Miscellaneous

1 year off the pill

A year ago I decided I would come off the pill. I started using it age 16 to regulate my period in hope that the period cramps would ease and the spots on my back would disappear. 8 years later, after researching eco-friendly ways to manage my period and finding linked articles about the contraceptive pill, I started to question why I was really on it.

Initially I didn’t start taking the pill as a method of contraception. Like most teenagers, I went on it to manage my period. I knew a lot of people at that age who were also on the pill for similar reasons. Whether it was to treat back acne, severe menstrual cramps, make heavy periods lighter, regulate unpredictable ones, or as contraception. Personally, I had heavy periods and outbreaks of spots on my back between the ages of 15-16.

It’s an incredible invention. The contraceptive pill has been monumental in the development of feminism, the sexual revolution, and reproductive autonomy. I think it is important and this blog is not saying that people shouldn’t be on it. Like all aspects of feminism, it’s about having that choice.

After 8 years I chose to come off it.

 

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Why I stopped taking the contraceptive pill

In my research of sustainable period methods, I kept seeing the words ‘natural’ appear. This was linked to products like menstrual cups or period underwear being kinder to the body, but it made me think about how I was preventing my body from having natural periods.

From having conversations with friends and family, I was learning that others saw positive changes after coming off the contraceptive pill such as less anxiety, better moods, and improved happiness. I wondered if the pill was contributing to my anxiety too.

I also listened to the Deliciously Ella podcast with Maisie Hill, author of Period Power, all about the contraceptive pill, period pain, tracking ovulation, and more. If you’re obsessed with periods as much as me, it’s a must-listen! In it, Hill goes into depth about how many people go on the pill as teenagers before their hormones have had a chance to balance. Hill also discusses how you can learn a lot about your body from your period, such as tracking it to predict upcoming cycle habits or rely on it as a method of birth control without the need for the pill.

All these points and other findings in my research led me to decide that I should let my body have a proper period. If I didn’t like it I could always go back on the pill.

The changes

Hair

My hair seems thinner than it did on the pill. I’ve never had thick hair, just lots of it making it look thick. Since coming off the pill my hair gets oily quicker. On the first hair wash day it stays full, bouncy and looking ok, but I have to grab the dry shampoo by day 2 or 3 which use to last an extra day on the pill.

It’s worth noting that during the same year I made the switch from high-street brand shampoo to naked shampoo bars, so any changes could have been affected by this.

Skin

Turns out I took my skin for granted during my teens and early 20s. I thought I was blessed with good genes, as I was lucky I didn’t have acne and my spots, while existent, have always been manageable.

The skin on my face off the contraceptive pill is another story.

Spots on my face hurt, a lot. My chin area seems to be the most affected area, usually when I ovulate or a couple of days before my period is due. Once I’ve attacked the spots with some sort of skin care product (and occasionally a squeeze, which doesn’t help), it turns into a dry patch. My skin in general looks more tired than before, less plump, more sallow.

An improvement is that the spots on my back, the reason I went on the pill in the first place, haven’t returned like they did when I was a teenager. Sure I get a spot on my back occasionally, like any 25 year old, but it’s not like pre-pill levels were I’d have several at a time.

So far I’m not selling this life off the pill. Despite my skin having a bad year off the pill, it’s not the end of the world. From what I’ve read, this is my body adjusting to my hormones levels returning. It might get better. If it doesn’t, then I know how to treat it and there are worse things in the world than spots (even if they are really painful).

Mood and body

My mood has changed drastically. While I still get anxiety, I don’t feel it as frequently or intensely. In general I feel happier, more relaxed and chilled out. Moreover, my scope of emotions has increased. I was either happy or sad before, with rarely an emotion between. Now my feelings are more complex which feels good, as if my brain and my hormones are more connected than they were on the pill.

Of course, this could be down to numerous other changes within the year such as: moving house, joining the gym and having an exercise schedule, and better coping mechanisms for my mental health. Therefore it might not be the pill at all or it’s a combination of my returning hormones and these other changes in my life, all having a positive effect on my mentality.

Lots of research states the pill decreases libido and I would agree the pill affected mine. I don’t think it ever decreased, because I went on it at 16 which was probably around the time my sex drive would naturally increase so it has probably remained the same since then. Since coming off though, my libido is more ‘scheduled’. As I track my period through an app (I use Clue), I notice that my libido seems higher at certain points of my cycle compared to before where there was no pattern.

Additionally, I’ve realised that I am having less headaches than before. Between the ages of 18-24, I would say I had a headache at least once a week and was having paracetamol frequently to try and beat it. Since coming off the pill a year ago, I would say I get a headache once or twice a month and my migraines appear less too.

 

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Periods

Menstruation has changed too. On the pill my standard period was as follows: medium flow (what I thought at the time was heavy) for 3-4 days, light flow for 1 day. Since coming off the pill, my periods have been all over the place and only recently can I say that they have settled into a routine.

I stopped the pill in April and started to bleed a few days later. It lasted 4 days. I was heavy day 1 with cramps, then medium on day 2, then light on day 3 and 4. I only had one cycle which was 35 days, after that they went to 28-30 days a cycle again. All of my periods between May – September were medium/light flow.

During October I had a 9 day period. I don’t know why that was, as it hasn’t happened again. Since then, I feel like my periods are finding their routine. I have light brown bleeding for a couple of days before my period, then I go heavy for 1-2 days during which I have the most painful cramps. After these 2 days of heaviness and painful cramps, I go really light before my menstruation finishes. They last between 4-5 days altogether and my cycle is 28 days like normal.

Despite the heaviness and painful cramps for 2 days a month, I feel happy that my periods found a routine. I wasn’t sure what a normal period would be for me, as I went on the pill at 16, so it’s reassuring to know I still have them.

 

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Am I glad I went off the contraceptive pill?

The downsides to coming off the pill include my skin growing more spots and my periods hurting more. Despite this, I’m still happy I stopped taking the contraceptive pill because my mood improving has been the biggest benefit. I wish I came off it earlier.

I don’t need to be on it anymore given my situation and other forms of contraception available, so now seems like the right time. It’s probably affecting my body in other positive ways without me realising. I like that I’ve let my body have its hormones back.

My body and hormones are still changing, possibly still adapting to being off the pill. I’m hoping this time next year my periods are lighter and less painful. Though they still hurt, I’m getting less spots each day so my skin might be improving.

I will see what the next year brings.

 

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