Friday, 10 June 2016

Part 2: How to come off hormonal contraceptives smoothly

Last time in Part 1 of How to come off hormonal contraceptives smoothly we started our journey to discover the best way transition into drug-free contraception with as little upset as possible to your system. 

We covered some of the common reasons why women choose to come off them, what changes you can expect during this time and how to predict whether you will be likely to have side effects. 

This time I have loads of useful information for you about hormonal detoxification and planning your new drug-free approach to contraception!

How can I clear synthetic hormones from my system?
The two hormones usually used in hormonal birth control are oestrogen and progesterone, and it appears that excess oestrogen is the cause of the side effects encountered by most. The liver is the primary organ responsible for the removal of excess hormones accumulated during synthetic hormone use. It does this by filtering your blood, drawing out the excess hormones and binding them to molecules to then be excreted via your bowels.

Here are some tips to improve hormonal detoxification:

Consume bitter foods and drinks - such as rocket, chicory, radicchio, bitter melon and dandelion root tea (the chai spice blend is one of my favourites). These improve liver function and the removal of excess oestrogen through bile.

Increase your dietary fibre – insoluble fibre (such as that in wheat bran and vegetables) binds with excess oestrogen in the gut and sweeps it out. Soluble fibre (linseeds, psyllium) also promote the growth of beneficial bacteria which support hormonal balance.

Eat moderate amounts of organic fermented soy – foods such as soy milk, tofu and tempeh all contain phytoestrogens that competitively inhibit oestrogens produced in the body from adhering to receptor sites thereby weakening the overall oestrogenic activity in the body.

Eat and drink fermented and cultured products – such as natural yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha. These foods have cultures of good bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, which improve oestrogen excretion and hormone regulation.

Eat more cruciferous vegetables – that’s the cabbage family including all cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts. These vegetables contain compounds called indoles that competitively inhibit oestrogen and inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells.

Reduce saturated animal fats – many fats are beneficial, however this specific type of fat causes an increase in an enzyme that enables oestrogen reabsorption from the gut where it would usually be excreted in the faeces.

Increase Omega-3 essential fatty acids – These are the “good fats”; examples include raw or activated nuts, avocados and oily fish. These will help to reduce excess inflammation and pain (that may cause side effects such as a period pain and headaches).

Exercise in the sun – this is like killing two birds with one stone; exercise improves the removal of oestrogen from tissues and Vitamin D from the sun plays a role in hormonal balance.

Reduce exposure to external sources of oestrogen – this is a big topic that I will be covering in a future blog so stay tuned!

Book yourself an acupuncture session – acupuncture has been shown to be very successful in alleviating many symptoms associated with hormone disregulation. In particular I have found it useful for irritability, depression, anxiety, pain and unregulated bleeding.

Book yourself an appointment with an Herbalist – there are many herbs that act as highly effective agents to assist in detoxification however it is extremely important that you seek professional assistance before taking them, as some may not be suitable for your constitution and can cause more harm than good.

What nutritional supplements are useful during this time?

I usually base this on a case-by-case analysis as each patient’s diet and digestion is unique. There is however one nutritional that I always recommend and that is a really good Vitamin B complex.
Synthetic hormones deplete your stores of vitamin B, which is essential in energy production and serotonin production (your happy hormone). In fact, use of synthetic hormones for more than 5 years has been shown to progressively deplete folate (vitamin B9) up to 40%. This is enough to bring about side effects such as mood and cognition changes, so supplementation is particularly important in these cases.

What forms of contraception can I use while I’m still learning the Symptothermal Method?

As your body returns to balance the best options for contraception are barrier methods:
  • Condoms – the male option is popular and is probably one we are all familiar with. There is also a female version too.
  • Spermicides – in the form of a cream or a sponge (impregnated with spermicidal agents) that is placed at the cervix of the vagina before sex.
  • Diaphragm – covers the cervix (opening to the vagina) and must be inserted by your doctor.
  • Cervical cap – covers the cervix and must be used in conjunction with spermicides.

I will be writing a future blog on the efficacy of these forms of contraception so stay tuned for more information.

When can I start charting my cycles?

You can start charting your cycles straight away! Usually you will have a withdrawal bleed when you first come off the hormonal contraception, this is a great time to book your first appointment with me where you will receive your Naturally Not Pregnant Kit containing everything you will need including essential rules, charts and complementary fertility thermometer. I will walk you through the foundations of charting so that when you have finished bleeding you are fully equipped and ready to start.

It is important to note that as the hormones will take weeks, maybe months to clear from your system then the first few months of charting will not be able to be used for contraceptive purposes. Rather they are your learning, correcting and habit forming months so that you are confident in your practice. I’m sure you will agree that there is no room for mistakes and that is why it is so important to learn this technique from a professional like myself.

How long will it take for the hormones to leave my system?

This depends on many factors such as:
  • How long you have been taking the synthetic hormones for in the first place
  • Whether you have taken breaks from them during that time
  • The current health status of your liver (quality of diet and alcohol/drug intake closely influence this)
  • How well you follow the tips given above and those specific to your case given to you by Dr. Shirley

When can I start using the Symptothermal Method as my primary form of contraception?

When you have been able to apply the technique to at least three consecutive cycles and feel confident in applying the rules to varying situations. Each case is unique and I will let you know when you are ready. Most commonly it takes 3-5 sessions attended once a month and after this time I am always available for questions.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Part 1: How to come off hormonal contraceptives smoothly

For many women, making that decision to come off hormonal contraception can be a bit daunting. My patients who are considering it are always the ones that ask me the most questions concerning their health, so here is the low down. Whether you are ready or still trying to make the decision, these are your most commonly asked questions answered.

What are some of the common reasons women come off hormonal contraception?
  • Side effects are of course a big issue; these might be ones that you experience soon after starting hormonal contraception, or they may have built up gradually over years as synthetic hormone levels disturb your body’s liver function.
  • Wanting to fall pregnant.
  • Wanting to rebalance your hormones and take back control of your health and your body.
  • Relationship concerns such as poor sex-drive, feeling like the responsibility of contraception has been on the woman for too long (and it is taking its toll on her health).

What kind of changes might I expect?

This is hard to predict, as everyone is unique; some changes will be welcome, while others are more troublesome.

The most annoying side effects usually occur if you had them to begin with and were prescribed synthetic hormones to mask the problem. Examples include:
  • Acne
  • Period pain
  • Heavier bleeding
  • Headaches

Mildly annoying side effects:
  • Your period just disappears! This is usually due to anovulatory cycles because the body has forgotten how to ovulate and have a period.
  • Cervical mucus is non-existent, or sometimes there is just a constant small amount.
  • Mood changes. This is particularly noticeable if your current synthetic hormones keep your moods very steady. Naturally throughout the cycle mood will fluctuate in a regular pattern, this may be strange for someone who has not felt it for a long time.

Welcome changes (just to name a few):
  • An increase in sex drive
  • Breast changes (usually less lumpy)
  • Less UTIs and thrush
  • Better energy and sleep
  • Weight loss

Will I have side effects from coming off my hormonal contraception?

Whether you have side effects when coming off hormonal contraception depends greatly on your health before you started taking them and your health now. Here are some examples that tend to increase the chance that side effects may arise:
  • Starting hormonal contraception at a young age before your reproductive system was yet mature (this is usually before 18-20 years-old)
  • Being on hormonal contraception for a long-time without a break
  • Poor health and nutrition status currently
  • Never having fallen pregnant before going on hormonal contraception

How can I prevent these side effects?

There are plenty of things you can do to prevent or minimise the occurrence of untoward effects and I will be talking about these in detail next week in Part 2 of How to come off hormonal contraceptives smoothly.

Got more questions? Email me at:

Sunday, 30 August 2015

What happens to your body when you come off hormonal contraception?

Perhaps you have been thinking for a while now that you would like to go natural, reconnect with your cycle and come off hormonal contraception.

You may be nervous and this is understandable. What will this mean for my body? What will I do for contraception? How can I do this without getting back my old symptoms?

It is always important to listen to your body. Most women intuitively feel when it’s the right time for them. Maybe they are experiencing side effects, maybe they are thinking about their future fertility, or maybe they just don’t feel right about taking the synthetic hormones anymore.

What ever your reasons, with the help of your doctor and a fertility awareness instructor like myself you can safely and smoothly come off hormonal contraception and integrate into healthy baby-free cycles with Naturally Not Pregnant’s fertility awareness programs.

What happens to my body when I come off hormonal contraception?

When you are taking hormonal contraception you are taking high levels of hormones that are very similar to the ones your body makes itself, they are just synthetic. Because your brain recognizes that you have high levels of hormones circulating though your system it tells your ovaries not to bother making any more.

If you are taking a pill that is 21 days on and 7 days off (sugar pills), then from the moment you start taking the sugar pills your brain realizes that your hormone levels are dropping and this begins the shedding of the uterus lining.

Remember this is not a true period because you have not ovulated, the pill will have prevented this; rather it is called a “withdrawal bleed”. This process is the body’s natural response to a drop in hormones and it is how a real period is triggered in a true cycle also.

After coming off the pill you will have your usual withdrawal bleed.

Then, after 7 or so days your body may do one of two things:

  1. Realise that you are no longer taking synthetic hormones and start making its own again.
  2. Not realise that you are no longer taking any synthetic hormones, and be too sleepy and lazy to begin making its own again!

In the first scenario, you may find that your body quickly gets its groove back and your period (a real period!) comes roughly 28 days later.

This is great news and always the more favourable outcome after coming off hormonal contraception!

It means that your brain and your ovaries remember their true purpose and you are healthy and fertile.

This is not always the case however, and often, after many years of synthetic hormone use the body will take some time to recover. 

Like a conductor leading a symphony, the brain must orchestrate the release of many key hormones and neurotransmitters in order for the menstrual cycle to flow correctly.

After coming off the pill many women will have a combination of hormone deficiencies and/or excesses; this is what causes cycle irregularities.

If this is the case, you may find that your period takes 6-8 weeks to return and when it does it is irregular for months. During this time however it is not uncommon to notice some hormonal signs that your body is trying to figure things out.

In the second scenario, an essential process in the healthy functioning of the menstrual cycle has stopped working.

Your hypothalamus, sleepy after being dormant for so long while on the pill, forgets that it should be giving out regular pulses of a hormone called gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH). GnRH’s job is to stimulate the release of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH), which in turn stimulate oestrogen and progesterone to be released from your ovaries.

Sometimes it takes time for your hypothalamus to wake up; up to 12 months in not unusual. Certain herbs, acupuncture and a little bit of patience can be very helpful in this instance.

Coming up in a couple weeks time we will be covering what you can do to ensure your body is recovering after the burdens of hormonal contraception.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Sweetening the Pill

"63.7% of women go off the pill within the first year due to unwanted side effects"

The pill. A combination of two synthetic hormones designed to prevent fertility. There is no denying that the feminist movement that it provoked in the 60's was a revolution. But where do we, as a society, striving for equality, honesty and freedom stand with the current mainstream attitude towards fertility and contraception?

"Is it fair to have to compromise your health in order to be responsible?"

"How can something that severs you from your most primal and natural identity be empowering?"

These are the questions Abby Epstein and Ricky Lake are asking in their upcoming documentary, "Sweetening the Pill".

Many don't realise that the pill was the first medical drug designed and approved, that is made specifically for healthy people to take. That is, people who aren't sick take this drug and it makes them less healthy. 

Paradoxical, and yet so widely accepted! Possibly because it was not fully explained to us when we were advised to take it by our doctors - who we trust!

I was not one of those people. I knew what I was signing myself up for the day I went to the doctors and asked for a prescription for the pill.

But I also felt like I had no other option. We didn't want to use condoms. We didn't want to have children.

"It is not in anyway that you are regulating your cycle with birth control, you have no cycle anymore..."

All women are altered by these drugs, some more profoundly than others. I was one of those women. I'm very sensitive, to the point where I cant even drink a cup of tea at breakfast without it sending me on a high that will prevent me from sleeping that night!

What was I thinking!

Thats how I discovered fertility awareness based contraception. Thats how I came to teach it to any women who wants to learn. That is how I embraced freedom, and that, is why I love what I do.

"Knowing how your body works, that sounds to me like true independence"

(All quotes are taken from, Sweetening the Pill - A Documentary - Watch it! Its amazing!)

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

All you need to know about cervical mucus!

The cervix produces a protective lubricant that is commonly termed, cervical mucus. This mucus changes slightly in colour, amount and texture throughout your cycle and is completely normal!

By normal I mean that it is a healthy representation of the secretions from the cervix (just a fancy name for the opening of your uterus) that fluctuate with changing hormone levels.

What is its purpose?

To protect and moisten the lining of your cervix and vagina. All the mucus membranes that make up the barrier between the external world and your body are lined with a fluid; the mucus membranes in your mouth are protected by saliva, your ears have wax, your nose has, well, more mucus!

Cervical mucus produced during the “infertile phase” of your cycle has another protective role, it creates a plug over the opening of the uterus, which apart from stopping nasties such as germs and dirt from getting up into the uterus and causing infection, it also stops sperm from being able to enter the uterus. 

Imagine it is like a natural diaphragm! But not only is this natural diaphragm a barrier, it has an acidic pH that acts as a spermicide, rendering those little guys completely useless!

Cervical mucus produced during the “fertile phase” of your cycle however, is completely the opposite! It is more basic (alkaline) and therefore dissolves the acidic plug, exposing the entry point to the uterus and allowing the passage of sperm towards the egg. 

It is much more fluid and slippery, which sperm love! They wriggle their tails around, exactly like a tadpole and within as little as 30 minutes can have swam up though the vagina, uterus and down a fallopian tube to fertilise a waiting egg!

What are the different types?

Basically when I teach my patients and NNP clients to recognise the different types of cervical mucus I break it down into 4 categories:

Infertile Cervical Mucus: As detailed above this mucus acts as a natural diaphragm and spermicide. It is usually thick, white, pasty and unchanging in amount. Some women describe it as UHU (the glue stick!) as it can be sticky and tacky, and dries as a white crust on your underwear.

You may notice this type of mucus in the couple of days after your period has finished and again after ovulation has occurred (see the green petals in the diagram).

Possibly Fertile Cervical Mucus: This mucus is the “change-over” mucus, it varies greatly for different women ranging from clear, thin and watery to creamy white and lumpy. 

Remember, every woman is different and when you learn the NNP technique you are learning how to read your individual pattern of fertility. 

This mucus only lasts 2-6 days in the lead up the ovulation (see the orange petals)

Fertile and Very Fertile Cervical Mucus: These cervical mucus types should be treated with the utmost reverence! 

For those who are wishing to fall pregnant it is the most desirable and exciting cervical mucus to discover. 

But for those who are practicing the NNP technique it is a dangerous couple of days when barrier methods should be employed.

This type of cervical mucus is profuse, wet, slippery and may even be stretchy like egg-white. It is short lasting, from a couple of hours to 3 days (See the red petals on the diagram).

What about when you are on the pill?

Just as women taking the pill or any other synthetic hormonal contraception do not get periods because they are not ovulating (they simply have a what is called a withdrawal bleed) they also do not get fluctuations in cervical mucus types. 

A woman taking synthetic hormones will only experience one type of cervical mucus, and that is the Infertile type.

Would you like to learn how to use this knowledge to prevent or facilitate pregnancy?

All NNP Programs teach:
  • How to achieve contraception though monitoring changes in cervical mucus.
  • More detail about the cervical mucus types.
  • When you must use protection if you are interested in contraception (or when to have lots of sex if you want to have babies!)
  • How to recognise hormonal imbalances such as low levels of cervical mucus. This can be remedied easily with herbs, nutrients and/or diet and lifestyle changes.
The NNP technique also employs Basal Body Temperature (BBT) recording and Lunar Phase Fertility for maximum protection.