Ask the Gyno: Side Effects of Stopping Birth Control? Is This Early Menopause?

Playing Going off of Birth Control? Prepare for These Possible Side Effects

OB/GYN expert Dr. Nita Landry has the answers for two women experiencing not-so-great symptoms. First up is Shelby, who shares that she went off birth control six months ago because she believed it was giving her migraines. Since then, the frequency of her migraines have greatly decreased but there have been some other downsides. Shelby shares that her hair now gets oily after only one day, she has acne on both sides of her neck, little bumps on her arms, and has gained eight pounds even though she has halved her portion sizes.

Dr. Nita explains to Shelby that the birth control she was on was FDA-approved to treat acne so the pills were helping her skin a lot. Without them, the increase in androgens, which are male hormones, could be causing her oily skin and acne. Shelby has been taking maca root to try and help the acne. The issue with that, Dr. Nita explains, is it is not regulated by the FDA and also, some people say it actually increases their acne, especially when they first start taking it. Dr. Nita doesn’t think it’s the best option for Shelby and advises her to meet with a dermatologist to figure out a good skin care routine.

Watch: How One Man Defeated His Cystic Acne through Changing What He Ate

Dr. Nita also wants Shelby to consider watching her diet and staying away from any foods that cause allergic reactions. Also, some studies have shown that dairy and foods with a high glycemic index can trigger acne so she should be aware of that. If Shelby does get pregnant or have a child, Dr. Nita wants her to know the effects of maca root during that time are unknown, so she should be mindful of that. 

Dr. Nita then addresses the oily hair which is likely there for the same reason as the acne, the androgens are helping with oil production. Shelby should also talk to her dermatologist about this and needs to find a shampoo that works for her. 

Lastly, Dr. Nita addresses Shelby’s weight gain. She points out that during certain points in a woman’s cycle they can gain some water weight. She stresses the importance of getting exercise and eating a balanced diet. While portion control is great, it’s important to be eating the right things. Shelby should avoid salty and processed foods. Dr. Nita says there is a chance that if Shelby feels bloated all the time and gets full quickly, there may be an issue with her ovaries and this is something she should get checked out.

Dr. Nita wants Shelby to have a doctor examine all her medications, her history and to do a full physical. The good news is, everything Shelby is describing is treatable! 

Next up is Marlena, who shares that she has been experiencing excessive hair growth in strange places as well as vaginal dryness. Marlena is 35 years old, has had fibroids in the past as well as has PCOS. She has had a couple of surgeries to remove the fibroids and earlier this year she had a hysterectomy. They removed her cervix, fallopian tubes and uterus. She wants to know if her symptoms could be a sign of early menopause.

Watch: Can Sex Improve Menopause Symptoms?

Dr. Nita explains even though Marlena had a hysterectomy, she still has ovaries. The ovaries make the hormones so the hysterectomy wouldn’t throw her into early menopause. While some studies show women who have had the procedure can go into menopause slightly earlier, around three and a half to four years, that’s not where Marlena is.

Dr. Nita wants Marlena to gets some labs done to figure out if she is entering early menopause. They should check for her thyroid, her follicle stimulating hormone levels and androgen levels. It’s the excessive hair growth that Dr. Nita finds concerning. She also suggests going through her medication list to see if they could be causing the hair growth. 

“It could be early menopause, absolutely, it’s a possibility, but not necessarily just because you had a hysterectomy because the ovaries are still there and that timeline just doesn’t necessarily work unless it’s a coincidence. You want to make sure there’s not something else going on,” Dr. Nita tells Marlena.