Hi, my name is Hannah, and in November I came off the contraceptive pill. I was really bloody nervous about coming off of it as I felt like it was a comfort blanket, but had to come off it due to getting visual migraines (think weird mosaic patterns in your vision and then blurry edges – not fun).
I think it would be helpful, before I go into any more depth about where I am at right now, if I started at the very beginning. And just a head’s up, I’m not going to beat around the bush (pun intended), this is a post about menstruation, I will talk about blood, so if you don’t wanna hear that shit, first of all, I ask you why, and second of all, I suggest you read no further.
Okay, so you made it to the second paragraph, that’s amazing news. To preface this all, I started my period at the age of 12, from then on throughout my teens, my period was awful. Think heavy periods, waking up in pools of blood so bad it looked like a murder scene, horrific cramps that would leave me crying and unable to sleep, and clots the size of grapes in my pads. I wasn’t allowed to go on the pill because I was so young, so instead I was given something called Tranexamic Acid which prevents major blood loss (please note my GP refused to look into any reasons as to why I was bleeding so much… classic NHS GP experience).
When I was 16 and was in my first proper relationship, I got put on the combination pill, and things got better, the cramps lessened, but my period would still last a good 7 days. I had about 9 good years, with a couple of occasions coming off the pill for two knee surgeries, and was on it last year until I suddenly got an aural migraine as mentioned above, which was actually pretty scary, and my doctor immediately took me off. There was an urgency in his tone, ‘do not take it again’, which made me think ‘if you’re so eager for me to get off it, with one side effect like that, why the hell was I allowed to be put on it in the first place?’
We all know the pill can cause some pretty serious side effects, (read this pretty comprehensive article here for more info) and because of the impact it had on the blood supply to my brain I can no longer take it, and I just feel a bit iffy about taking the progesterone only pill, or any other hormonal contraceptive for that matter. In fact over the past few months I have slowly come to realise that the way to treat hormone imbalances, is to not just take a pill full of phony hormones, that trick your body into thinking it’s pregnant, but more on that later.
I am actually really happy being off the pill, it has been just a little over 8 months now being pill free, there isn’t really much to report having come off it. I definitely felt as if a blanket was being lifted and my emotions were just much more acute and obvious, in a study recently it was found that the pill may in fact make women less able to process emotions, it makes us less emotionally aware and also reduces our ability to empathise, which makes total sense because throughout my teens I was rarely a crier, nothing except for boys being dick heads made me upset, whereas now an advert with a puppy and a semi-emotional song on the TV can get me welling up.
One thing I know a lot of women worry about when coming off is things like skin and body weight. I did lose a little weight but that was more to do with changes to diet than anything. As for skin, my skin is no worse now than it was when I was on the pill. In fact, about two years ago I was suffering from really strong acne on my chin that was constant, whereas now I do get times when my skin is pretty clear. Problem skin and cystic hormonal acne has always been something I have struggled with, and is one of what I could call my main hormonal symptoms, next to severe cramps and lengthy, heavy bleeds.
I can’t tell you much about my libido as I am not in a relationship and even when I was on the pill and in a relationship, it was never an issue for me. I think a lot of women are scared about coming off the pill due to the contraceptive element, which I get, but there are tonnes of other options, many of which aren’t hormonal and won’t fuck with the very delicate hormonal balance of your amazing body. There’s a reason there isn’t a male contraceptive pill, and it’s because men could say NO to it, as women, we also have the ability to say no, even if your doctor tries to make you take it. I have a had a couple of guys be annoyed about using condoms, but my response is always the same “if you’re having sex with me, you’re using a condom” and that’s that. If you’re in a long term relationship I can understand the frustration, but for me, using a condom is 1 million times better than all the shit that comes with the pill.
Since coming off the pill, I did experience some depression. I have been battling with mild depression on and off for about two years now, and I do think the pill, with its boost of pseudo-oestrogen, can make those bad patches a little better. But I am going to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy now and am really looking at how eating well and staying mindful can positively impact my mental state. The pill actually can affect your levels of serotonin which are key to your mood stability, here’s a useful article to read more.
Now let’s talk about my period. It took a couple of months to come back and be semi-regular. Unfortunately, before I went on the pill when I was younger, my periods were extremely irregular and that hasn’t changed, they aren’t as heavy as they once were, but knowing what day they’ll start on has become a thing of the past. I’m currently tracking my period using two apps, and if you’re interested in knowing more about this and why I’m doing it, then let me know. When it comes to my cramps, they’re okay, not awful, I have one bad day of cramps and then after that it seems okay. I am still not entirely convinced all is well and normal with my reproductive system, and I am working really hard to try and balance my hormones through diet and lifestyle factors, so being able to track my symptoms and my period is really helpful, and I try to figure out what is going on with my body and what happens to be my ‘new normal’.
The bottom line (if you’re scrolling for a summary, this is it):
Am I happy I came off the pill?
Would I go back onto the contraceptive pill if I was allowed?
No, I would stay off it.
Do I think the pill is bad for everyone?
I understand that the pill gave a lot of women control and a much more positive life when it was introduced. But we have more options now. In the UK, contraceptive pill prescription is SO casually done by the NHS, in other countries like France, women are given a lot of tests and very intricate check ups to ensure they’re on the right one. I think that for some people, whose hormones are in perfect balance initially, and in whom it doesn’t cause any side effects, it can be good, but for someone like me and all the other women who have hormonal imbalances, I can’t see how sticking a plaster on the gaping issue, to just minimise symptoms, without trying to treat the issue instead, as well as potentially instigated a whole host of other issues, can be positive.
I feel like I have woken up, woken up to the real, breathing, FEELING me, and I wouldn’t change that for the world.
Have you come off the pill or even recently gone onto it? What has your experience been? Leave a comment below!