Quitting Birth Control
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WOW this has been in my drafts for a looong time. I can’t believe it is finally time to post about it. At first I couldn’t wait to share it, then I got shy. Either way, here it is now! Before writing about everything, I wanted to actually experience it. So, as of January 2020, I have been off of Hormonal Birth Control for a year. Before I begin, I just want to say that I’m not a doctor, nor am I pretending to be one. I’m just sharing information that I have learned and wish I knew prior to getting on the pill. I’m not anti-birth control - just pro-info. I LOVED my first gynecologist (she initially put me on the pill.) I would still be going to her if 1) She hadn’t closed her practice and 2) I hadn’t moved to a different state. As a somewhat scared 17 year old, she was honestly the best. I cried when she closed her practice 5 years ago. I digress, Just wanted to share that there are no hard feelings or anything like that; however, if I had the choice again, I wouldn’t have taken birth control. Anyway, let’s dive into the topic at hand - quitting birth control!
I first got on hormonal birth control my freshman year of college. I had horribly debilitating periods and was looking for a way out. I experienced this in high school, but didn’t really want to get on the pill. After my first semester at college, I was like JUST MAKE IT GO AWAY. So I was put on Yaz. It helped a lot with reducing my pain and nausea. It did cause me to break out (on my face) initially, but the fact that I could make it through class when I was on my period was a game changer. After a month or two I stopped breaking out and my skin went back to “normal.”
That was winter of 2009. Flash forward to present day and I was still on hormonal birth control through 2018. (I took my last pill in January 2019.) Around 2017 I started looking into more natural products for skincare, household cleaning, etc. On that journey, I began finding natural lifestyle posts and that included what I put in my body, not just what I put on / around it. One of the accounts I found during this time was Dr. Jolene Brighten. She is a naturopathic physician who is adamant about finding root causes of issues vs. putting a bandaid on them… like what happens when most people go on birth control for reasons other than contraception, be it heavy period, pcos, or even acne.
I first got the itch to quit birth control cold turkey in early 2018, but just put it out of my mind, because it seemed hard… inconvenient if you will. That summer, I asked my doctor about it and she quickly replied that nothing else worked as well regarding preventing pregnancies. It was kind of a flippant remark and to be honest, I was kind of taken aback. I then put it out of mind, until several months later. I’m sure people go in to the doctor, thinking that they know better due to a simple google search, so that could have been where her tone was coming from, but I was honestly more concerned about my health than preventing pregnancies. I had read a bunch of alarming statistics, like if you are on it for 10 years or more, your risk of certain diseases goes up (It is credited for decreasing risk of Ovarian Cancer though) . I also felt like my gut health was off due to several symptoms. I actually think these may have been the first signs of my ulcerative colitis!
Late fall of 2018, I took part in Dr. Brighten’s Post Birth Control Syndrome Week, which was basically a streamed conference where different speakers discuss different topics regarding women’s hormones and birth control. This was SO eye opening. I think the biggest thing for me was hearing that the pill was basically female castration. It cuts off your brain from talking to your ovaries. While you’re on it, you never actually ovulate and your “period” is just a withdrawal bleed. I know these may seem like “duh” statements, but the average person doesn’t know how HBC (hormonal birth control) actually works. I know I didn’t when I first started taking it. The birth control pill is still a relatively new medication. It came out in the 1960’s, so we are just really learning the effects it has on people now. Most people think their symptoms are just normal, so they don’t really get reported and women feel alone or have no idea their HBC is messing with their bodies.
After listening to all the speakers from Dr. Brighten’s Post Birth Control Syndrome Week, I knew I wanted to get off the pill; however, I wanted to do it the right way. I bought Beyond the Pill and Taking Charge of Your Fertility and studied them like I was being quizzed on them in school. To be quite frank, I think this should be taught in school. Like there isn’t a “normal” cycle, not all of them are 28 days, what exactly is a luteal phase and so on. It’s more than science - it’s literally how your body works. Oh and discharge? THAT MEANS SOMETHING. At the very least, every girl should be period literate and be in tune with their bodies. Did you know you can get pregnant only a couple days out of your cycle and not just any time? Most young women don’t. Also you don’t just have to wait for your period to sneak up and surprise you. You know it’s coming based on a lot of factors! GIRLS SHOULD BE TAUGHT THIS.
In December 2018 I started prepping my body for getting off the pill - at this point I was taking BeYaz, a sister drug to Yaz. (I think I took Yaz for the first 3 years, then switched to BeYaz for the last 6 years) I began taking a prenatal vitamin, which I spoke about here. From a high level, I basically started taking it, because HBC depletes your body’s nutrients. Taking prenatals before you quit the pill can help ease the transition off of it. I also started taking my temperature every day to get used to reading my basal body temperature (BBT) in the Kindara app. I spoke about it here, but I also started seed cycling during this month as well.
I took my last birth control pill on January 12, 2019 and of course skipped the placebo pills. One week off, I felt happier than ever - like a clarity I hadn’t experienced before. My libido was higher than it had ever been, anddd I developed a cystic zit on the left side of my chin. I also had tenderness that I hadn’t experienced before and felt like my sense of smell was heightened. I didn’t expect to feel so free so soon / didn’t know if it would have any effect on my body at all, but I pretty much immediately felt differently. I didn’t notice it immediately, but something else that cleared up for me were headaches. I was getting a migraine at least once a week and headaches daily. One thing I was worried about was if my period would come back or not. Some women go through “puberty” all over again once ditching the pill, because their body wasn’t able to be fully developed during the time before they they began. I started when I was 11 and didn’t start taking HBC until I was 18, so I figured I’d be okay, but you never know. I got my last withdrawal bleed early February, on a plane to Mexico City. I was overjoyed! Never thought I’d be that happy to get it on public, in vacation before. Hah! I was lucky enough to get my period back every single month after that / on a regular basis after being on the pill for so long, but I know this isn’t the case for everyone.
The crazy thing about getting off of birth control, is that sometimes the symptoms from Post Birth Control Syndrome (PBCS) don’t hit you until months later. My skin began to get oily and I experienced the worst breakouts of my life about 7 months after getting off of it. To be quite frank, I’m still recovering from that. Something else that occurred is that I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. I was right in thinking that my gut health was off. I haven’t been able to research it much, but I have found some articles linking BeYaz (the HBC I took for years) to UC and other diseases. I would love to be able to report this as a correlation / see if they want to study me, so it can help others.
Sooo what do I use for birth control? Never thought I’d get into this on my blog, but here I am. Just trying to help others. Hah! I use the Kindara app to track everything under the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM). I take my temperature every day with their Winc thermometer and pay attention to discharge. I learned this from Taking Charge of Your Fertility. There are also condoms for fertile times. Even if you plan on using other forms of contraceptives or birth controls, I think it is really great and cool I might add, to know what’s going on with your body and its cycles. I’m more in tune with what is going on than I ever have been, and I’m almost 30. Kind of sad it took this long, but I’m here for it now! I personally get excited about when I bleed / ovulate with the moon. It’s crazy!
WHY I QUIT TAKING THE PILL
Ultimately it was the fact that I had begun living a more nontoxic lifestyle - that’s how I started learning about what it actually does to your body. I had taken it for 9 years, almost 10, and had read the dangers of being on it that long. I also had recently learned everything it can do to your body, including causing gut issues, which I felt like I was developing.
THINGS THAT STOPPED FOR ME ONCE I GOT OFF OF HORMONAL BIRTH CONTROL
Migraines (have maybe had 2 in the last year)
Headaches (now have a couple a month, instead of daily)
Less Depressive Thoughts
Lowered Anxiety Levels
POST BIRTH CONTROL SYNDROME SYMPTOMS I HAVE EXPERIENCED
Horrible Acne (I’m finally starting to heal)
Oily Skin (this isn’t really a symptom anymore, but it was)
Ulcerative Colitis (I can’t say this is 100% linked, but I think it is)
Short luteal phases (less than 10 days - I’ve tried Vitex, but didn’t enjoy taking it/didn’t see a huge difference, thoughhh I didn’t take it consistently for 3 months, which is recommend to see results.) Because of this, my periods are considered irregular, as my cycles usually only last around 18 days and they need to be around 21-28. I’m still working on this.
I received some questions about weight change and hair loss. I didn’t experience anything with this. At one point my hair got kind of greasy, but it was short lived. I also didn’t have an issue with my period coming back.
FAM (Fertility Awareness Method - I use the Kindara app and their Winc thermometer. You don’t have to use the Winc to use their app. You can use a normal thermometer too, just make sure you do it first thing when you wake up, around the same time each day. I’ve also heard good things about the Daysy. I’be been tracking for over a year now! This includes registering discharge along with temperature. I don’t really do the cervix position check, which is another option for FAM.
Before you do something like the (non-hormonal) copper iud or things like that, know they have risks too!
DO I THINK MY HORMONES ARE BACK TO NORMAL
I’m not sure. I mean I was on the pill from 18 to 28. It’s been a while. Everything I’ve read says that PBCS can start to show up immediately, but can also take up to 9 months or even a year to show up. For me, I felt the good changes almost immediately. The bad ones like acne, took several months. My skin first started acting up around 5 months after getting off the pill, and then exploded into its worst around 6 to 9 months after. My skin is currently less oily that it was, but I’m honestly not sure if that has changed because I’m living in a dryer climate now or what. Either way, I’m beginning to heal and just have some scarring to deal with for the most part. I mention this because my breakouts are mostly on my chin, which is a hormonal area! Seed cycling has helped me with this too.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU WANT TO CONTINUE TAKING HBC (do what is best for you and your life)
Talk to your doctor
Take prenatal vitamins
Consume happy body foods like bone broth and avocados
(These are things to do even if you decide to get off, but from what I’ve researched, doing this while you continue to take HBC is imperative!)
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Overall, I don’t hate birth control. From what I have researched, I think it is a lot of the reason women have been able to move forward in life like going to college and working 9-5 jobs. I do hate that it falls on the woman. People have done studies with birth control for men and they don’t want to take it due to the symptoms! For me they were symptoms I lived with and thought were normal. While I now know I’m not alone, I’m still dealing with the after math a year later! Having taken birth control for almost 10 years, I’m thankful that I didn’t have such crazy periods during my formative youth; however, I would have rather fixed the root cause of the issue. The body doesn’t lie and when things happen like painful periods, it is stemming from something. I was really worried that getting off the pill, my bad periods would come back. They didn’t. Sure I have cramping from time to time, but it is nothing like it was. I wanted to share this post today to 1) give you the courage to get off of HBC if you so choose and 2) normalize post birth control symptoms. GOOD LUCK!! Enjoy your body and being in tune with it :) BE YOUR OWN ADVOCATE!
Any thoughts, questions, or concerns I didn’t cover? I welcome them all as long as they are appropriate. Thank you so much for reading!
P.S. Will be talking more about my Ulcerative Colitis and Adult Acne/breakouts from birth control on a later date.
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