The journey I took, the symptoms I experienced, and why I ultimately decided to stop taking hormonal birth control pills.
The majority of women in today’s day and age go on some sort of hormonal contraceptive at some point in their life. It’s a reason why we’ve been able to be more independent and dive deeper into our careers than in the past. But unfortunately, there’s always a give and take and there are symptoms that many females can experience that aren’t so positive.
But first, I just want to say that I stand behind any woman who chooses to take hormonal birth control and support you 100%. It’s a very personal decision and I think only you can decide what’s best for your body. But I also know that it doesn’t work for a lot of women, myself included, and that the symptoms and risks can be really difficult to deal with. Being on birth control pills did not better my life in any way, which is why I ultimately decided to go off of them.
I figured I would share my story to help others along their health journey. Back when I was considering ditching the pill, I loved reading about other’s stories, what their transition was like, and how they feel now.
So, let me dive in.
Why I started taking hormonal birth control:
At 18 years old, I started taking hormonal birth control pills solely for pregnancy prevention. I had been dating Cole for a year and was sexually active. Because of this, I felt like I had no choice but to start taking BC pills as I felt like it was the responsible and mature thing to do. But in reality, I was extremely hesitant, nervous, and uncomfortable with the idea. I was so apprehensive about it that it took me several months to even step foot into my college health center (where they handed out birth control like candy) and talk to a doctor. I realize now that this was my intuition speaking to me and telling me it wasn’t the right approach, but I chose to ignore it.
I also didn’t feel comfortable relying on other pregnancy prevention methods. My experience and education growing up were that females could get pregnant AT ANY TIME in their cycle and that no other methods besides birth control pills (and of course abstinence) are reliable. I most certainly knew nothing about the fertility awareness method and I thought that condoms were only a short term solution.
At the time, I truly felt that taking birth control pills was just a normal step in a woman’s life and something everyone did! I thought it was just a part of life, kind of like getting your menstrual cycle. It has become so common in today’s world that it is now normal to alter our hormones!
I think it’s also important to note that when I visited a gynecologist at my college health center to ask for birth control pills, the entire visit lasted 10 minutes max. I was in and out and sent on my way. I was not told of any risks or side effects and the whole experience was very robotic. I know this probably isn’t everyone’s experience, but I do know others who have had similar stories. I feel like it would have been helpful to be more informed about possible risks + side effects to look out for and had a better idea of what I was putting into my body.
Long story short, I needed a reliable way to prevent pregnancy and I felt like taking hormonal birth control was my only option.
Symptoms I experienced on hormonal birth control:
I was taking birth control pills from the age of 18 to 24 and during this time I had tried several different brands. Although some were better than others, I experienced at least some unfortunate symptoms on all of them. Some symptoms showed up immediately when I started taking BC pills, while others were a more gradual build.
Negative symptoms I experienced while taking birth control pills:
- 2 week long periods + irregular spotting
- Mood swings, ranging from mild to very intense
- Throbbing sudden headaches
- Low libido
I also just felt a little disassociated from my body and my mind. The only way to put it is that I didn’t feel like ME.
If you want to read more about common symptoms and risks of taking hormonal birth control, here’s a great article to learn more.
Although all of the symptoms I experienced were not fun, the most tragic and traumatizing part was my drastic decrease in libido. Since I started taking birth control pills, my sexual desire took a slow and steady decline and continued down this path during the 6 years I was on hormonal birth control. This was one of the biggest reasons why I chose to stop taking BC pills – let me explain further.
How my drastically low libido impacted my life:
After a few years on hormonal birth control, my libido had tanked. It wasn’t just a little low – it was 100% empty! Although I knew this could be a symptom, I didn’t fully connect the dots at first or realize that it could happen to this severity. When I started dealing with this issue, the first thing I thought was that there was something wrong with me. That I was the problem. It definitely didn’t help my confidence or self-esteem.
During that time, because my sexual desire was so low, sex became…….damaging. I had already been in a committed relationship for several years, and although Cole was a sweetheart and tried to be helpful, I ultimately felt a lot of pressure to keep having sex even though I hated it. And I wanted it so badly to improve! Sex is supposed to be this intimate, beautiful, pleasurable moment. For me, it became anxiety-inducing, painful, and made me feel terrible about myself.
It wasn’t until about 2 years into dealing with this problem (yes, two years!) that I realized this was purely just a terrible symptom of my hormonal birth control. It took me a while to realize that I was not the problem, and instead, it was the BC pills I had been taking.
Because of this, I had a glimmer of hope. I decided to find a new, highly-praised doctor and was set on switching to a different hormonal contraceptive that would get rid of my low libido. Mind you, I had already been on at least 4 or 5 different brands at this point and they all had the same effect.
I made an appointment and was really hopeful. However, the appointment didn’t go the way I had wanted it to. My gynecologist told me that she didn’t think she could help me and was pretty confident all birth control pills would have the same effect, considering I’d tried so many already.
Instead, she told me to “fake it ’till I make it.”
I walked out and cried. I think that was the worst thing I could have heard.
The saddest part though is that after this happened, I STAYED ON BIRTH CONTROL PILLS FOR ANOTHER 2 YEARS. I was at the point in my life where I absolutely did not want a child, so I continued to take hormonal birth control even though I hated it.
Then I got sick.
In March 2016, I developed an autoimmune disorder of the bladder called interstitial cystitis. It was incredibly difficult to deal with, and long story short, I would do anything to make it go away.
Western doctors were not able to help me so I turned to the natural approach and visited a holistic practitioner. One of the first things she told me was that she thought I should get off of hormonal birth control in an effort to help improve my health holistically. Between the terrible symptoms I experienced and now this woman telling me I should ditch the pill, that was when I finally decided I was done.
However, this happened 6 months before I was getting married and I was terrified of having a horrible detox reaction. I had heard horror stories of females whose face erupted in acne or gained lots of weight – all things I would have liked to avoid for my wedding day. Because of this, my holistic practitioner and I decided I would stop taking birth control pills right after my wedding.
I took my last birth control pill ever on my honeymoon, threw away the empty pack into a trash can in Mexico, and never looked back. It felt so good to be done. Even though I was a little nervous, I was mostly excited and looking forward to healing and connecting with my own body again.
My transition off hormonal birth control:
I’ve now been off of birth control pills for 3.5 years and I’m still so happy I made that decision. Surprisingly to me, my transition off of hormonal birth control was smooth.
My acne did not get any worse, and instead, I think it may have gotten a little bit better. Like I mentioned before, a temporary increase in acne can be a side effect of going off of BC pills, so I was thankful I didn’t experience this.
I know this is something that a lot of females are scared of when they think about ditching the pill, but I think it’s important to note that acne (just like any other symptom) is a sign of an imbalance in your body. Birth control pills do not bring your body into balance, and instead, they can just mask this symptom temporarily. So if you do go off of hormonal birth control and you experience acne that isn’t just a temporary flare, I would suggest seeing a holistic practitioner or functional medicine doctor and getting to the root of the issue.
Besides this, ditching the pill immediately helped me feel more like me. When I was taking BC pills, I sometimes felt like everything in life was muted and that I was just playing a part in a movie and that I wasn’t actually living my life. After I stopped taking BC pills, I felt more connected to myself and this muted feeling went away. My emotions were a little bit more up and down, but almost in a good way – like I was really able to feel the whole spectrum of emotions. I’m not sure if that makes any sense, but that’s the best way I can describe it.
I also did not gain or lose any weight, although I think I may have felt slightly less bloated.
In regards to my cycle, it took me about 90 days to get my period back and about a year for my cycles to become regular again. This is pretty normal. If you’re planning on getting off of hormonal birth control, know that it can take time for your period to come back and they might be a little all over the place. My advice is just to try and not stress about it for the first several months to a year.
I also think it helped me to heal from my interstitial cystitis (as well as some other more minor gut issues I was having).
And the best part is that my libido started to come back! It was another slow and steady process, but I started to see slight improvement right away and that gave me hope. Eventually, things returned to normal, although it took a while to get past the mental block I created for myself during that time.
But all in all, my transition off of birth control pills was incredibly positive and exciting.
How I prevent pregnancy without hormonal birth control pills:
I’m a huge fan of temperature tracking to help women understand their cycles better and understand their body and their fertility. Many people use the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) with lots of success to prevent pregnancy and use condoms or refrain from sex when they’re in a fertile window. If you want to learn more about this method, I highly recommend you purchase the book Taking Charge Of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. This book will tell you everything you need to know.
While I track my temperature every day and am usually pretty clear at where I’m at in my cycle, Cole and I still use condoms about 90% of the time. I’m an extremely risk-averse person and I’m still not yet in the phase of my life where I want to welcome a child into this world so we always play it safe.
The only times we will have condomless sex is days 1-8 of my cycle (I usually ovulate around day 20) and at least 10 days after I know I’ve ovulated. However, to be perfectly clear, we still use the pull out method during this time. So far it’s worked for us and I’ve had no scares.
Is this a little TMI? Probably. But when I was getting off of birth control pills, I wish someone was this open and honest to me about their experience.
How I feel 3.5 years off of hormonal birth control:
I have never regretted my decision to ditch the pill. Although it was a little scary at first, I feel so much more connected to my body, my femininity, and am overall healthier and happier. I do think that getting off of my BC pills helped me to heal faster from my interstitial cystitis and improved my health in other ways.
I, of course, no longer suffer from any of the symptoms I experienced on birth control pills. Although they were pretty damaging to my health and happiness, they served an important purpose when I was younger and am still very thankful that I had access to them.
I just wish that 18-year-old me felt that I had other options and that going on hormonal birth control wasn’t the only way to be responsible.
If you’re currently on hormonal birth control and have thought about possibly ditching the pill, I encourage you to not let the fear of the unknown stop you! Do some research, but then at the end of the day, let your intuition tell you what you need to do.
And if you do end up getting off of hormonal birth control, be sure to check out my popular blog post all about cycle syncing so you can learn how to optimize your menstrual cycle for more energy, more productivity, and more happiness.
Books you might want to look into before getting off the pill:
I hope that sharing my experience was helpful, even if it just made you feel less alone. If you think this blog post might be helpful for the female friends in your life, be sure to share it with them!
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