Hey guys, this post is going to be a bit long winded and definitely an ongoing update.
I decided at the end of my last pill packet to end hormonal birth control in the form of the pill. I haven’t had any synthetic hormones enter my body for almost 3 weeks. It’s been a good but interesting change.
But first, some background. I was put on the pill at 18, not because I needed my periods regulated or to help with PMS symptoms. My period was pretty consistent as far as showing up when it should every 28-34 days, only had moderate cramping the first couple of days (never have missed work due to cramps, just a little uncomfortable most days). The main reason for going on the pill is still a mystery to me but it led to me being confident of having unprotected sex (not a big deal since most UP sex was with my husband… so, yeah). I think the main reason I ended up on the pill was just because my Mom suggested it to my doctor as a good idea to ensure that I wouldn’t end up pregnant while in college and miss out on my education… completely understandable.
I was on the pill for just under 9 years. While on it I experienced numerous side effects but they didn’t rear their head right away but rather very slowly. I do believe that a lot of the depression and anxiety feelings I was feeling were directly linked to the pill since there is a chance of it increasing depression and anxiety in some women. So while the pill may have played a part in that along with the stress of a new environment and a heavy course load, it just was a big ball of “uh-oh”. Besides that, a few years later my “period” (I’ll explain more about that later) only lasted about 2 days and it wasn’t even heavy bleeding but rather super light bleeding and it was mostly brown (aka old blood). That was my first sign that something was wrong, then over time I began having extreme breast tenderness at odd times during my cycle (it’s usually quite common during the middle of your cycle when you should be ovulating and a few days before your period and maybe on day 1 of your period). It was so painful that I couldn’t wear a sports bra which is highly unfortunate since I pretty much live in sports bras and bralettes. Besides decreased days of bleeding, out of the norm breast tenderness I was also experiencing more IBS flares than normal. While originally I didn’t think this was pill related (now I’m learning so much about the gut-hormone connection that exists) it definitely is a side effect that has become one that should have been a red flag. A few years ago I switched brands of pills but still the same dose, the side effects briefly stopped but then 4 months in on this new pill it was just as bad, just inconsistent breast tenderness that varied on pain levels and varying period lengths and even some months not bleeding at all. So about 2 years ago I had a nice strong worded conversation with my gynecologist about other options of birth control, she didn’t even talk about the patch, the ring that’s inserted in your vagina, instead she talked about the fact that I should possibly get an IUD. It wasn’t until I was adamant about not wanting an IUD that she told me that there is a lower dose version of the pill I was already on. I was livid that she would suggest having a copper wire inserted into instead of just prescribe me a lower dose pill. Her reasoning is that “there may be breakthrough bleeding and it may not be as effective”. Bullshit. My body was fighting the dosage of the pill I was already on by pretty much making my “period” non-existent. I was fed up, rightfully so. So, I switched to that lower dose pill and my body was happy, or so I thought. I had an increased in IBS flares which I figured was food sensitivity related (which is most definitely was, but being on the pill didn’t help it), still experienced out of the norm breast tenderness but not the same way that I had before, and still sometimes had super light “periods” but nothing like I was experiencing before. I have stayed on that pill up until three weeks ago.
So, what changed? Well, more recently I was wondering if the pill was even healthy. I know many say that it is perfectly okay and healthy but then while I was doing more research I found out a lot of information, mostly from the book “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” which was very eye opening and talks more in depth about reproductive health than any sex-ed class I have ever had. It mainly teaches the fertility awareness method of tracking your period which is a sympto-thermal (symptoms include tracking types of cervical fluid and the height and feeling of your cervix and thermal meaning taking your waking temp daily) and goes into detail about common things that can occur during a cycle like lumps within breasts during certain phases of the cycle and cysts production and ruptures upon the ovaries. Most of these cysts are perfectly normal and harmless and just are a normal occurence, which I did not know. On top of that, the “period” most of us experience while on the pill is in fact not a true period but rather a hormone withdrawl bleed caused by us not taking our bith control pill for a week. On top of that the fact that doctors are pushing for woman to go 3 months at a time without having a withdrawal bleed is terrifying. So why do we need a true period, you’re probably asking? Because certain hormones are produced during a true period that cannot be produced when having a withdrawal bleed. These hormones (progesterone, mainly) helps with much more than just with the uterine lining during implantation. It’s needed throughout a woman’s body for the cardiovascular system, bones, brain and other neurologcal functions as well and when we don’t naturally ovulate we’re limiting ourselves as far as progesterone goes. Even though there is a progesterone only birth control pill (called the mini-pill) it does not protect against implantation, only estrogen dominant pills do that. Doesn’t that seem a bit terrifying to you that we’re allowing ourselves not to ovulate. Oh, yeah, I didn’t touch on that yet. If you didn’t know, conventional birth control pills halt ovulation completely. Terrifying right? But enough of this talk (even though ovulation is definitely needed and means that you’re a healthy woman) lets talk about the fact that there’s truly only 6-7 days where a woman can get pregnant. Yes, you read that right. The 5 days leading up to ovulation are considered fertile days due to the consistency of cervical fluid at that time and how long the sperm can stay alive within the woman based on cervial fluid conditions AND the day of ovulation. After that, the environment within the vagina and cervical is unable to sustain sperm and thus the chance of conceiving decreases drastically. Bet you never learned that from sex ed and if you did, you’re one of few that did. Kudos to your school. So, basiscally what I’m saying is there is a small window of fertility for women while men are generally always fertile, thanks guys. So as long as you do not have unprotected sex during those 6-7 days around ovulation, the FAM (fertilifty awareness method) is about as effective as taking the pill. Shocker. And if you do decide to have sex during that window of time, I’d highly suggest using two forms of barriers, either a condom and a cerivcal cap/diaphragm along with a spermicide. You can never be too careful during your fertile window when you’re trying to avoid pregnancy.
Okay, but now that those main points are addressed, it is said that the pill can mess with your gut flora which is key for hormone production too. So, essentially, I was probably having more IBS flares due to a possible overgrowth of bacteria within my gut. Imagine that. All triggered by the pill. How lovely, right? There is so much about this that I’m still learning and reading about. It makes me very excited to be following through on this.Why? Well, I’ll tell you some of the things I’ve experienced so far.
- My skin has cleared up. I no longer have pimples along my jawline that were very annoying and painful.
- I feel like the fog around my brain has lifted.
- I no longer feel anxious nearly as much as I used to.
- Libido…. enough said
- Less GI and stomach issues (love this, I actually stopped taking my probiotic because I haven’t been having as many issues as normal).
- Feel more in touch with myself and feel more like myself instead of some form of myself.
- Learning more about MY body and MY reproductive health. Clearly this is all in my hands.
But a side effect of coming off the pill is it may take a few months for me to have a period while my hormones are trying to regulate. That is completely normal. I’ve been adding a few supplements to my daily regimine in the form of selenium for thyroid health, a calcium, zing, magnesium 3 in 1 that has been helping me sleep (did ya know calcium is linked to melatonin production!?!) and just generally feel better, evening primrose to help with cervical fluid production and a tablespoon of liquid chlorophyll in 12-16 ounces of water to help just clear out my body and help my gut out (also, it tasted like unsweetened tea which is way better than what I thought it would taste like).
I will definitely keep you guys posted on how this journey is going, but so far I am very happy with my choice to go off of hormonal birth control.
Have you heard of FAM? Do you currently practice it? Expereincing similar symptoms to what I was when I was on the pill? Share below in the comments please!