I Quit the pill after 18 years and it wasn't to have a baby!
Seven months ago I made the decision to quit taking my hormonal birth control pill and it's been one of the best decisions I've made for myself! I didn't come off it because I wanted a baby (like most people may think), I came off it because it was wreaking havoc on my body and its taken me years to figure out the pill was the issue.
When I was 16 years old I went to my doctor to figure out what I could do about the acne I had on my chin and jawline (ahh, those awkward teenage years) and I somehow walked out with a prescription for birth control. I don't believe there was even a conversation about my options to fix the acne, it was automatically, here's the pill, it will help, see you next time. My doctor was totally right though, my acne cleared up in just a few months, so I was happy. However, looking back now I really wish someone would of explained exactly what I was taking and the potential side effects it could have on my body and mind.
I should note when I first went on the pill, I didn't have any issues with my cycle. I've never had bad cramping, PMS symptoms or anything else out of the norm. None the less, I was on it (scared that my acne would return if I stopped) and for years everything seemed to be working fine. I took it first thing every morning and even stayed on the same brand the entire time because I had no complaints. That is until about 6 years ago when my cycle started to change and I had really bad spotting before and after my period. I went back to my doctor and she recommended the ‘low-dose’ birth control pill because I was older and my hormone levels had changed. I tried the low-dose pill for several months with no results and then tried a few others that didn’t work either. I also had plenty of pap tests done over the years (with no irregular findings) and ultimately went back on the original pill I started with. So beyond being really frustrated with all the doctors appointments and the fact that nothing had changed, I didn't (and still don't) want kids so I just thought it was easier to stay on the pill. What were my other options, a shot every three months or an implanted device in my uterus? No thanks, neither of those sounded very appealing to me.
That brings me to last summer and what a summer it was! I think I'll always remember it as the summer of my rage fuelled hatred for just about everything and everyone. I have NEVER in my life been so ANGRY all of the time. Any little thing would set me off, my dogs barking, a dirty cup on the counter, my phone buzzing, my partner pulling into the driveway after his work day. Seriously, it was out of hand and I felt like I had no control over it. My mood would change in an instant for no reason at all. I didn't want to be around people, didn't want to talk to anyone and didn't want to deal with my dog walking business. I would have much preferred to hide in my bedroom all day, which is so unlike me.
I finally started talking to my friends and family about it and the pill kept coming up in the conversation and at that point I was already starting to question if the pill was working for me anymore. So I started researching it and GASP.....how has it taken me so long to realize all the side effects of the pill? There were even other problems I was dealing with that could of been linked to the pill as well!
Let me list just some of the side effects of hormonal birth control:
- Intermittent spotting
- Mood swings
- Weight gain
- Low libido
- Increased risk of blood clots & stroke
- Increased risk of cancer
(AND these last few just blew my mind, I had NO idea!)
- It destroys the good bacteria and microbiome in your gut
- It depletes the body of essential vitamins and minerals including folic acid, B vitamins, magnesium, selenium, zinc and vitamins C & E
- It depletes the body of serotonin
- And it can cause estrogen dominance (which can lead to a whole other whack of problems!)
After doing plenty of reading and listening to heath podcasts, I made the decision that I thought would be best for me and that was to stop the pill completely. But, what the heck was I going to use as contraceptive that didn't involve putting synthetic hormones into my body?
Thankfully there are plenty of other options out there that need more attention…
- The copper IUD (again this is not for me but at least theres a hormone free version of it!)
- The diaphragm (needs a prescription and to be fitted by a doctor)
- Cervical cap (does not need a prescription or custom fitting by a doctor)
- The sponge (can be purchased at your local drugstore, over the counter)
- Spermicides (can be purchased at your local drugstore, over the counter)
- Fertility Awareness Method - FAM (the body temperature method, the cervical mucus method, the calendar method)
- Male and female condoms
- Sterilization (if you're looking for a more permanent solution)
What I chose to use is the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) with the help of Daysy. Daysy is a small device that you keep by your beside and use it to take your temperature every morning. It tracks your basal body temperature and will show you when you’re fertile or not with 99.3% accuracy. It's easy to use and has a handy App to help track your cycle.
I had no idea how empowering it would be to use the the fertility awareness method either! To be honest I was pretty scared to try it because I thought there was way to much to learn or track manually. But with Daysy (or even apps on your phone...and there are so many different apps!) it's super easy and it helped me understand all things to do with my moon cycle. I've learned to pay close attention to my cycle and the hormones that play a role during every stage. I've also learned how diet plays a huge role in regulating hormones and overall health. I no longer have mood swings, spotting and frequent headaches. I even eat healthier to help balance my natural hormones and in doing so have lost weight and my skin is still clear!
I highly recommend for all women (if you struggle with your cycle or not) reading the book Woman Code by Alisa Vitti or check out her website FLO Living for a ton of great information and resources. If you're planning on coming off the pill, it's best to discuss this with your doctor. I've been very fortunate to have had a smooth transition so far but some women do experience Post Birth Control Syndrome. And, if you’re happy using the pill and will continue to use it, please talk to your doctor or do your research about adding supplements into your diet.
Have you experienced any side effects with hormonal birth control? Have you thought about alternatives?