I thought for a long time about whether I wanted to share this experience as it is very personal, but I decided to because when I was going through it I felt alone and unsure. Please reach out to me with any questions!
PLEASE NOTE: I am NOT a doctor or certified to give medical advice or recommendations, I am simply sharing my experience. I respect and encourage every woman to choose the birth control method that is right for them! It’s great that there are multiple options out there for us to choose from.
About 4 years ago I decided that I wanted to go off of Hormonal Birth Control once and for all.
I first went on the birth control pill when I was a Junior/Senior in high school after my Gynecologist recommended it due to very painful menstrual cramps. (I would have very painful cramps and severe headaches during my period.)
- I didn’t want to spend the money every month (I wish I would have calculated how much was spent on The Pill over the many years I was taking it.)
- I don’t want my body to be reliant on a medication of any kind (let alone hormonal, even if the dose is very small)
I have suffered for many years with bad headaches on and off and I wanted to see if the pill was causing this, or affecting hormones negatively and in turn that was causing the headaches
above all I wanted to be in tune and in control of my body and menstrual cycle
I really wanted to become more in tune with my body and what it needs. One of the coolest (although stereo-typically sucky) things as women that we have is our menstrual cycles. It’s really pretty amazing how our body functions and that it all revolves around the potential to get pregnant. If you’re a science nerd like me, you know what I’m talking about. It sounds weird but I actually wanted to have my period again.
The Pill had, for years, eliminated my period all together. My doctors all told me this was normal and nothing that I needed to be concerned about and for the first several years I thought - cool! - I don’t have to deal with all the BS that comes along with periods. As I started to transition my lifestyle into more natural and holistic living, I started to wonder about whether being on the pill was necessary. I was bothered by the fact that I hadn’t had a period in so many years, and if this could potentially affect my ability to have children in the future. All the doctors I talked to about if the pill affects future pregnancy told me that there was nothing to worry about on this front. Personally- I wonder if there is enough data available to confidently say that the pill has no effect on infertility issues? Perhaps in 10-20 more years there will be more information on this.
Bottom line- something in my gut just told me that this pill I’m taking everyday, can’t be doing me any GOOD. So I decided to take the plunge and go off of the pill, even though pretty much no one in my life that I discussed this with supported that decision (if I was sexually active). At this point, I had a serious boyfriend (now my husband), who was fully supportive of me making my own decision based on my health and well being. Without going into the pregnancy aspects of going off of the pill too much here, we decided that since I had been on the pill for so many years- he would happily go the Condom route in regards to being sexually active (bonus points for condoms protecting against STDs as well).
Within the first few months after stopping the pill I experienced:
no weight loss or weight gain ( I didn’t experience these side effects when I started the pill as many women do)
more regulated appetite
my period returned after about 5 months (on a regular schedule)
almost fully eliminated my headaches * this was huge for me. Now I typically only get headaches on the first or second day of my period, or if I eat something really out of the norm for my diet.
a sense of freedom from a prescription and daily medication!
I did not have any major breakouts or acne, however I know this can be a major issue for many people. (Many are put on BC specifically for acne.) I would say 1. Don’t over do it with products, your hormones are regulating and it could do more damage trying to fight the acne with harsh products. 2. Make sure you’re eating a balanced diet and drinking a ton of water 3. Be consistent with your skincare, after your hormones get into balance (hopefully they will quickly) you should be able to see what products are working but switching from product to product won’t help.
The biggest effect I noticed (aside from the headache improvement) in the first year pill-free, is that I started to feel more in tune with everything. I know this sounds cheesy but another woman described it as a “veil being lifted” and I find that to really be true. Around this same time is when I started to become more passionate and interested in diet, and cooking. See my book recommendations below, there is a lot of info on what foods to cook during the different stages of your cycle.
My period returned after about 5 months not taking the pill. I was honestly surprised by this! I had read online that sometimes it can take a year or so for your body to regulate itself. I had a lot of fear that when my period returned, my symptoms would be really severe as they had been in high school, but I was pleasantly surprised that they were very tolerable. I believe this has a lot to do with living a healthy lifestyle and generally eating well and exercising.
LONG TERM SYMPTOMS
- overall more energy and stamina during workouts
- continued reduction of headaches
- no food cravings (occasionally I will have some around my period, but nothing crazy)
- more regular gut health
- better sleep
- saving $$$
- A friend of mine gave me the book Taking Charge of your Fertility and this helped me to realize that there was a whole world of women out there who want to become in touch with their bodies. It’s a great book and I highly recommend it for anyone interested in this topic, it covers avoiding pregnancy, achieving pregnancy, and ALL about women’s cycles. So much of what’s covered in the book about our cycles I felt that we should know already, but sadly most women don’t!
- I did take a “natural” birth control course through the Chicago Women’s Health Center to learn about the Fertility Awareness Method (aka FAM). This method involves tracking your cycle, your cervical fluid, basal body temperature, and other symptoms to know when you are most or least fertile. It was an interesting course and a more hands on learning experience in a classroom.
Woman Code. I received this book when I participated in the Lee From America Workshop here in Chicago and I’m still reading it. It covers Cycle Syncing, fertility, food, and PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome).
My Flo App (helps with cycle syncing and what foods to eat and what types of workouts are best for certain parts of your cycle)
Kindara App (more detailed tracking for cycle and can be used with Fertility Awareness Method)
Menstrual Cups: I am obsessed with these! Earth friendly and comfortable. If you haven’t heard or read about menstrual cups, Google it and give them a try! There is definitely a learning curve in the beginning but it is totally worth it. I have used the Diva Cup, the Lena Cup, and Lunette and my favorite is the Lunette so far. (Available on Amazon)
I did consider getting an IUD for quite a while. I actually made 2 separate appointments to get an IUD placed and then both times decided it wasn’t the right choice for me. I sometimes have issues making decisions- and this was a tough one for me!
I like the idea of the IUD and heard from a lot of women who had great experiences. However I have also heard about a lot of negative experiences with them. I entertained both the low hormone options and the copper option, but ultimately decided against them both. I just felt something in my gut that was telling me it wasn’t the right choice and I wanted to listen to that feeling.
Again, this birth control method might be perfect for you (I have several friends who love this option!), I’m just sharing my personal decision and experience.
I have truly enjoyed learning about my cycle over the past several years and do not mind having my period every month at all. I find it so fascinating that we as women have to make these choices about handling our fertility, and men don’t have to deal with these challenges. I hope that educators are incorporating all the information regarding birth control options, cycles, and fertility when they are teaching our kids today. I feel like I was shorthanded when it came to women’s health education growing up.
I hope that men are reading this as well as women and I encourage the men in your lives to learn more about women’s cycles and bodies so they can appreciate us and our bodies even more than they already do.
Please share your experiences and ask me any questions you might have about mine!