Cycler Story: Why I Stopped Taking Hormonal Birth Control After 10 Years
I was no different than many other teenage girls. By the age of sixteen, I began taking birth control only a few years after I got my period. Today I’m twenty-six years old, so it’s been close to ten years, almost an entire decade of my life, that I took the pill. But today, almost one year after ditching the pill, I’m living a hormone-free life, have a deep understanding of my own body, I am STILL practicing safe sex and am honestly happier than I’ve ever been!
Disclaimer: This is one Natural Cycles user’s experience coming off hormonal birth control. Every woman’s experience is different and we encourage all women to talk to their healthcare provider when considering switching birth control.
As I remember, I quickly adjusted to the pill with not many problems. I remember I was spot-bleeding maybe the first couple of weeks-months, but other than that, I was perfectly fine on the pill from the start.
I used the brand “Denise” for all those years, a third generation pill, which is associated with a higher risk of side effects than some of the other generation birth control pills, but... there were “worse” brands out there than this one. However, at that time. I was not thinking of the consequences it could have on my health and looking back, I genuinely wish that there had been other, safer, ways of managing your cycle and just overall health.
Why I stopped taking birth control pills
Let’s get the first question out of the way: No, I didn’t come off the pill, because I wanted to get pregnant. It is still to this day the complete opposite reason for that. But my reasons for wanting to ditch the pill were purely health and ethical reasons. As I went vegan three years ago, I continuously kept on taking the pills despite knowing they contained lactose and it wasn’t until one and a half years ago, that my conscience started bugging me with this. So that was a big reason why I wanted to quit. But, another huge reason for wanting to come off the pill was because of my health.
I experienced no bad “symptoms” as I recall, but oh boy.. looking back here almost one year after ditching the pill, I was wrong!
But before I explain further about this, I want to let you in on probably the biggest reason why it took me so long to come off the pill finally:
I was honestly dead fucking scared (sorry for cursing) of becoming pregnant!
I can’t tell you how many times (even on the pill and taking it correctly every night) that those thoughts of becoming pregnant ran wild in my brain. I was a mess when it came to this matter, as I absolutely under no circumstances wanted to get pregnant. Ever! And I was willing to do what it took to never be in a situation where this was reality. So, if you’re anything like me with fear controlling this decision in your life, then I’m officially the proof that you (yes, you!) can drop the pill as well!
However, coming back to side-effects; I was only sixteen when I started taking birth control pills. I asked my mom if I could get these pills, and she agreed to it, and this became a part of my life ever since. Ever since then, I’ve been through a lot of things in my life, which I, to this day, firmly believe could have been easier to deal with, if I had just been off the pills and been more “me”.
To quickly summarise: I’ve had anxiety since I was sixteen, OCD from when I was twenty-one years old and I had got depression by age twenty-four, and unfortunately... I have also found myself in such deep holes, where I no longer saw the purpose of fighting another day. However, some of these struggles I have overcome (also before ditching the pill) while others (like my anxiety) remain an on/off-topic in my life, that I’m still finding the root to overcome completely.
But to this day, I keep thinking to myself, if I could have avoided some of these struggles if I had avoided these hormones as well? The science behind all this has confirmed that there is a possible link between birth control use and some of these mental health matters. Something, that is still a subject that’s not taken seriously enough in my opinion, with so many people out there putting these thoughts into action when it could perhaps have been avoided.
However, I’m in no way saying that these pills solely controlled these happenings in my life. But maybe I could have avoided some experiences I’ve been through if I had been off the pills and been more “me”. I’ll never know.
What happened when I stopped taking birth control pills
Early on? Fear! But later on pure FREEDOM!
I remember so clearly the thoughts that ran through me, as I was exploring other options for birth control; complete panic, overthinking, worrying about so many things and just general fear of the unknown and what would happen. I had read so many things from other women and their stories coming off the pill, that it’s no wonder that not many women out there are taking the steps towards this.
All those stories were about how their skin was a complete mess (acne outbreaks), irregular cycles and painful periods with some experiencing bleeding for four months in a row and many other issues.
But do you want to hear the secret as to why these are the stories you can read online when you search for information about ditching the pill?
It is because the internet is swimming in people's problems. The success stories are rarely shared, as there’s no need to share these stories if there’s not a problem you see. People share their problems to get help, not to be at service to others, despite them not having an issue, which makes excellent sense. But do you get what I’m saying? I see a trend is on the rise with this “serving-others concept” and I love it! But that’s why there’s still so many scary-stories online and not success-stories. Simple as that.
But that’s why I’m here! To bring a sunshine-story to you and hopefully fill some room on the internet with this.
But coming back to the point: I was scared, and I had searched the internet thin for answers. I contacted so many people before I took the leap and ditched the pill (after reading how to come off them first safely, as there are helpful articles out there). I have experienced so many things throughout this first year of being pill-free, while some things are still surprising me today. So here’s what I experienced:
Fewer mood changes
Hale-freaking-lujah! My mood quickly went to the skies as I ditched the pill. However, it wasn’t from one day to the next. The hormones need their time to leave your body, so it was before the first couple of months had passed, that I could see this change in myself and felt overall better and better about my decision. I wasn’t any longer so moody as I could be at times, so that was a massive relief to me.
As I said, the first couple of months was a bit of a struggle due to the hormones leaving my body, which meant I sure as heck dealt with irregular periods for the first 3+ cycles (months), but after that my body started to find it’s way and I learned so much about myself in that time. It was mostly frustrating having to wait and see if I even had any regular periods. Still, honestly, it was just a matter of time. Today I know my body so well, both in terms of when I’m ovulating and when my periods are due and basically what to expect when you’re expecting.. your period ;-) But if you ditch the pill, patience is the key, and your body will need time to adjust!
I never even knew this was a thing. I knew cramps during your period was a thing, but suddenly I learned how you could also experience cramps whenever you are ovulating. It might just be ovulation cramps, but for some women, they are also experiencing something called “Mittelschmerz” (which is a German word that stands for “middle”) which occurs when you are releasing an egg, which affects maybe 20% of women. I only experienced these ovulation pains during the first three months, but I haven’t felt a thing since. Still, luckily there are other ways to know when your body is communicating to you that ovulation is due, so don’t worry about that if you were hoping that it’d be that easy to spot. It’s still easy, but I prefer knowing when I’m ovulating without the cramps!
Which brings me on to this little gemstone! Your body will most likely tell you that you are ovulating because you will, in general, feel more frisky! Which makes total sense, as this would be the time to go ahead and try and make a baby, so by increasing your libido at this time of the month, you’re thereby also increasing your chances of conceiving. But for those who are not up for that yet, this would be the time to dive into other activities! Or protect yourselves in different ways, since this is the time you don’t want to take any chances (and five days before your ovulation day, but I’ll dive deeper into that later). So I don’t know what to tell you guys. It is a blessing and a frustration at once, but you’ll sure know when ovulation is happening!
Another new thing I learned for the very first time at age twenty-six (which is embarrassing in a way to admit, but true) is how you can track your ovulation by merely keeping an extra eye on your body fluids. Most commonly referred to as “Vaginal Discharge”. Sounds super sexy, I know. But none of the less, this is another massive key factor on how your body is telling you when you are ovulating (and thereby when to abstain from sex, or not if you do want to conceive).
Basically, throughout your cycle, your vaginal discharge has a cycle of its own. Depending on when you are ovulating (which isn’t necessarily the same day of the month for all women) but, looking into the cycle of your vaginal discharge, you will also see when your ovulation day is approaching exactly.
Getting fewer headaches wasn’t something I noticed right away. I’d always been prone to headaches, but always blamed it on my ability not to drink enough water, which I’m sure had something to do with it! But I did reach a point just months before I ditched the pill, where I had to seek chiropractic help to get my headaches sorted since they’d become so severe and impacted my life so profoundly that I could not function. So I went there for about six weeks every week until the symptoms had disappeared.
However, it wasn’t long until they were back again, and I found myself in another few months of need from chiropractors to help me get my headaches sorted. But, during the next time around, I had in the meantime dropped my pills just weeks before this occurred again. I went, got the help I needed and ever since then I’ve never felt the need to seek help for this again.
Admittedly, I can still get headaches. But not so severe as they were and not as often, and I usually know the underlying cause of it (still working on that water intake, yes)! But I am positive that going off the pills surely didn’t affect this aspect negatively.
I mean this in more than one aspect: I’ve never felt so clear-minded as I do today. First off, because I felt I had been living in a fog without knowing that I even could live so naturally and in tune with my body and it’s own magic. But also, because so many of my mental health issues have eased up and I, in general, feel overall better in my body and my mind knowing how I no longer put hormones in me that disturbs my health. It is truly freeing to live this way, and I wish I could explain how it feels, but.. reality is that you have to discover this for yourself. All I’m saying is: I feel so good, so safe, so clear in my thoughts and actions and that right there is worth it all.
Maybe this is self-explanatory if you know who I am or who I’ve become over the past 6 months and what I’ve learned. Because no... Happiness didn’t come to me overnight and ditching the pill was not a quick fix to suddenly becoming happy either. Happiness is something that naturally occurs when you are feeling fulfilled and content within yourself, your purpose and your values. To me, happiness consists of very few things: Having something (you love) to do, having someone you love and something to hope for in the future. However, I believe that you need to feel content on your own first without any other outside sources, and once you do, love will find you. (But that is an entirely different subject for another time.)
All I know is how I’ve become more and more in tune with my values as I ditched the pill and my conscience was clear, but also how I’ve found my purpose in life and I’m now making an actual living by sharing and doing what I love, being kinder towards myself by doing what’s right for me such as having a self-care routine and an established meditation routine. At the same time I have found someone special in my life who’s shown me (and vice versa) what true lasting love was supposed to feel like, despite being oceans apart (for now).
But that’s what I mean.. I also have something to hope for which involves my future with him and how we’ll one day be able to ditch the LDR and create the life of our dreams, which has a LOT to do with who you choose to be with, as being on the pill can make you choose the wrong partner!
What I use as birth control today
As I previously mentioned, I searched the internet thin for other birth control options.
I went ahead and downloaded the Natural Cycles app, where they would send you a pretty standard oral thermometer in the package.
Natural Cycles has never acted out for the past nine months that I’ve been solely relying on that method.
The good thing about Natural Cycles is that you can wake up, take your temperature and then go back to sleep knowing that you can later wake up and manually save the temperature into the app.It is a bit manual, but I honestly prefer relying on my own two fingers.
So! Natural Cycles is what I use today and have been using successfully and happily for the past nine cycles.
I’m sure you are sitting with a lot of questions by now and that there might also be some of you who think it is risky to rely on your birth control in this way. But honestly, I was thinking the same thing once.
The secret is that you have to get to know your body. It is telling you so many amazing things on it’s own that you wouldn’t believe it!
But also keep in mind that the more consistent you are with taking your temperature every morning and are on the look-out for the discharge that changes during your cycle, it is so simple to do this! But I also recommend looking into the FAM - Fertility Awareness Method, which is the method of tracking when you are fertile and when you are not fertile in your cycle.. because yes.. you are not fertile more than 5-6 days in the month) it is really simple.
However, I will also say this: I make sure to use ovulation tests each month to know exactly when I am ovulating. My Natural Cycles app always tells me when it’s time for an ovulation test, so it’s really easy to know and when it is therefore also time to abstain from sex (unless using other methods, such as condoms)
It can seem a bit overwhelming in the beginning, I know! It was to me as well. But as time went on, I learned so much about my body, my cycle and everything that today it is the most simple thing in the world. But, also note that I, of course, relied on other methods the first six months until I trusted my cycle and until my body had adjusted to the changes it was going through when ditching the pill.
But once your body has gotten rid of the hormones and you can see a pattern in your cycle while following the guidelines of the Natural Cycle app, while testing when you’re ovulating, then I genuinely believe that anyone can do this.
To sum up this post, I’m going to direct you to Natural Cycle’s website right here to get all your questions answered. If you are interested in this or look up the FAM method to learn more about your body and this method.
I know that I will never go back on the pill and that I am more than confident that I will not get pregnant either as I’m relying on so many different sources, that all confirm to me each month that I know my body in and out. But if the day comes where I do want to become pregnant, I already know everything I need to know to make that happen also.
This blog post was adapted from Kattija’s blog.