Going off the pill: What really happened to me

Nov 20, 2019 | Menstrual cycle

going off the pill

Going off the pill can cause numerous effects on our bodies, which can represent a source of anxiety for women wanting to stop their birth control. In this article, I take you through my experience of going off the pill and share how I feel being 2 years hormones-free.

First of all, it is important to keep in mind that this is my journey. What you will experience when going off the pill will depend on you: your genetics, your hormone levels before taking contraception, your lifestyle, etc. If you are thinking of going off birth control, your body might experience similar effects, different ones or none! Anyway, before taking the plunge, make sure to talk about this with your doctor first.

 

The context

6 years ago, I was taking my first pill, which also was my very first birth control. At that time, I remember that the pill was considered as a miracle cure to fix puberty related problems that young women experimented with, such as acne or PMS.

In my case, taking the pill was purely for birth control purposes, even though I noticed nice changes in my body such as reduced skin blemishes as well as reduced cramping before and during my periods – that sounds good right?

And what about secondary effects? To be honest, I thought I wasn’t experiencing any. I didn’t put weight on, didn’t have crazy mood swings nor any kind of period related problems.

Why I went off the pill

So, why the hell did I stop birth control? Well, being more and more concerned about my health and well-being, I quickly realized that I was taking a substance that was inhibiting my organism to function naturally. I mean… Why should I do this to my body?

Also, at this moment of my life, I had been single for two years and had, therefore, no reason to take a birth control.

It is in 2017 that I decided to go off the pill, this being four years after starting it. When looking for the best process to stop it and minimize the secondary effects, I found this technique that consisted of reducing progressively the pill intake every week. It looked logical to me, so that’s what I started to do, without even talking about it with my doctor.

Let me tell you that this did not work for me. I actually feel like all it did was to postpone the problem. Anyway, what really matters is that I started 2018 hormones-free – YAY!

The post-pill effects

And I thought that the pill didn’t have any effects on my body… I was completely wrong! Had I known how my body was going to react, I would have thought twice before taking a hormonal contraceptive.

No more periods

As soon as I started decreasing my pill intake, my periods disappeared. This was the first change I noticed with my body. It took 8 months (August 2018) to have them back.

Irregular cycles

I knew that my periods coming back wasn’t going to be the end of the tunnel. Indeed, some of my cycles ended even before they began (<20 days) and others seemed endless (up to 50 days!).

Believe me when I say it took my body an entire year to regain some kind of regularity.

Painful periods

So we all know that the pill can relieve menstrual cramps and I did notice the pain coming back once I went off of it.

I still want to point out that a lot of women suffer from menstrual pain, but that doesn’t make it something normal! Menstrual pain can be correlated to hormonal imbalance and can be relieved naturally. I talk about it in this article.

Cystic acne

It is important to know that I always had, since my teenage years, acne-prone skin. Even when taking the pill, some pimples persisted.

However, a few weeks before my periods came back, I was noticing my pimples getting bigger, redder and very painful. Then, as my periods reappeared, my face, neck, and back were covered in cystic acne*. Here are some pics of this awful experience.

As you might imagine I struggled a LOT, mentally and physically, for about 6 months.

*cystic acne is characterized as mini cysts, which are pimples lying under the skin, inflated and way more painful than the typical white-heads

Weight loss

As I already told you, taking the pill didn’t affect my weight. However, life events and my obsession with building muscle made me gain some pounds.

When the time came to finally lose this extra fat I accumulated, it turned out to be a challenge; I was always hungry. Even though I was eating clean and trained five times a week, I didn’t seem to make any progress…

After getting off the pill, I “easily” lost this weight – I was obviously still training hard and eating clean.

 

Interstitial cystitis

The last effect I experienced was interstitial cystitis (I had 3 in a row). In the beginning, I didn’t make the connection between my infections and hormones.

It’s only after doing my research and talking with some doctors that I understood that interstitial cystitis could be the result of a lack of estrogens, which is exactly what happens when you stop taking hormonal birth control.

The science behind these symptoms

Isn’t it crazy the effects that this tiny pill can have on our bodies? And by the way, how are all these effects linked to the simple fact of getting off birth control?

You should know by now that I am not a doctor. However, I find important to be aware of what is happening in our bodies when giving it hormones.

In most cases, hormonal contraceptives are made of estrogen and progesterone, hormones that are naturally produced by the women’s body. Taking more of them has the consequence of preventing our ovary to produce and release an egg. Therefore, no egg means no pregnancy.

The hormonal birth control keeps our ovary from functioning normally.

So as soon as we stop taking those extra hormones, our body is susceptible to freak out and have to learn over again how it all works. This process might take some time.

In the meantime, because our bodies were accustomed to receiving hormones with no particular effort, taking them away from it overnight will create an imbalance.

This imbalance resulted in me not having my periods anymore, acne, irregular cycles and the difficulty for my body to protect itself against external bacteria.

 

Overview: 2 years hormones-free

In January 2020, I will be celebrating my 2nd hormone-free anniversary! And all I can tell you is that it hasn’t been an easy ride.

After asking for help from a naturopath, my acne finally cleared away and almost completely disappeared. My cycles regulated themselves and I never had to experience cystitis again. My conclusion is that it takes time, but your body knows what he has to do. If there’s something wrong, it will talk from itself and show it.

You might find these blog posts helpful if you are looking to balance your hormones or prevent too many damages from going off the pill: 

If you are wondering if I’m ever going back to hormonal birth control, the answer is no. From now on, I want my body to leave it do its thing naturally, without forcing anything.

Today, I use the fertility awareness method to track my fertility. It takes time, requires patience and understanding in a couple, but it is worth it.

Remember that this is my experience and my choices. My aim here is not to encourage you to stop the pill if it’s not what you want.

I respect every woman for taking the decisions that resonate with her. However, if you take the plunge are experimenting similar struggles, please know that you are not alone and that all of this won’t last forever.

I would love to know your thoughts about the pill! Leave a comment below or come chat with me on Instagram @vlourish!