amounts of refined sugar intake have been linked with an increase in PMS symptoms due to the hormonal imbalance sugar can cause.

  • Caffeine and alcohol: caffeine and alcohol are known to disrupt the balance between our hormones. During the stage of coming off the pill, it is important to support your body in every way possible. Try to reduce caffeine and alcohol consumption in order to help your liver prioritise the excretion of excess hormones.

  • Avoid inflammatory foods: such as the processed meats, processed sugar, saturated fats, gluten (in some people), MSG, additives, and refined carbohydrates. 

#2 Supplement nutrients commonly depleted by the pill

In the months/weeks leading up to coming off the pill, it is important to start replacing nutrients the pill is known to deplete.

By replenishing these key nutrients, the common side effects that some may experience when coming off the pill will be minimised.

Note: It Is Important To Talk To A Qualified Health Care Practitioner Before Taking Any Supplements.



  • Designed specifically for women coming off the pill

  • Supports natural hormone detoxification and clearance while also promoting regular cycles

  • Assists with skin and hormonal health














    Zinc

    • Zinc nourishes the ovarian follicles and is essential for healthy, regular ovulation to help naturally produce your sex hormones again.

    • Commonly depleted by long term hormonal birth control use

    Magnesium

    • Supports healthy detoxification, stable moods, and regular ovulation.

    • Improves stress resilience and relaxation

    • Reduces period pain, muscle soreness, and headaches/migraines

    • Supports energy production

    B complex

    • Several B vitamins are essential for regular healthy ovulation

    • Essential for detoxification of hormones

    • Reduces PMS symptoms

    • Helps with energy production to help reduce fatigue

    Microflora (probiotics)

    • Essential for healthy excretion of estrogen

    • Read below for ways on improving and supporting your gut health post-pill

    • Helps to support healthy skin

    #3 Support detoxification and elimination processes

    Supporting your detoxification and elimination processes is vital whilst on the pill and also when coming off the pill.

    This will help to reduce the effect synthetic estrogen and progestin can have on your body.

    Clearing these hormones once off the pill will give your body a kick start in producing estrogen and progesterone naturally once again.


    Our liver and gut are the two major organs responsible for breaking down and clearing hormones once they have been used in the body.

    It's so important that these systems are working properly to prevent the build-up of hormones that contributes to hormonal imbalances.

    Here’s a brief overview of how to support these two systems of detoxification (I share my full protocols for hormonal detox support in my best selling PCOS book, the PCOS Repair Protocol).

    Tips To Support Your Liver:

    • Reduce caffeine and alcohol intake

    • Increase cruciferous vegetable intake

    • Increase bitter foods- such as rocket and dandelion tea to support digestive processes.

    • Reduce exposure to toxins such as household cleaners, perfumes, etc.

    • Increase water intake to 2L per day (more if you are exercising a large amount)

    • Increase cruciferous vegetable intake (see below) 

    Tips To Support Estrogen Metabolism:

    Your body may start to struggle to properly eliminate natural estrogen through the liver and bowel.

    Exposure to exogenous (external sources) of estrogen-like substances can increase estrogen levels in the body.

    These substances are often referred to as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and act similarly to estrogen in our bodies.

    Increase Cruciferous Vegetables

    These vegetables contain a substance called indole-3- carbinol which helps to support estrogen metabolism which can support the balance between your progesterone and estrogen levels.


    By supporting estrogen metabolism, it will enable your body the best chance to detoxify the synthetic estrogen from the pill and help to produce natural estrogen once you decide to come off the pill.


    Cruciferous vegetables to include are:

    • Broccoli

    • Brussel sprouts

    • Bok choy

    • Cauliflower

    • Cabbage 

    Ensure Adequate Water Intake

    Opt for filtered water and use a glass or stainless steel water bottle to avoid plastic exposure. 


    Aim for 2-3 litres of water per day depending on your size and exercise levels.

    Increase Liver Loving Foods

    To help remove toxins from the body as well as removing excess hormones

    • Dandelion green

    • Green tea

    • Cacao

    • Citrus peel (e.g. lemon rind)

    • Radishes

    • Bitter melon

      Note: it is common when you’re undertaking any detox protocol for your body to show an increase in symptoms for a week or two.

      When you come off the pill and start to support your body in naturally detoxifying the effects of the synthetics estrogen in the pill, you may notice an outbreak in certain symptoms such as acne, painful periods, etc.

      This can be a normal reaction to the detox so be patient with the process and know you are on the right track. 

    #4 Support gut health

    The pill has been shown in various studies to affect the balance of our good and bad gut bacteria.


    Our gut has what we call a ‘microbiome’ or gut ‘microflora’ composed of good bacteria that help to keep our bodies healthy and happy.

    In our gut, we have bacteria ‘gut bugs’ which are responsible for many of the processes that happen in our body.

    We have good and bad gut bugs.

    When the good bugs are depleted, the bad ones overtake causing many problems not only with digestion but with our hormone health as well as our nervous system.


    Imbalanced gut bacteria can also cause poor estrogen metabolism.

    Higher levels of bad versus good gut bacteria which are responsible for breaking down estrogen (known as the estrobolome) can cause more estrogen to be reabsorbed, rather than eliminated via the stool. 


    If you are suffering from constipation or infrequent bowel movements, there is more time for estrogen to be reabsorbed, contributing to estrogen excess.


    When estrogen is not excreted effectively, a rise in estrogen in the body occurs causing many period issues including those pesky PMS symptoms as well as heavy bleeding and short overall cycle length.

    How Does The Pill Impact Gut Health? 

    • Most pills contain iron which may contribute to bloating, constipation and impair gut microflora balance.

    • Can influence the intestinal lining of the gut causing inflammation.

    • The pill influences the functioning of the thyroid which can further impact digestive processes as thyroid hormones are important to regulate digestion.

    Tips To Support Gut Health:

    • Ensure you are having adequate fibre intake: such as fruits and vegetables with the skin on, ground flax seeds, chia seeds, psyllium husk. Fibre helps to improve the detoxification of estrogen out of the body.

    • Increase probiotic-rich foods: try kimchi, sauerkraut, natural yoghurt, kombucha, and kefir. If you struggle to go to the toilet daily, try 1 teaspoon of psyllium husk in a large glass of water after dinner, or add 1-2 Tbsp of ground flax seeds or chia seeds to your breakfast or smoothies.

    • Reduce stress levels: stress plays a major role in our gut function.

    • Eat slow and chew your food: this will help your gut to properly absorb and digest the nutrients in the food.

      Try a gut support supplement like Nourished Detox + Digestion

    #5 Chat to your doctor about getting your hormones tested

    When you come off the pill, chat to your doctor about getting a baseline blood test to test your current hormone levels.


     This will be useful to reflect back on after months of hard work naturally supporting your hormone levels.

    What To Ask For:


    Some doctors may be super supportive in the process of coming off the pill and others may look at you with a blank face.

    As a general guide, aim to have the following hormones investigated: 

    • Progesterone

    • Estrogen

    • Cortisol

    • FSH

    • LH

    • Prolactin

    • DHEAs

    • SHBG

    • Testosterone

    #6 Address lifestyle factors/contributors

    There are many factors in your life that may have the ability to be causing your periods to be out of whack.

    We want to aim to reduce these factors and the effect these have on your cycle especially when coming off the pill in order to give your body the best chance possible in achieving a natural cycle once again.


    Whilst on the pill your body has been told to shut down all its natural processes.

    It takes some time for the communication to come back so supporting your body in every possible way is key.

    Here Are My Top Tips:

    • Support stress levels: journal, have time in nature, exercise, having calming herbal teas, practice daily breathing exercises, and participate in meditation.

    • Participate in regular exercise: gentle exercise helps to produce feel-good neurotransmitters including endorphins which are linked with lowering stress and boosting your mood. Exercise also helps to support healthy blood sugar regulation and improve insulin sensitivity to help promote balanced production of female hormones

    • Ensure adequate sleep and practice sleep hygiene: This involves turning off technology 30 to 60 minutes before bed. Try reading a book or doing some guided meditation with dimmed lighting to signal to your body it’s time for rest

    #7 Support ovulation

    Supporting ovulating is the only way to truly balance your hormones as you can only make progesterone through ovulation. 


    Remember, the pill shuts down or ‘turns off’ ovulation so the main aim when coming off the pill is to support the body for ovulation to occur once again.

    Top Tips To Support Ovulation:

    • Follow all of the steps given above to help improve your hormone balance to give your body the best chance for ovulation to occur.

    • Support stress levels: heightened stress can cause the body to delay ovulation until a safer time arrives. Follow the above tips to support your stress levels.

    • Increase zinc intake/supplement: zinc is essential to nourish the ovarian follicles to support healthy egg development and regular ovulation.

    • Consider NAC supplementation: NAC has been shown in several clinical trials to boost egg quality, regulate ovulation and stabilise blood sugar. It is therefore a great tool for women dealing with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) as there are often issues with blood sugar regulation and difficult ovulation which can increase the time to pregnancy. I recommend Nutricology NAC.

    Common Issues after coming off the pill

    Note: the first period you experience after coming off the pill is not an actual period. It is what we call a “withdrawal bleed” and may last a few days. 


    Your next period will be a real period but this may take some time to appear whilst your body is undergoing hormonal changes and adapting to life without the pill.

    Post-pill acne

    Have you noticed your skin magically cleared up when you were on the pill? This is because the pill has the ability to block and suppress your skin oil production. When you stop taking the pill, you may notice a large amount of acne appear on your face. This is your skin trying to make more oil after being suppressed for a long time meaning your skin may appear more oily and cause you to break out a large amount.


    How To Reduce Post-Pill Acne:


    The good news is, there are many ways you can support your body to reduce breakouts experienced after coming off the pill. 

    • Zinc supplementation: supplementation of 20mg-40mg of zinc per day has been shown effective in reducing acne. I recommend Thorne Research Zinc Picolinate

    • Increase healthy fats

    • Ensure adequate hydration

    • Increase liver loving foods: as mentioned above

    Post-pill PCOS 

    It is common when you come off the pill to be diagnosed with PCOS as your symptoms may match this diagnosis for some time due to the androgen surge you can experience after being on the pill.


    During this, you may notice high LH (luteinizing hormone) compared to FSH (follicular stimulating hormone).

    LH prevents your ovarian follicles from developing causing an increase in androgen production leading to increased breakouts and unwanted hair growth on the jawline. 


    Try using Nourished Androgen Blocker to as a natural vitamin to block excess androgens during this time.

    Post-pill weight

    You may have noticed you gained a small or large amount of weight whilst on the pill.

    This is usually due to a combination of factors such as hormonal changes, an increase in appetite, and fluid retention.

     Coming off the pill, you may notice you lose the excess weight you gained.

    Where is my period?

    This is a common thing experienced by many females when coming off the pill.

    Post-pill amenorrhoea can be a struggle for many as it can sometimes take years to establish regular ovulation once again for regular periods.


    As hard as it is, it is important to not stress!

    Stress will only make this worse and cause your body to delay ovulation until it considers it is a ‘safe’ time. 

    Post pill infertility

    It is important to note, you may struggle to instantly fall pregnant the minute you decide to come off the pill.

    If pregnancy is your goal, I recommend at least 4-6 months of post-pill support in order to improve your fertility for your best chances of falling pregnant.

    Post-pill period irregularity

    Sometimes when you first start to focus on supporting your liver to detox estrogen, it can cause a period to be late or early as it readjusts/rebalances.

    Be patient with the process and know your period is trying its very best to be on your side and get you back to a natural regular cycle.

    Post-pill emotions

    Your hormones are now trying to rebalance and it can be quite common for females to experience a sudden wave of intense emotions such as sadness or anxiety during this rebalancing process.


    Tips For Dealing With This: 

    • Take time for yourself
    • Participate in stress-relieving activities
    • Be easy on yourself
    • Be patient 

    Moving Forward: Alternative Contraceptive Methods

    So you’ve decided it’s time to ditch the pill but now you are wondering what alternative contraceptive methods are available.

    The good news is, there are various options available for you (always have a chat with your doctor about your options).

    Non-Hormonal Options:

    • Condoms

    • Copper IUD

    • FAM (Fertility Awareness Method): The Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) is a natural, hormone-free method of birth control.

      The method teaches users to read their body’s changes in cervical mucus and body temperature to determine the fertile and infertile phases of the cycle.

      A simple set of rules can then be applied to either avoid or achieve pregnancy.

      When used correctly, FAM is 99.4% effective at preventing pregnancy.

      In couples wanting to conceive, FAM can be an effective tool in greatly increasing the chances of pregnancy by timing sex for conception.

      For more information on this, read my blog ‘What Is The Fertility Awareness Method’. 

    Frequently asked questions:

    How Long Does It Take To Get Your Period Back After The Pill?

    Timing will vary from person to person for the amount of time it will take for their period to come back post-pill.

    Your body is undergoing some huge changes and detoxing out hormones as well as foods etc. Be patient and you should notice a change very soon.


    If you had normal periods before going on the pill, it should usually only take around 3 months to naturally get your period back.

    If you had issues with your cycle before going on the pill, it is important to note these may return as your body attempts to bring back a natural cycle.

    Remember, whilst being on the pill, the pill may have masked many of your symptoms and these can return when you decide to come off the pill.

    Will My Fertility Be Affected? 

    Yes, as your body’s natural cycle has been shut down whilst on the pill, it may take some time to improve your fertility after coming off the pill.

    What About Coming Off The IUD? 

    The IUD - or as you may know it - the Merina, may cause you to have similar side effects as those experienced when coming off the pill.

    The Merina contains synthetic progestin so once removed, your body may struggle with the lack of progesterone and it may take some time for your body to start producing progesterone naturally again.

    Due to this, you may notice symptoms such as mood changes, anxiety, depression, fatigue, etc.

    Bleeding and cramping for a few days following the removal of the IUD may also be experienced.


    By following the same protocol given above will give your body the best chance to naturally start producing progesterone once again by ensuring regular ovulation is occurring. 

    Why does the pill cause depression/mood disturbances in many women?

    The pill contains synthetic estrogen and progestin which have been linked with increased risk of anxiety and depression. 

    I Was Put On The Pill For PCOS. Can I Come Off It?

    The decision is obviously entirely up to you however, from personal experience and from witnessing such amazing results in my clients, you can get to the bottom of your PCOS without the pill.


    When it comes to PCOS, research shows that 80% of women who suffer from the syndrome have insulin resistance which is driving their excess production of androgens, which in turn causes irregular or missing periods, acne, hair growth on your body, and hair loss on your head.

    Because of this, a major focus of improving PCOS is to learning how to balance your blood sugar and get rid of sugar cravings, which greatly improves insulin resistance and therefore addresses the underlying cause of PCOS in most cases.

    I teach all my PCOS protocols in my online 8 weeks ‘Hormone Harmony Academy’. Click the link to find out more. 

    How Do I Reduce PCOS Symptoms Without Taking The Pill? 

    Come along to my free ‘Heal Your Cycle’ webinar to learn more. 

    In Summary: Checklist to coming off the pill

    • Improve dietary choices

    • Supplement depleted nutrients

    • Support detoxification and elimination processes

    • Support gut health

    • Chat to your doctor about getting your hormones tested/alternative contraceptive methods

    • Address lifestyle factors

    • Support ovulation 

    Now it’s your turn

    Are You Considering Coming Off The Pill? Have You Noticed Any Side Effects From The Pill? How Was Your Experience Coming Off The Pill?


    Let Me Know In The Comments Below 

    Keen to dig your teeth into even more hormone-loving content?

    14 comments

    Thank you so much for this incredible guide and tips for coming off the pill! I was just wondering, is the post-pill bundle that you sell good/recommended for people who don’t have PCOS? I don’t have PCOS but I’ve been looking for some supplements that can be helpful for coming off the pill.

    Thank you!

    Ava

    Hello! I know this article is about the pill but I’ve been planning on getting my nexplanon taken out since it’s just been causing some issues so I was wondering if this guide also works for that.
    Thank you xoxo

    Gian Bowling

    Hello! Thanks so much for this article. I’m planning to come off the pill after 10+ years on it and will be using these guiding principles over the next few months as I plan to come off in the next 2-3 months. I was wondering how long after you come off the pill should you continue to do all these steps and take these supplements? Thank you!

    Emily

    Hi,
    Since coming on the pill about a year ago, I have developed severe anxiety which I didn’t have before. I am coming off the pill officially because of this – I want my old self back. Although I might feel worse coming back to my natural cycle, will that go eventually? I am worried it will have the reverse affect and this anxiety will get worse.
    Thanks x

    Elspeth

    Thanks for this article. I was wondering if the vagibal ring, which also secretes hormones is still disruptive to your gut flora and has the same impact that the pill does?

    N West

    Leave a comment

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    About The Author - Tamika Woods

    Tamika Woods | PCOS Author | Nourished Natural Health
    Tamika Woods, Clinical Nutritionist (B.HS; B.Ed), Bestselling Author

    For a decade, Tamika battled chronic acne, irregular cycles, mood swings, hair loss, painful periods, severe digestive issues and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). You name it - she's been there!

    Tam was finally able to clear her skin, regulate her cycle, be free of period pain and fall pregnant naturally with her daughter in 2020. It took Tam 10 years and tens of thousands of dollars in tertiary education to get the answers she needed to get better.

    She didn’t want other women to suffer as long as she did which is why she has dedicated her life to helping women in the same position as she was.

    Tam helps women interpret what their bodies are trying to communicate through frustrating symptoms, and then develop a step-by-step roadmap to find balance again. She's here to help you get on track!

    Tamika Woods is the author of the Amazon best seller PCOS Repair Protocol. She holds a Bachelor of Health Science degree (Nutritional Medicine) as well as a Bachelor of Education, graduating with Honours in both.

    She is a certified Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) Educator and a certified member of the Australian Natural Therapists Association (ANTA).

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