Post-Birth Control Syndrome. Do You Have It?

Some contraceptives contain hormones that women usually take to prevent pregnancy, although there are other beneficial uses. These types of birth control consist of hormones that suppress a woman's natural hormone production. While many women find hormonal birth control beneficial, many are surprised by the myriad of symptoms that follow when discontinuing.

Key takeaways:
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    Post-birth control syndrome is a term for a set of symptoms experienced by some women after discontinuing hormonal-containing birth control.
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    This syndrome is not recognized as an actual diagnosis by some healthcare professionals.
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    The syndrome may represent a return of symptoms for which women initially took the contraceptive.
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    The symptoms can be managed symptomatically by women; however, they should be discussed with the healthcare team if severe.

Post-birth control syndrome is the term for the issues some women may experience from discontinuing hormonal birth control. The question most healthcare professionals have comes from its legitimacy as an actual diagnosis.

Understanding what post-birth control syndrome is

Post-birth control syndrome (PBCS) refers to a set of varying symptoms that women may experience when they stop taking birth control. This theory was first recognized and given its name by a naturopathic doctor. It is essential to know that no scientific evidence supports this term; therefore, traditional medical doctors have not accepted PBCS as an official medical diagnosis.

Before we continue, let's pause here and discuss what a naturopathic doctor is. A Naturopathic doctor will attempt to identify the underlying cause of a disease rather than simply trying to suppress the symptoms.

These medical practitioners "diagnose, treat and manage patients with acute and chronic diseases, while addressing disease and dysfunction at the level of the body, mind, and spirit," according to the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges.

There are many questions surrounding this syndrome, and further research is required before this notion can be considered a diagnosis. According to some healthcare professionals, women are simply experiencing a return of their original symptoms. In contrast, naturopathic physicians believe taking the pill hides a deeper problem.

Post-birth control syndrome symptoms

The reason for taking birth control can be multifactorial, meaning there could be many reasons for taking it. Some use birth control to help with the symptoms of their menstrual cycle, while some women take it to prevent pregnancy from happening.

Birth control pills contain hormones similar to the ones that women naturally make in their ovaries and can work in various ways. The first mechanism is preventing ovulation. The other mechanisms are disrupting tubal motility, making the uterine lining thinner which impairs implantation, and thickening of the cervical mucus.

Common symptoms expressed by some women after discontinuing hormonal contraception are:

  • Acne.
  • Weight gain or bloating.
  • Irregular or even absence of periods.
  • Heavy periods.
  • Menstrual cramps.
  • Changes in mood.
  • Breast tenderness.

The hormonal imbalance experienced can be frustrating for women. It is essential to work with and communicate with your doctor so that your healthcare team can create a plan to assist with these symptoms.

Understanding treatment options for post-birth control syndrome

Since there is no official diagnosis for the collective symptoms of this syndrome, women experiencing them should direct treatment towards managing the symptoms.

Remember that you may experience symptoms return for what you initially took the birth control for in the first place. For example, if you take birth control to regulate your cycles, you might experience irregular menstrual bleeding. If you were taking it to treat acne, don't be surprised if your acne comes back as well.

Some common ways to treat post-birth control syndrome will look like managing premenstrual symptoms.

Over-the-counter medications

Over-the-counter medications like Ibuprofen can help to relieve cramps and breast tenderness.

Herbal remedies

Herbal remedies and vitamin supplements might be worth considering. Although there is not enough scientific research to prove its benefits, women have reported an ease in their symptoms when they take certain herbs such as Ginko, St. John's wort, and ginger. Calcium and magnesium could help reduce mood changes, breast tenderness, and bloating. If you decide this is something you want to do, you must speak with your doctor first because supplements can sometimes interfere with prescription medications.

Adjust your lifestyle habits

Limit salty foods because the salt will make you retain water and increase that bloating feeling. Incorporate walking outdoors, as this can uplift your mood and help reduce stress.

Hydrate your body

Increasing your daily water intake can be very beneficial for your skin and could help reduce blemishes. Water is vital for cellular energy and can help boost your energy when needed fluid retention.

What types of birth control contain hormones

Not all birth control has hormones in them, and there are some types of birth control with hormones you do not even ingest. It may be helpful to understand which methods contain these hormones if you are worried about developing post-birth control syndrome.

The pill

The traditional birth control pill can come in two forms. They either have a combination of estrogen and progestin, or they might contain only progestin.

A contraceptive in the form of a skin patch

As the patch contains estrogen and progestin, more unwanted side effects may result from its absorption through the skin.

The vaginal ring

This type of contraception is inserted into the vagina by the woman. It contains the hormones estrogen and progestin, and absorption happens through the walls of the vagina into the bloodstream.

Contraceptive coils

This t-shaped plastic device is inserted into the uterus and continuously releases levonorgestrel (a synthetic hormone) through the womb's lining.

An every three-month injection

This contraceptive contains the hormone progestin and is given every three months into the subcutaneous skin or deep into the muscle. Usually, it is not well tolerated because it includes a very high dose of progestin.

Birth control implant

Healthcare professionals place implants under the arm's skin and need to replace them every three to five years. This type of birth control releases the hormone progestin.

Even though there is no officially recognized term for post-birth control syndrome, many women have reported that they have experienced side effects when deciding to stop taking hormonal contraceptives. It is crucial to discuss your symptoms with your physician so that you can get help in dealing with some of the troubling effects you might experience.

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