Going off Birth Control: A Year Later

Jess Ann Kirby discusses her experience with going off birth control for one year.

Image via Shore Creative

So. Many. Questions. Understandably, you guys had a lot to say/ask about going off birth control. I think there’s probably some crossover in our experiences with birth control. It can be hard and lonely to navigate this process, and I’m hoping that what I share here will help answer questions you have. That said, as you know I AM NOT A DOCTOR. While I didn’t always get the answers/transparency I was hoping for from some of my doctors, I do recommend consulting with one anytime you are considering either going on or off birth control (to be clear I’m specifically talking about the pill, I have not tried other forms like IUDs, the patch, etc). I also want to be clear that while going off was right for me, I fully understand that it’s an incredibly valuable and effective option for a lot of women and this post is in no way meant to shame anyone or make you feel bad for taking the pill, I was on it for 15+ years. Do what is right for you, your body and your lifestyle. In addition to that, do your own research, ultimately that is how I ended up where I am now, and I’m really happy I took the time to do so. I am more in tune with my body than ever before. I also found an Osteopathic doctor who helped me navigate what to do after going off the pill and this book was a really valuable resource. For some context, I want to give you a brief explanation of why and when I went on the pill, and then I’ll get to your questions.

I got my period at 13. It was excruciating (no I don’t have endometriosis-this is usually the first thing people ask). What I realize now from doing my own research is that it’s quite common for periods to be exceptionally painful and heavy when you’re first getting it. Mine was really bad. Not just the physical pain but emotionally I was a wreck. I would have done anything to not go through that pain every month, most cycles it would keep me home from school I would be so sick. So at 15 I went on the pill. The first one I went on was ortho tri-cyclen. I gained a ton of weight, felt miserable and it did nothing to help my periods. I continued to try different pills before finally landing on Junel Fe (generic is Microgestin). It made me stop getting my period altogether. That along with wanting to prevent pregnancy kept me on the pill for over 15 years, pretty much non-stop. I took a brief break, coincidentally right before I met Craig, I can’t remember why, and then when we started dating I went back on. Every year at my annual exam I would ask “is it ok to be on the pill non-stop for this long?” and “is it ok that I never get my period?” The doctor(s) would always respond with yes, it’s fine. While I was worried about those things, the convenience of not getting my period far outweighed that concern, and so I just kept taking it. Around this time last year I was dealing with painful hormonal acne covering my face, and I just didn’t feel myself. I was paying more attention to what I was putting in my body and I started to think more about the tiny pill I took every morning for over 15 years. I started researching the pill I was on and realizing I was living with some of the side effects (yes it took me 15 years to do this, eye roll I know). I decided it was time to go off birth control. I am confident it was the right decision for me, and I have no plans on going back. While I wouldn’t say it was an easy process, it was much more manageable than I thought it would be. The beginning was a little rough, but it was 100% worth it for me. I want to get to your questions, so you can read on for more of my experience, but feel free to ask additional questions in the comments or if you prefer privacy please feel free to email me or send me a message on Instagram.

How did going off the pill affect your skin, hair and weight?

The birth control pill I was on never affected my weight so going off I didn’t notice any difference. One of the reasons I decided to go off was because all of a sudden my skin went haywire. I’ve never really dealt with skin issues and it was like overnight my skin was a disaster. I tried everything and nothing was working. My skin didn’t clear up immediately after going off the pill but after about 2 months being off it went back to normal. I also eliminated dairy and eggs from my diet (I still occasionally have eggs but not regularly) and found a good skincare routine. I think it was the combination of all three that helped clear up my skin. A lot of you asked about hair loss after going off the pill. I don’t think there was anything significant but I did find I was shedding a lot of hair when it was longer. Since I’ve cut it I don’t notice it nearly as much.

How long did it take to get a regular period again and how is it now?

Of course my biggest fear going off the pill was getting my period. Would it be as bad as it was 15 years ago, would it be worse? I got my period shortly after going off the pill but it was more like spotting. Then I went almost 6 weeks without getting it and then I went back to getting it regularly every month. The first two periods I got were pretty bad but they’ve since gotten less severe and for the most part only the first 1-2 days are painful (but manageable). I think this is also because of diet and supplements, more on that below.

Did you take any vitamins or supplements to help hormones balance out?

Once I went off the pill I started taking a variety of supplements (here is a post with everything I take). I think what undoubtedly has worked the best in terms of easing cramps and pain is taking a daily magnesium supplement (also can help with migraines). I can’t be sure but I think giving up dairy made a difference as well. When I am about to get my period or during I also don’t drink alcohol which I think has helped significantly.

Were your migraines affected?

I didn’t notice any difference in my migraines but I think I am at a point now where I know my triggers so well that I can manage them as long as I avoid those things (which isn’t always easy). I was worried that a shift in my hormones would trigger them but I honestly can’t remember the last time I had a migraine (knock on wood). That said I think the daily magnesium and awareness of my triggers (see my post on my migraines here) is the most effective prevention method.

What do you use for pregnancy prevention now?

Soooo, this is where things get personal. I am in a long term (13 year) committed relationship. While I have no desire and am not trying to get pregnant, my prevention method may not be the most safe or effective for someone not in my situation. While it has worked for me, it is not the most effective method in preventing pregnancy so I recommend exploring and researching all of your options. I decided to start tracking my ovulation and using that as my pregnancy prevention method. I got a TON of app recommendations from you guys, and ultimately decided to use Glow  (here’s a helpful article about a bunch of fertility tracking apps). A year later, Glow predicts my period and ovulation pretty much to the day, and it has given me a much greater awareness of my body.

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28 Comments

  1. bean wrote:

    great write up. i can’t go off the pill for other medical reasons but there are times i wish that i could. that said, i wanted to share this article i read recently about apps used to track periods and fertility. i immediately switched to the clue app after reading it… i think some of your other followers may find it worth reading.

    1.31.19 | Reply
  2. Kelsey M. wrote:

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience Jess! I recently just got off bc (like 3 weeks ago, I haven’t had my first period yet off of it) and I’m interested to see how my body reacts. Did you have any other side effects going off the pill? I have noticed in the past 3 weeks that my digestion hasn’t been great, I’ve been getting a lot more headaches, and I have been more irritable. I’m worried this might be related to getting off the pill. But also I’m in my first year of law school (trying to be an environmental lawyer!) and this could all just be chalked up to extreme stress, haha. Did you have any other side effects or withdrawal symptoms?

    1.31.19 | Reply
    • Jessica wrote:

      First of all, congrats on law school, you go girl, that is amazing. I didn’t really notice any major side effects or withdrawal but again everyone is different. And to your point re: stress, I had an interesting chat with an old work colleague recently. The first thing she asked me was “do you still get migraines all the time?” I honestly had forgotten about how often I used to get migraines at my old job. I am sure I probably could have done more to manage that, but I think most of it was because of a ridiculous amount of stress which led to a whole host of health issues, and headaches. Stress can do really crazy things to your body and your health. At the same time if you’re going off the pill, it’s going to mess with your hormones, so they need to balance out. If you haven’t checked out Woman Code I recommend it. It’s certainly not a cure-all but it was helpful for me as I was coming off the pill and trying to regulate my hormones. Best of luck.

      1.31.19 | Reply
  3. Laura wrote:

    Thanks so much for this informative post! I’ve been considering getting off the pill myself in the near future and have had so much anxiety about it. Also really interesting to hear about your painful cystic acne you developed while on the pill- overall the pill has been helping my acne, but then around my 30th birthday I started developing this crazy cystic acne that I’ve never had before. I’ve been able to significantly bring it under control with other means (spearmint tea every day, incorporating a lemon essential oil into my skincare routine, cutting out soy) but it’s been so frustrating to deal with, as being on the pill was supposed to help in the first place. You’ve definitely provided some great food for thought here!

    1.31.19 | Reply
    • Jessica wrote:

      Yeah that’s actually a really good point. When I turned 30 it was like the $hit hit the fan with my skin a bit. Never really had to worry about it and all of a sudden it just went nuts, which I think was mostly hormonal. But making dietary changes helped a lot (I also try not to have any soy and do the spearmint tea). Best of luck whatever you decide!

      1.31.19 | Reply
  4. Kristin wrote:

    Thanks for sharing your experience! I went off it last year because I knew my husband and I would start trying to have kids eventually and I just wanted to get my body back to a normal rythym. I definitely felt the pill made me way more moody and angry human plus I a lso killed any sex drive. I hated it. Since being off of it I still have my moments but my kind feels so much clearer now. I don’t think I’ll ever go back on it!
    Kristin

    1.31.19 | Reply
    • Kristin wrote:

      Clearly I need to proofread haha

      1.31.19 | Reply
    • Jessica wrote:

      Yeah I totally agree and it’s crazy because it was things I didn’t totally recognize until I went off.

      1.31.19 | Reply
  5. Laura wrote:

    One word of warning to be careful about relying on the apps alone. My husband and I began trying for a baby last year and that’s when I realized how inaccurate the glow app was. Stress and other factors can also throw things off each month. I’d recommend using the cheap ovulation sticks that you can buy on amazon. Those things are amazing!!!

    1.31.19 | Reply
    • Jessica wrote:

      Yeah I totally agree it is not a super accurate method so definitely not for everyone especially if you are trying to prevent pregnancy. Interesting on the ovulation sticks I’ll check that out!

      1.31.19 | Reply
  6. Michelle wrote:

    Jess – thank you for sharing all of this. We went off the pill around the same time and I was looking forward to hearing how things were going for you one year post-pill. I pretty much immediately started feeling like a brand new person, but one year later I’m still struggling with crazy jaw & chin acne (woof, you’d think I was 28 going on 13). I just went for my annual with my OB GYN and she pretty much dismissed that it was post-pill related and told me to go see a dermatologist (eye roll). I haven’t heard of Glow, but I’ll have to check it out — I currently use MyFLO and the Femometer app & thermometer to take my temperature and track my cycle. I feel empowered with my decision and I totally agree, 100% worth it.

    1.31.19 | Reply
    • Jessica wrote:

      Ugh that’s brutal, that sounds like hormonal acne. It might be worth going to a derm (I didn’t) but sometimes if you’ve tried everything else it makes sense. Not sure if you did try an elimination diet but that was a major game changer for me along with skincare and doing the Vivace RF (which is expensive so understandably not always an option). But eliminating dairy and eggs made a huge difference in my skin (the eggs even more so than the dairy). Which surprised me but I guess it’s not all that uncommon (and I was getting local organic, pasture raised eggs). Anyhoo good luck, skin stuff is a drag and it will drive you flipping insane. I hope you figure it out soon.

      1.31.19 | Reply
  7. kasey wrote:

    I love this post thank you for sharing! I am going off soon- to eventually have kids but also because I just hate i’ve been taking a pill daily for more than 15 years. i’ve had some anxiety about it like what is my weight going to do or my hair or my mood my skin etc. I don’t cry often so will I all the time now 😂 all those things like what is my body/personality REALLY like without the influence of this pill since its been with me half my life. I am thrilled to hear it’s really only been positive and not much change!

    1.31.19 | Reply
    • Jessica wrote:

      Yeah I totally get it. I was freaked out about all that stuff. I guess I felt like it was worth the risk to get my hormones back to normal. It was a learning experience but I really do feel super in tune with my body now in a way I never did before.

      1.31.19 | Reply
  8. Ashley wrote:

    I enjoyed reading your experience. I went off the pill (after almost 12 years) about a year ago. I will say that I experienced EXTREME hair loss. I didn’t feel / look like myself. About 5mos in, it started to thicken again, but I have a lot of “baby” hairs now. I think going off the pill has helped my anxiety, but I don’t love the hormonal acne I get now… I didn’t realize how much the pill helped with that! I use GLOW, too. I hate the ads, but I find it’s pretty dead on. At this point, I don’t consider myself going back on it.

    xx

    1.31.19 | Reply
  9. Kristie W. wrote:

    This is such a timely post for me. I had to go off the pill after having a stroke at the end of December. My first cycle was on time but I do need to manage ovaluation tracking to prevent pregnancy, saving the links for later. I can no longer take hormones so most IUDs are not an option. I’ve noted a few of your supplements to ask my doctor about at my next visit. Thank you!

    1.31.19 | Reply
  10. Stacy wrote:

    I went off the pill after about 5 years on, rather unexpectedly (big bad break up) I was only on it for pregnancy prevention. Because I had so much else going on in my life, I wasn’t paying attention AT ALL to what effects my body experienced afterward. I definitely noticed changes in my skin/hair since then and some of those are probably attributable to going off bc. For now, I’m not on the pill (just don’t need to be) but fortunately I noticed that my body doesn’t experience any significant differences on/off it, so I’ll probably return to it someday. Definitely more aware of it now though, and appreciate when people share their experiences!

    1.31.19 | Reply
  11. Ashley wrote:

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I got a pulmonary embolism when I was 30 years old. I didn’t have any risk factors, except for taking birth control. My doctor mentioned there was an increased risk of stroke, but as a non-smoker I didn’t think it would be an issue.

    It’s important for to weigh the cost vs benefit before putting something in your body. I learned that the hard way.

    Also, my hair is so effing thin since I stopped taking birth control. 😬Thank god for clip in extensions!

    1.31.19 | Reply
  12. Monica wrote:

    Thank you for sharing! I am planning on going off of the pill in the next 5-6 months and I’m starting to research what to expect when I stop taking it. I just received Beyond the Pill and would recommend to anyone starting the non BC journey.

    2.1.19 | Reply
  13. Young wrote:

    Thanks for sharing this, Jess! I made the choice to get off birth control two years ago, and it was rough. I started gaining weight no matter how I ate or how much I exercised. Along with the weight gain, I was constantly exhausted. I finally went to my doctor and learned that getting off birth control caused my vitamin D level to drop to a point I was Vitamin D deficient, which resulted in excess belly fat and fatigue. The whole point of my story is this – I thought I was alone in going through a rough patch after deciding to go off birth control. None of my friends that I talked to had negative experiences, so I felt like there was something WRONG. WITH. ME. While our experiences are not the same, thanks for reminding me that there was and is nothing wrong with me.

    The Style Intermission

    2.3.19 | Reply
  14. christina wrote:

    Thank you for this post! I went off the pill after 15 years because it was causing me to have hypertension. Within days of going off the pill, my bp was back to normal.. it’s crazy what these pills can do to your body. Most people think I’m crazy for managing my fertility with an app, but you know what, I feel both emotionally and physically better than I have in years. Glad to see you are having a similar experience.

    2.9.19 | Reply
  15. Annie wrote:

    This is so insightful Jessica – thank you! I went off the pill back in September after suffering from severe headaches while on my period. I got off of it and they have almost completely subsided, it’s been amazing. However a little weight gain, anxiety and hormal acne have popped up because of it. I wasn’t in a relationship when I went off the pill, but now that is different. Working with my doctor about what the best prevention method for me is.

    2.18.19 | Reply
  16. e wrote:

    I used to suffer from migraines in high school and college but thankfully “outgrew” them in the real world so it hasn’t come up with the doctor I’ve been seeing post-grad. It came up at our last appointment and she told me she could no longer in good conscience prescribe me birth control as the link between strokes and birth control pills for migraine sufferers was too high. This was the first I heard of it but good to know for other migraine sufferers!

    5.30.19 | Reply
    • Jess wrote:

      Wow that’s so interesting. I had no idea.

      5.30.19 | Reply
  17. LB wrote:

    Wow. I want to thank you -and all those who have posted comments- for sharing your positive and encouraging experiences with going off the pill! I’ve become increasingly aware of the negative consequences the pill may be having on my mental and physical health, but for a number of reasons I’ve been extremely fearful of stopping the pill. There are very few positive resources/experiences online when it comes to “post-birth control” discussion..most people only report their horror stories. I’ve wanted to come off the pill for several years now but haven’t felt brave enough to take the leap!
    I, too, have been on the pill for 15+ years and as I approach 30th birthday, I’ve made it a goal to stop the pill this year. This writeup and the comments have been immensely encouraging!! Now I know that it’s possible to feel better than ever post-birth control. Thank you, thank you!

    6.6.19 | Reply
  18. Grace wrote:

    YES!!
    I had the same experience but I had an IUD. I thought it couldn’t be healthy that I hadn’t had my period in over a year. It seemed strange to shut down functioning body processes and that someone told me I should add hormones to my body even though they’d never taken a blood test to see what hormones were in balance.
    I got off when I heard about tracking your body cycles. Unfortunately, I’d never had a cramp until after birth control. After I got off a few years ago, I could tell things had changed.
    All-in-all, I’m so happy going all natural though and I’m glad you like it too! Thank goodness for personal growth and the Glow app!

    6.7.19 | Reply