When I stopped taking my birth control pills my period just didn’t return quite as I’d thought it would. I was a pretty regular gal up until shenanigans with my husband beckoned me in the direction of the pill, so what happened?
How the Pill Halts Ovulation
When you are on the pill (or any form or hormonal birth control method) your ovaries stop producing eggs. Period. Birth control pills suppress three hormones critical to ovulation (Estrogen, LH, & FSH) which means levels never get quite high enough for an egg to hit the Fallopian tubes and get in on some sperm mingling action. Which is why you can’t get pregnant. It’s also why your body cant absorb nutrients correctly, you gain weight more easily, and you get sick more frequently, but hey, those are stories for another day. Eggs are halted in their tracks, hormones stop working their magic, and then your body gives you a period fake-out to make you feel like you ovulated. We gotta protect our womanhood after all! The problem is, many women (myself included), get off the pill only to find that their body doesn’t quite remember how to work those hormones anymore. It like your eggs have been sitting on the couch for years only to discover they have to learn to walk again. You get stuck. I was stuck. My first year off birth control pills I had a grand total of two periods in twelve months. I’m not in a rush to have children, so why would this matter? Six months between periods sounds great right? Not so fast!
First of all, menstrual blood is super healing and without it your uterus just doesn’t get the monthly cleanse it needs to stay fit and healthy. Stagnant blood on your uterine walls mean cells have the opportunity to start growing, or worse, mutating. Second of all, with your hormones in a funk your body starts running you ragged. Without ovulation, your progesterone (the fourth all important endocrine hormone), never gets a chance to come into play so your body never gets the rest it deserves. Think of your monthly cycle as the seasons of the year. You have your period (winter) where you just want to bundle up with a good book. Next comes your follicular phase where estrogen starts rising (spring). You start feeling more clear and energized and begin craving lighter foods. Then estrogen, LH, and FSH peak simultaneously so your body can release an egg (ovulation) and you are at your peak fertility (summer). Your skin clears up, you feel vital, creative, and on top of the world! You don’t need heavy food to sustain yourself and you feel like a beacon of light! Finally, your luteal phase brings progesterone along as a safety net just in case any new babies in your belly need some love and attention (fall). You start to relax, feel comfortable, and do some nice things for yourself. You spend some time reading, or doing something you enjoy before getting completely tucked in again for the coming winter.
Without ovulation, without progesterone, your body never hits that rest stage and you wind up in a perpetual spring. You are constantly in productive mode making to-do lists and over-scheduling your time. That is great when it’s only a week or two of the month, but in the long term? Your adrenal glands start taking a hit and your health starts to plummet. Bad news. The good news? You can totally heal yourself. Even better, you can do it all completely holistically!
Lack of ovulation means anovulation. You either have no periods, few and far between periods, or periods without ovulation. Anovulation can result from reproductive disorders such as PCOS and endometriosis, but it can also stem from stress, excess physical activity, and hormonal birth control methods. Quality fruits and vegetables, adequate protein, and a significant focus on stress relief can greatly help your body to heal physically, but you also need to heal emotionally. Christiane Northrup, a long-time OB-GYN and holistic healer, points out in her famed book Women’s Health, Women’s Wisdom, that most gynecological problems stem from emotional baggage associated with a woman’s femininity. Remnants of our patriarchal society has endowed us with feelings of weakness and inadequacy and we need to answer to that in order to give our bodies the opportunity to heal. No matter where your anovulation from, my three-month program is dedicated to healing women’s cycles after the pill and I would be happy to help you heal yours!
Emotional Causes of Anovluation
Personally, I have realized that my own anovulation stemmed from early (unjustly) Christian ideals such as purity and lust. I spent a good portion of my early adult years trying to avoid sexual thoughts and feelings and when I finally did have sex with my husband it was hard to adjust that mindset. It wasn’t until recently that I realized the backwardness of this thinking. We are sexual beings and should embrace our sexuality. It isn’t something to be diffused or “turned-off” it is something to nurture and embrace. Yet we continuously use words for sex such as “dirty” and “naughty”. We rarely use words such as “pure” and “holy”.
Similarly, many women with fertility issues previously spent years avoiding pregnancy at all costs. Suddenly they need to flip the on-switch and their body doesn’t know what to do. I believe there is a more natural way to make the transition. Opening up to the possibility of life can heal many women struggling to get pregnant.
No matter where your own feminine issues stem from, take a look at how you feel as a woman and how others have made you feel. Emotional barriers are just as strong as physical ones and can often mean the difference between a functioning menstrual cycle and an anovulatory one.
What kind of emotional baggage might be sabotaging your endocrine system? How can you get in touch with your own femininity?