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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.