After 7 years of being on the pill (birth control) I out of the blue decided to throw my last package away last month and start getting in touch with my body.
I originally went on the pill when I was 15 (I'm 22 now) to clear up acne and regulate my period and I have stayed on it since as an actual method of birth control. For the last 7 years I have seen nothing wrong with being on the pill, my acne cleared up, my periods were regular and overall I felt totally normal. But after getting into the holistic health and wellness industry as a career and educating myself on all aspects of health (one of those being hormones) I started to get uncomfortable with the fact that I was dosing myself with synthetic hormones on a daily basis and I realized that a lot of the small health issues that I have experienced over the past few years may actually be being caused by my birth control.
To put it simply - birth control is a synthetic hormonal pill that suppresses your natural hormones and convinces your body you are pregnant in order to stop it from ovulating and keep you from actually getting pregnant. Most birth control pills are meant to be taken every day and if you think about that logically it doesn't really make sense to assume that long term use wouldn't affect our bodies. If you had to take synthetic pain killers every single day for 7 years your liver and kidneys would become damaged which could possibly lead to disease or cause them to fail all together, so why do so many of us take synthetic birth control every single day for upwards of 10+ years and think nothing of it?
If you have ever struggled with irregular periods, acne, cramping, nausea, etc. then you have probably been told one time or another that going on the pill would solve all of your problems. That's the thing with western Medicine, Doctors are quick to prescribe synthetic medications for all kinds of conditions to and we take their advice because they are certified professionals. To the unknowing public it seems like they are handing us a solution to our problems in the form of a pill but in reality we are often being lead blindly into suppressing whatever issue we are dealing with and messing up our bodies even further.
For some reason birth control, periods and hormones are kind of uncomfortable and maybe even a little taboo for most people to talk about. You know those commercials where the girl asks random (male) strangers to go in to a store and buy her tampons and the men freak out and find every excuse not to? Yeah uncomfortable like that. I don't really know when we as a human race decided that women talking about their hormones and fertility was a no no but I for one think it should be a topic of discussion. After all, every single women is supposed to get their period and yes some may not be as frequent or normal as others but it is still something that we all have in common so I'm opening up the discussion and I'll go first.
SIDE AFFECTS OF THE PILL
1. GUT HEALTH - This was my initial #1 reason for coming off of the pill - I bet you didn't know that you have hormone receptors everywhere in your digestive tract and that the added hormones in your body from the pill can actually affect those receptors negatively. The pill actually destroys the beneficial bacteria in your intestines which makes you more susceptible to yeast overgrowth, lower immunity and infection.
2. INFERTILITY - The pill damages the cervical crypts that produce cervical fluid, which is vital during ovulation. It can take years for the body to heal to a point where it can make adequate cervical fluid and sometimes it never heals and the damage is irreversible which cause infertility.
3. CANCER RISK - There are numerous studies that have linked cervical cancer as well as breast cancer with prolonged oral birth control use.
4. AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE - Estrogen can negatively impact the body’s immune response which can trigger a predisposition to autoimmune disease.
5. NUTRIENT DEFICIENCY - Long term birth control pill use commonly depletes the nutrients; B-6, B-12, and folic acid which can lead to cardiovascular disease as well as vitamin C, magnesium, selenium, zinc and the amino acid tyrosine which can lead to an increased chance of heart disease.
6. DECREASED BONE DENSITY - A decrease of normal estrogen levels can negatively impact bone density. This is also why women who have just finished going through menopause, meaning their natural estrogen levels are significantly lower, are at higher risk of osteoporosis.
7. BECOMING OUT OF TUNE WITH YOUR BODY - When you are on the pill you experience a fake period, it generally comes regularly and you know you can't get pregnant so you don't pay much attention to any of those things which causes you to lose touch with your body.
There are way more side affects than I am prepared to list so I strongly encourage you all to do your own research on these side affects as well as others.
MY INITIAL CONCERNS
When I decided to come off of my birth control I planned for the worst, after all I have voluntarily suppressed my hormones and my body for 7 years. I didn't really know what to expect..
1. My acne returning.
2. Irregular periods - if my period even came back at all.
3. Painful, crampy, bloated overall terrible PMS symptoms.
4. Mood swings caused by hormonal imbalances.
5. Getting pregnant.
WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED WHEN I STOPPED TAKING THE PILL
Okay shockingly enough coming off of the pill wasn't nearly as frightening as I worked it up to be in my head. I have noticed some changes in my body though.
1. My acne did return but only shortly - I had a couple small breakouts in the first couple of weeks after going off of the pill but my skin has cleared up and is actually the nicest that it has been in years. YAY!
2. My sex drive has increased - when I was on the pill I had a pretty normal sex drive, it never really fluctuated too much but now that I am off and my body is actually starting to try to begin ovulating again my sex drive comes in waves.
3. I am more emotional - I have always been a pretty emotional person but lately I have noticed that my emotions are a little bit more intense. I have always been a crier (no judgement okay) but now there are times when I basically cry about nothing and everything all at the same time. The pill has estrogen and progesterone in it so it keeps the hormones (and in turn the emotions) balanced, so right now my hormones are regulating and once they level out my emotions should level out as well.
4. My digestion is better - as I just explained above, the pill can actually destroy the good bacteria in our guts and cause tons of digestive and health problems.
5. I feel like I'm getting to actually know my body and my hormones - when you go off of birth control you actually need to take time to get to know what is going on with your body to prevent pregnancy and stay on top of your health. My boyfriend is getting to know my body as well, we have been in a relationship for 6 years and I have been on the pill the entire time so up until recently he never had to think about my cycle or a risk of pregnancy. I think it is super beneficial for us as a couple to be learning about this together.
My period has not returned yet but that is actually completely normal after long term use of the pill so I am not overly concerned, I am just being patient and doing everything that I can to balance my adrenals and my hormones and reduce stress currently. I have an appointment next week to have some blood work done to test my thyroid, nutrient levels, etc. just to be safe!
WHAT I'M USING NOW TO TRACK MY CYCLE + FERTILITY AND PREVENT PREGNANCY
After a ton of research and numerous second opinions I have decided to sign up with Natural Cycles. It is a temperature based Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) - you use their specially designed thermometer to take your temperature every morning right when you wake up and input it into an app on your phone which then uses an algorithm that accurately detects and predicts ovulation and fertility. It takes roughly 1-3 cycles of you tracking consistently for the app to get to know you well enough to give you accurate predictions and after that it is 99% effective. It works by giving you either a red day which means you should take extra precautionary measures if you are planning on being sexually active or green day which means you are clear to get down to business as you please.
I also just started reading Taking Charge of Your Fertility By Tony Weschler I have heard really great things about this book and so far I am learning A LOT so I definitely recommend it to any of you who may be going through this transition or just want to learn more!
Just like everything that I talk about on here all of my knowledge on this subject is through my schooling as well as tons of my own research and personal experiences! If you are thinking about coming off of the pill for whatever reason I strongly suggest that you do your own research before making your final decision.