Why I’m Coming Off The Contraceptive Pill

coming off the pill

…and no, it’s not because I want to get pregnant!

Up until recently, taking the contraceptive pill felt like a non-negotiable thing for me. I’ve been taking it since university – that’s around 4 years of pumping hormones into myself on a daily basis and messing about with my natural cycle.

But lately, I’ve seen more and more women on the internet coming forward to talk about their experiences on the pill and why they’re choosing to stop taking it.¬†Hannah Witton’s Youtube series ‘The Hormone Diaries‘ is what prompted me to really start thinking about the little tablet I was taking each day. After many years of taking the contraceptive pill and not having a period as a result, Hannah has chosen to search for non-hormonal¬†methods instead. Her series is absolutely fantastic, one of my favourite things online right now, and is giving a much needed voice to women’s contraceptive needs.

I’ve been on two different types of pill in my time. When I first started taking it, I was given Microgynon, which is the kind of pill you take for 3 weeks and then have a week’s break so you can have your period. Then, last year, I was prescribed to start taking Cerazette, a ‘mini-pill’, and the kind where you keep taking it without a break so that you don’t have a period at all. This was because my BMI had risen, thanks to my struggles with binge eating, and it was considered the better option.

So, I haven’t had a period in about a year. And whilst that is remarkably handy in that I get to dodge PMS, save money on sanitary pads and just generally don’t have to worry about coming on my period, it also leads me to great concern about my body. It’s obvious that preventing your period isn’t natural, and it’s occurred to me too that my feelings of depression intensified from around the same time I moved on to Cerazette. There was also a lot more going on in my life, including unhappiness in my freelance job, but the timelines definitely match up.

Women have been waking up to the pill not being all it’s cracked up to be for a while now. More and more studies are revealing a potential link between the pill and depression, as well as other suspected side effects like anxiety, weight gain, blood clots, etc. And, there’s a general sense – to me as a woman anyway – that if I can take the pill I should.

It feels like there’s an inherent unbalance in where we believe the responsibility for contraception lies, that women are doing the lion’s share. It’s understandable – it’s our bodies that will carry the consequences of unprotected sex, after all, and I know that having control over my own contraception does give me peace of mind – but that doesn’t mean we should be battering ourselves and our minds with hormones that could be having even more dire consequences when it should be up to everyone involved to ensure safe prevention of pregnancy.

My mental health has been deteriorating for several years now, and I battle with feeling depressed daily, weekly. I reached such a rock bottom that I have seriously considered talking to my doctor about anti-depressants; and whilst I have heard positive things about how anti-depressants have helped people recover, I’m also very aware of the side effects, and reluctant to, in a way, ‘mess with my head’ even more so than it already is.

It feels counterproductive to me to take pills to help me feel better and solve the problems potentially caused by a pill I’m already taking.¬†

Why not just not take any pills?

I’ve been on the contraceptive pill since I was in uni, and it seems like I don’t quite know who my adult self is without it.

Through my recovery from binge eating, I’m trying to learn to listen to my body and feed myself more intuitively. If I’m going to let my body do it’s thang in that respect, I reckon I should let it go with the flow (wink wink) and control it’s own menstrual cycle too.

I have high hopes for this – less ups and downs in my mood, a fog being lifted, getting to know my body again. Who knows; it could turn me into a monster and I might decide the pill is best for me. And that’s okay. The way I see it, all I can do is give it a try.

Of course, not taking the pill doesn’t mean I won’t be practising safe sex. I chatted with my partner a lot before making this decision, and implore you to as well, if you’re also considering stopping taking the pill and are in a relationship – because the repercussions have just as big an impact on them as they do on you, and you really need them to be with you on this. We’ll be using condoms and, thanks to Hannah Witton, I’ll be trying out natural family planning apps to learn when my cycle is, when I’m ovulating and when to be extra careful.

As well as Hannah’s videos, there’s lot of great blogs out there on this too. I especially liked this one from Poppy Dinsey, and this one from Beth Bridges.

I’ll post an update on any changes I feel from stopping taking the pill, perhaps a 3 month and 6 month update. I’m kinda scared, but feel kind of liberated too. I trust my inner woman to take care of herself, if only I let her.

Have you decided to stop taking the pill? I’d love to know your experiences with this!

Soph xx

 

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4 Comments

  1. Liz
    May 30, 2018 / 7:09 pm

    I stopped taking the pill in Jan ’18, I was on a 3 weeks on, 1 week off sort of pill. I was on Microgynon back in 2006 and it definitely made my hormones go haywire, I was so emotional and yet had frequent feelings of being dead inside – not fun. Then I got put on Loestrin 20, and took that for about 10 years, then I started suffering from vaginal dryness, and went to the CASH clinic, and they put me on Milinette, which had a different balance of hormones, and it got no better, so my partner suggested a pill detox and I stopped taking anything for three months (I heard this was long enough for your natural hormone production to “reboot” – although the pill leaves your system very quickly, the body takes a while to take back control). I had a really rough crazy emotional week, and then another week where I was like a subtly different person (I’m a keen board gamer, and I suddenly got really ruthless and found it funny, when I’m normally VERY non-combative). Anyway… my symptoms started getting way worse, I was uncomfortable all the time and it was super awkward. So I went back to the doctor – she approved of my methodology (i.e. trying a new pill and trying a break) and thought I was probably low on oestrogen… so she put me back on the pill with the highest dose of oestrogen you can get (Cilest). It does seem to have helped, but there was no discussion of why my hormone levels might have dropped, and no clinical investigation into the cause of my symptoms (no physical exam, or blood test or anything), and no discussion of whether this might have future repercussions on fertility for example. Dr just kind of shrugged and said “this might just be how your made”. So I’m not entirely happy, and now I seem to get a lot of stomach bloating and have no idea of it’s related.
    Female sexual health is still a bit of a grey area in medicine I think!
    Good luck with your pill break, and I hope you have better luck than me <3

    • Sophie Butcher
      Author
      June 5, 2018 / 5:29 pm

      Thanks for sharing your contraception story! It sounds like it’s been so up and down for you, which I think is the case for a lot of people.

      It’s definitely still a grey area, it feels like only recently there’s been a push back against hormonal birth control and cries for an alternative.

      I’m going to do a 12 month update post on this soon!

      Soph x

  2. Shar
    September 11, 2018 / 6:58 pm

    I came off the pill 6 month ago to give myself a break from pumping something into my body I didn’t need and also every month I would get b.v like clockwork since stopping the pill I don’t get b.v but I have gained weight started to binge eat well sort of graze after tea for hours then get really down about it I’m thinking of going back on the pill to help me with my eating and my feelings when I’m due on I feel so depressed it’s unbearable it’s never been like this and I put it down to coming off the pill is anyone else like this ?

    • Sophie Butcher
      Author
      September 26, 2018 / 1:46 pm

      Thanks so much for commenting. You’re definitely not alone in the effects you’ve had since coming off the pill I don’t think! I have found my binge eating has subsided a little since coming off the pill but I think that’s because I’ve been feeling better about myself generally. I definitely have experienced the increase in hormones and mood swings since getting my normal periods back though!

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