Birth control is often prescribed to women as a cure-all for whatever their ailment is. Have acne? Take the pill! Have bad periods? Take the pill! Have PCOS? Take the pill! Beyond contraception, the pill is prescribed all the time for various hormonal issues. The problem is, though hormonal oral contraceptives work for many, for others, the synthetic hormones can cause terrible side effects.
If you’re someone who has taken hormonal birth control, and recently gotten off of it. How are you feeling? Great, I hope! However, if you’re experiencing symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome, you may be surprised to learn that there is speculation that birth control could trigger a form of PCOS.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a problem in a woman’s body that causes hormonal imbalances during the reproductive years of her life. It causes issues like infertility, weight gain, polycystic ovaries, acne, body hair growth, and more. Plus, it has long-term risks like type 2 diabetes, endometrial cancer, and heart disease.
What causes PCOS is widely unknown. The running theory is that it has something to do with genetics and environmental factors. This is why the question of whether birth control can cause PCOS is a valid one. So, today we’re exploring this very question and defining pill-induced PCOS.
Can Birth Control Cause PCOS?
Though it’s not proven that birth control is a cause of PCOS, there is a reason many doctors think it can. First off, there are thousands of women that have reported PCOS-like symptoms after stopping birth control, and PCOS treatment methods have been effective in reversing the pill-induced PCOS.
Additionally, when doctors look at how birth control works, it’s clear how the PCOS symptoms and lasting effects of the pill could be connected. The pill severs the communication between the brain and the ovaries, which stops ovulation. With most women, menstrual cycles with regular periods and ovulation return without incident. For some, however, this doesn’t happen. The ovulation suppression and hormonal changes stay with them for months or even years.
What is Pill-Induced PCOS?
Pill-induced PCOS is a temporary form of polycystic ovarian syndrome where the synthetic hormones and communication suppression of the birth control pill stay with you for months or years after you stop taking it. The issues caused by these long-term effects of the pill cause PCOS-like symptoms like irregular periods, infertility, acne, and more. (I’ll list below.)
Where pill-induced PCOS differs from other types of PCOS is that it doesn’t include insulin resistance and inflammation, which are common with true PCOS. With pill-induced PCOS, you probably won’t see high blood sugar, issues losing weight, digestive problems, and other symptoms that stem from these poor bodily functions.
However, women with PCOS from birth control pills do have infertility issues from lack of ovulation and a disrupted menstrual cycle. They’ll also experience other effects of hormonal imbalances we’ve listed below. It’s important to note that pill-induced PCOS is temporary and you can treat PCOS of this type!
Pill-Induced PCOS Symptoms
Does Pill-Induced PCOS Go Away?
Reduce stress through self-care.
High stress levels can make hormonal imbalances worse. This is because any time your body encounters stress, it releases the hormone cortisol into your bloodstream, which raises your heart rate and blood pressure. Too much cortisol can lead to several problems, in addition to the usual downsides of imbalance hormones.
So, try to reduce stress through self-care and lifestyle changes. Spend time in nature, get quality sleep (more on that in a minute), try essential oils, make time for your favorite activities and practice mindfulness. Better mental health can change your physical health too!
Try an anti-inflammatory diet (gluten & dairy free).
Foods have profound effects on our body. They can help or hinder our hormone balance and regular bodily processes. If you’re struggling with symptoms of PCOS, you should consider cutting dairy, cutting gluten, and finding the right carb tolerance for you.
Conversely, more fiber, healthy fats, and herbal tea in your diet can help support a healthier you! I know this all sounds like a lot, but in The Cysterhood App, we make it easier with our PCOS meal plans. Otherwise, definitely read my blog for more healthy eating tips!
The right exercises can help you reduce your symptoms and treat your pill-induced PCOS. However, don’t go right for the high energy, high-impact routines you see on YouTube. Try doing slow, weighted workouts. Those will help you get to optimal hormone levels! (The wrong exercises can make the problem worse, so read this post to learn about the best PCOS exercise, and join The Cysterhood for weekly workout routines that’ll get you back in the swing of things!).
Consider taking supplements and vitamins.
Deficiencies in your diet can make your journey out of pill-induced PCOS harder. However, even with a healthy diet, it’s hard to get everything you need from food alone. Talk with your doctor about adding PCOS friendly supplements to your routine. The extra support should help you see symptom relief faster!
Practice good sleep hygiene.
What is sleep hygiene? Basically, it’s taking time to set yourself up for bed, so you get maximum benefits from your time snoozing. You can get better sleep by winding down before bed, sticking to a sleep schedule, getting out in the sun, turning your screens off early, and maybe even taking a melatonin supplement.
Reduce caffeine intake.
If you’re in need of caffeine to get through the day, this is something to think about. Caffeine causes you to produce more cortisol. If you remember from earlier, too much cortisol is not a good thing! If you’re able to naturally produce energy, a cup of coffee isn’t a big deal, but if you already have high levels of stress and cortisol, and simply can’t get through the day, caffeine will eventually make the problem worse. It’ll also just make you more tired after it wares off, since your adrenal system will be so worn out from producing more cortisol. Because of this, consider replacing caffeine with prioritizing sleep and exercising to support your adrenals with slow, weighted workouts. (Or, at least go decaf.)
The pill may cause PCOS, but it can be reversed with the right lifestyle changes!
If you’re feeling the side effects of PCOS for the first time after having gotten off birth control, you’re not alone. Research seems to show that the pill could induce a form of temporary PCOS, but with an understanding of the problem and the right diet and lifestyle changes, you can work to reverse it.
While you work it out, listen to this episode to learn more about the pill with PCOS and join The Cysterhood for all the support and guidance you’ll need to tackle your pill-induced PCOS. We’re all in this together, whether you have true PCOS or temporary PCOS!