Last year, when researching the topic of womanhood and feminism for my senior design project, I never expected to discover the things I did. I knew woman’s issues stretched over hundreds of years and touched on many topics. What I did not know was how much health + wellness affected women. While combining my passion for holistic health, and my personal journey through womanhood, I’ve seen so many connections between the two and the work that needs to be done in the realm of woman’s health, health education and the health/beauty industries of America.
“The new feminism includes being so well informed about your body that you can be 100 percent confident that you’re making the absolute best decision for you”
Reproductive & Sexual Health
I am embarrassed to admit how many misconceptions I had about women’s sexual and reproductive health. I honestly can’t even recall learning about women’s reproductive health in school. I grew up going through puberty and becoming a woman without really knowing and understanding anything about my body. I was definitely terrified of sex and getting pregnant, especially growing up in the Christian church but I really had no understanding of my reproductive system. I knew girls got periods and girls could get pregnant. That’s about it.
“You shouldn’t have to go to medical school to understand how the body you live in works”
I got my first period in middle school and about halfway through high school, I realized that my period cramps were pretty painful. So painful that I would usually stay home from school on the worst day of each cycle (little did I know, celiac disease & kidney stones were in my future so I hadn’t even experienced real pain yet but that’s besides the point..). At the simplest terms, my period hurt so I wanted to change that. I realize now all the pill was doing was masking the pain and altering the natural cycles of my body… but like my entire group of girl friends at that time, at 16 years old I went on the birth control pill.
When I first started using birth control, I was NEVER warned about the negative side effects of the pill or of the things that could happen when eventually going off of the pill. To be honest, and I hate to admit that I was this naive but I did not even really understand what birth control was. I had no idea what I was putting into my body DAILY. My periods were causing pain so I was told birth control could stop the pain, so that’s what I did. I chose a hormonal birth control pill and I was on the pill until this past May… so I was on the pill for about 8 years.
“Your period and menstrual cycle supply you with some serious data about your health. The American College of Obstertricians and Gynecologists decided that it was a new vital sign.
That’s right, the fifth vital sign. Your period is up there with temperature, pulse, respiratory rate and blood pressure. You know, all the things that tell your doctor you’re alive and are used to access your health”
After being diagnosed with a chronic illness in 2015, my new journey to holistic health began. It took a little time and a lot of horrible doctors but a few summers after my diagnosis, I decided to start seeing a holistic doctor. My autoimmune disease diagnosis left me lost and confused at what was happening to my body. I had so many questions, questions that trained medical professionals could not give me the answers too. To be honest, I was terrified. At 19, I was told I had a life-long disease and I had no idea what that even meant. I’m still learned new things about Celiac Disease and autoimmune conditions at 23 years old. I realize that I still have so much more to learn.
I’ve said this before and I won’t go into detail but I had a lot of BAD doctors over the course of four years. I was misdiagnosed, ignored and honestly disrespected. I craved for someone to really listen to me and honestly, I just wanted someone to care. That is when I found Lovelight Healing Center and made my first appointment. This appointment was a huge turning point for my health, my spirituality and my personal growth. I learned so much about plant medicine and foods from the Earth that can do the same things that certain medicines do. I could change my life in a completely natural way, and that was life-changing.
I remember at my first appointment, my holistic doctor brought up birth control. I communicated that I was on the pill and had been since I was 16. She didn’t tell me to get off of it right away or anything to that extent but she did tell me to look into birth control and do my own research, which I did, although it took me a while. After that appointment, I was reviewing all of the dietary changes I would be making and decided to put off my birth control research thinking ‘birth control can’t be that bad, literally everyone I know is on birth control’.
That all changed when I was having some more health issues in the Spring of 2019 and decided to do that deep dive into birth control as I remembered the conversation I had at my first holistic health appointment. I’m thankful that she pushed me to research it on my own because I was able to really dig into hormonal birth control and woman’s reproductive health. Throughout my research, I stumbled across Jolene Brighten’s book Beyond the Pill. I decided the book looked interesting enough and after learning that Jolene Brighten is a functional naturopathic doctor, I knew this would be a good resource. I will link her information & book below for those who want to learn more!
Post-Birth Control Syndrome (PBCS)
While waiting for her book to come in the mail, I decided to call my gynecologist and ask about going off of birth control and what the process was for stopping the pill. After hanging up, I did some more research and when my book came in the mail, I read it cover to cover right away. I was blown away by the words I was reading and I discovered that in the coming months, I would most-likely experience Post-Birth Control Syndrome.
Post-Birth Control Syndrome
“PBCS is a term that refers to the collection of the signs and symptoms that arise when you stop taking the pill. These can be symptoms you were suppressing with the pill, of they can be added side effects the pill created that your body is waking up to… they can range from headaches, mood swings, anxiety, and depression, and acne to a total loss of menstruation, pill-induced PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), infertility, hypothyroidism, leaky gut, and immune-related symptoms.”
The first couple months off the pill was smooth sailing but soon enough, my period started to regulate once again and I was faced with some not-so-fun side effects. I was also getting used to having my period monthly because the particular pill I was on, I only got my period every three months. Which was convenient, but looking back, having a period is monthly is healthy so what was restricting that natural cycle doing to my body? It’s November now so I’m about 6 months out after stopping the pill and I am feeling so much better. I was not happy about my period coming back but honestly, it feels good having my natural cycle back. The only problem I’m still dealing with is the acne… oh Lord the acne.
I never had huge issues with acne, well, until now. In high school, I would get zits here and there, from puberty. In college, I’m 100% sure that alll my acne was due to my horrible diet and high levels of stress. After college, with fixing my diet and eliminating the stress of school, I saw my acne nearly disappear. However, now I feel like I’ve been dealing with a lifetime worth of acne in only a few months.
I stopped the pill in May and have been dealing with full-blown, intense and painful cystic acne since. The worst of the acne started in July, about two months after stopping the pill and here in November, it is just starting to reduce a bit. October was probably my worst month of acne. My cystic acne was so bad I was stuck in bed for days with immense pain on my jaw and swelling in my face, neck and lymph nodes.
Horrible acne is not normal and it is not something that anyone HAS to deal with. There are ways to minimize acne but you have to do the research and get down to the source of what is causing it. In my case, I learned that the majority of my acne was hormonal – thanks to PBCS, I realized that I do have hormonal imbalances and those can all be cared for, naturally.
Since stopping the pill, I learned that before and during my period, my body produces excess testosterone which is the base cause of my acne. Thankfully, there are a lot of natural supplements and plants that can help the body to eliminate extra testosterone: zinc, saw palmetto and vitex berry are a few. Reducing inflammation, balancing hormones and cutting out toxins are all they keys to creating a healthy flow in your body.
Do Your Research
Personally, going off of birth control was the best decision for me and my personal health. In high school, healthy and naive as can be, I made a lot of ill-informed decisions about my health, including going on birth control. I can’t go back and change the decisions I made nearly 10 years ago, but moving forward, I can make my health a top priority.
My diagnosis of an autoimmune disease in 2015 was life-changing in so many ways. I have had to learn how to navigate this world with a chronic illness. It has not been an easy road. On the other hand, the research I have come across the past few years is honestly overwhelming. My eyes have been opened to the horrors of the US food industry, big pharma and honestly American society as a whole… but that is a post for another day.
I strongly encourage you too . The things I have shared are not meant to frighten or cause alarm but we, as humans, need to wake up and pay attention to the world around us. Women especially, are at high risk for disease and health issues. Take accountability for your own health journey, do your own research, ask questions and make sure to be making informed decisions about your health. You only have one life, one body and we need to make sure we take care of ourselves.
Peace & love – kendall
P.S. take care of yourself <3
Dr. Jolene Brighten (NMD):