The Pill Does Not ‘Regulate’ Your Period.
I hear this often. It is usually in the first consult when I ask if you’ve been on The Pill before and many women say, “yes, from 16 years old to ‘regulate’ my cycle”.
Most often, the pill is used to reduce bleeding, improve acne, reduce period pain and other PMS symptoms including mood changes.
The Pill stops ovulatory cycles by keeping a consistent level of a progestin (a progesterone-like hormone) in the blood. This tells your ovaries that you have already ovulated which prevents you from ovulating. Without ovulation, you cannot fall pregnant.
When you stop taking this progestin, ie take the sugar pills, you do bleed, but this is not a real period, it is a withdrawal bleed from the change in synthetic hormones.
Your cycles have not been regulated. Your ovulatory cycles have been stopped. Your natural change in hormones that has so many other healthy benefits has been paused, until you choose to go off the pill. Ovulating is about more than just your fertility.
Your natural ovulatory cycles are important for making progesterone. Ovulation is the only way the body makes progesterone. Progesterone helps to reduce inflammation, regulate immune function, support thyroid and breast tissue.
According to Canadian endocrinology professor Jerilynn Prior, “women benefit from 35 to 40 years of ovulatory cycles, not just for fertility but also to prevent osteoporosis, stroke, dementia, heart disease, and breast cancer.” In that sense, each and every ovulation is like a monthly deposit into the bank account of long-term health (shared on Dr Lara Briden’s website).
The pill is also known to reduce important minerals and vitamins in the body and can increase your chance of blood clotting.
In Chinese medicine, the pause in hormone changes caused by the pill contributes to a pattern we call Blood and Qi stagnation, which may take some months to resume once you stop the pill.
I don’t want to discount the freedom and control many woman have experienced since the invention of The Pill. We just need to change the language and understanding of it’s role in women’s health so women can make informed decisions about taking it or stopping it.
Regulating an ovulatory menstrual cycle can be done with improving overall health. Acupuncture, Chinese herbs, the right supplements and dietary and lifestyle advice can support you, whether you’re looking to fall pregnant or just want to be the healthiest version of yourself.