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.

Sunday, 15 March 2015


This month I’m branching out. 

This month I would like to share with you a Facebook post taken from another blog called, Elephant Journal. The name of the piece is, “TheFacebook Confession every person should read” and it is by Vironika Tugaleva.

The reason I would like to share this with you all is because for me this “confession” aptly and so honestly puts into words what I seem to struggle with more and more the older I get and something that I see my patients also struggling with on a daily basis.

"Confession: Every Saturday, after I have a session with a beloved client, I call my grandfather. He lives alone. My family is very broken apart and, through a series of terrible events, he’s wound up alone, not only physically, but emotionally. He does get food and all provided for him, but everyone dislikes him, and he only perpetuates that cycle by putting up this jagged personality to them. They say he started it. He says something different.

To me, he’s a different person. No one sees him like this. Have you ever had a kid or a dog that just lights up when they see your face? Well, that’s how he is to me. His voice just changes when he hears mine. He sounds like a man who’s just won the lottery. His joy when he hears it’s me on the other end is like the joy of a child.

Then, he tells me the same stories over. I think he’s got some brain damage from a previous stroke, because he retells things and he lies a lot.

I guess my confession is—I don’t always want to call. And, when I don’t, I feel guilty. I feel like I should want to call, want to be there for him, want to be, as he says, “his only joy in the world.” I’m trying to get everyone else in the family to see him in a different light, to invite him over, to be kinder, but it’s slow—grueling. Seems like everyone’s got something else to worry about.

But, right now, I’m going to call. And I’m going to spend that hour. Because, sometimes, love is hard. Sometimes, love isn’t exciting. With my client, I get so excited, because she grows every time, and then I take that excitement to my grandfather, and it withers as we speak, because it’s all the same. And then, I have to forgive myself for this loss of enthusiasm and release my guilt over it. I’m just a human being. I am not a martyr. I am just a human being trying to do the right thing.

Not just with my grandfather, but this work in general, sometimes supporting people is really hard. Sometimes, I’m going through my own things and I don’t share them and it builds up and I feel guilty for it building up. Other times, I’m a self-care superstar. Sometimes, I am not.

At the end of the day, I’m just learning this as I go, just like you are. And I hope that, if my confession has any value to you, it’s to say that it’s okay—it’s okay to be where you are.

I’ve learned that, no matter how far you get, new challenges arise. New ways of being thrown into self-judgment and guilt and shame will always be around.

What matters is how we respond. What matters is our choice to love. And, honestly, I’m starting to think that doing it when it’s hard is what makes us into better people. Because anyone can love when it’s easy. But it takes work to love others when it’s hard and love ourselves through not being the perfect caretaker.

It’s not easy, but it is worth it. And so is being honest about how human I really am.

I hope you will do the same ♥"

We have all been brought up in a world where being rewarded for being good is nestled deep within the backbone of our natures. We are always striving to be better people and to be recognized for these efforts. And this is all for good reason, for time does not stand still and progress is inevitable, so why should it not be in a positive direction?

The big question that still stands though, is what happens when we don’t make the cut on a few occasions? What happens when we are tired and we give up? What happens when we disappoint ourselves and fall back into bad habits? What happens when you just feel like going back to bed and crawling up into a ball - and so you do it?

I must confess, I think there is some unlearning to be done! Forgiving ourselves when we don’t meet our own idealistic expectations is possibly the first step, but that is only a bandaid solution for a much deeper problem. Why are we taking ourselves, and our lives, oh, so seriously?

I think somewhere between being a child and now, we have picked up the notion that the world rests on our shoulders. Lets rejoice in that fact that we are not only human, we are wholly human and we have a tremendous power to achieve… just one step at a time.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Do you worry about falling pregnant?

We’ve all had that scare at least once! 

You know the one, you’re a bit late and you have really tender breasts, and if you really think about it, you do feel a bit more nauseous than usual!

So the question keeps popping up, “Is this PMS or am I pregnant?”

This dilemma is common for sexually active women and these doubts can grow in your mind and cause unnecessary worry and stress.

Although these fears are mostly valid (for if you are sexually active then you must accept that no method of contraception is 100% effective), it would be nice if you could be more in control, and when I say control, I mean more aware of what your body is telling you.

Are these in fact early symptoms of pregnancy, or are they hormonal imbalances causing symptoms of PMS?

It is possible to become more aware; it’s not difficult, and once you have learnt it, this awareness is for life. You will be best friends with your menstrual cycle and you will continue to reap the benefits of this symbiotic relationship through both pregnancy (should this be something you wish) and menopause.

How is this possible? There are two key techniques that are simple and effective:
  1. Taking your BBT (basal body temperature) - This is your temperature first thing in the morning upon rising after at least 4 hours sleep. The pattern these values make when plotted on a graph tell you whether you have ovulated, if you are pregnant or whether your hormones are imbalanced causing symptoms such as PMS
  2. Recording your cervical mucus - Cervical mucus is the discharge that can be felt at the opening of the vagina. Throughout the menstrual cycle it fluctuates, changing in amount, texture and colour. By observing these changes you very quickly learn the pattern your body produces in the lead up to ovulation and after.
By learning these two simple techniques you will become more aware of your own fertility and how to avoid conception. No more worries about falling pregnant and once learnt this technique is for life with no ongoing costs.

So many of the women I see initially fear their own potential for fertility. 

By learning the Sympto-thermal Method you empower yourself with knowledge about how to:
  • avoid pregnancy with certainty
  • understand your cycles (why am I moody, why are my cycles so short etc.)
  • re-balence your hormones to relieve symptoms related to the menstrual cycle.
  • feel less stressed and more grounded.

Dr Shirley Rigoni is a Chinese Medicine Practitioner and worshipper of women's hormones and the menstrual cycle. 

If you are interested in being notified when a new blog or when the next free information session is taking place please email your name to:

Melbourne Natural Wellness Centre
Level 4, 178 Collins St, Melbourne

For appointments please call: (03) 9662 1311