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What Was Your Experience Going Off of Birth Control?

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5 min read

Thinx - Periodical - What Was Your Experience Going Off of Birth Control

by Meg Loughman | November 10, 2022

A few months ago, I stopped taking hormonal birth control. I’d been on the pill (same brand, same dosage) for about a decade. My period had been continually evolving during that time: From going completely MIA for many years, to returning in 2017 after an intense period of anxiety, to being wildly irregular and unpredictable ever since. I finally decided that I wanted to stop taking birth control in an effort to better understand the natural rhythms of my body, so I could start living more in alignment with them.

When I went to an OB/GYN to ask what to expect when getting off of birth control, I was stunned by the response: Why would I want to stop taking the pill in the first place? Instead of giving me tips on the adjustment period or telling me what changes I could expect to happen to my body after going off the pill, the doctor kept reiterating that hormonal birth control could be helpful in regulating my periods — although I spent ten years experiencing the exact opposite.

After I finally stopped, I became committed to keeping track of the side effects I was experiencing from going off the pill after prolonged use. Immediately, my acne began to flare up (which was the reason I got on birth control all those years ago), my PMS symptoms got more acute, and I started to lose a noticeable amount of hair. My periods became crampier, and much, much heavier — but they finally became regular, like clockwork, syncing up with the new moon.

Ever since, the topic of going off of birth control has continued to come up in conversations for me. I know firsthand how frustrating it can be to search for answers, to not feel heard at the doctor’s office, to grapple with the unknowns — so I asked others to anonymously share their own experiences. Of course, this is only a small sample and isn’t meant to speak for all experiences, but rather to serve as a guidepost for others considering making a change in their birth control journey.

R.S.

  1. Birth control type: Pill

  2. 10 years on it

  3. 1 year since stopping

  4. "I was not one to notice a lot of side effects while I was on the pill but I honestly just don’t remember what my period was like before I started taking it. I did notice that my periods got a lot more frequent and heavier a couple months after I stopped, which happened for 6 months before it finally started to regulate. It’s pretty much regular now, which I am grateful for. I feel more aware — aware of my body, aware of my emotions and the ability to control them. Since I’ve been off birth control I don’t cry as much and I feel more like myself. I’m glad I went off the pill, but I wish I knew that it would just take time to get my body back to normal."

K.M.

  1. Birth control type: Pill

  2. 2–3 years on it

  3. 2 months since stopping

  4. "I was so mad all the time when I first came off of it, just like really depressed and angry. Now it’s calmed down, but it was weird. I also came off because I’d been gaining weight consistently since starting it, and my weight is still increasing. I wish I’d known it would make me feel so weird for a while — I was so aggravated for, like, almost a month, and my first period afterwards was the worst I’ve ever experienced."

M.F.

  1. Birth control type: Combo pill

  2. On and off for about 4 years

  3. Almost 2 years since stopping

  4. "I had heard lots of positive feedback about going off, primarily around improving mental health (also, for me, the pills weren’t covered by insurance so that was a pro of stopping). Unfortunately, I had the opposite happen. I wasn’t too surprised when my cramps got worse and my acne resurged since that was a big reason for starting, but for about six to eight months right after stopping, my depression was a lot worse, and so were my PMS symptoms. It wasn’t until about 1.5 years later that I finally felt a little more regulated and like myself again. I wish I had known to be prepared to deal with deeper physical and mental health issues that were just being temporarily suppressed by my birth control."

K.Z.

  1. Birth control type: Pill

  2. 6 years on it

  3. 1 year since stopping

  4. "My periods really did not change much once I stopped taking the pill. I took birth control because I had periods from hell that were extremely heavy; lasted the full seven days; and caused me to feel faint, vomit, etc. While I was on the pill, my mental health declined severely. I started experiencing debilitating panic attacks that were seemingly triggered by anything. Ultimately, my decision to get off birth control stemmed from my decline in my mental health. I was hesitant, though, because everyone (including my doctor) told me my periods would resort back to the state in which they originally were and that, since I was getting married, I was taking a major risk. Looking back a year down the road, I wish I would have made the switch sooner. My periods have not been anywhere near as severe as they were when I started taking it and my anxiety has markedly improved."

M.S.

  1. Birth control type: Combo pill, IUD

  2. On and off for 7 years

  3. 1 year since getting copper IUD

  4. "I was surprised honestly by how much my body remained the same. I didn’t really feel a shift in terms of my weight or my body shape as far as I could tell. The shift for me was more emotional than it was physical. I wish I knew the difference that going off of hormonal birth control would make in the way that I relate to my body. For me, birth control really dampened my libido and I don’t think I fully realized that until I was off of it. Overall, I feel more connected to my body, and more aware of its natural rhythms."

L.F.

  1. Birth control type: Pill, IUD, ring

  2. About 9 years on it

  3. 1 year since getting copper IUD

  4. "I got off hormonal birth control because the hormones (progesterone) in it made my acne horrible and uncontrollable. I almost went on Accutane but decided to switch my birth control first to see if that’d help. My acne immediately started clearing up. I was surprised at how heavy my period was, since I’ve always had a light one. My cramps also got astronomically worse. That was the first few months and since then it’s gotten lighter but hasn’t regulated itself — I’ve had pretty much a non-stop period since May. I wish I knew how long it would take for my body to regulate my period on its own, but I still wouldn’t go back to other kinds of birth control because I’m forgetful and don’t want acne."

H.B.

  1. Birth control type: Several different pills, the patch, and a hormonal IUD

  2. About 9 years on it

  3. 1 year since stopping

  4. "When I got my IUD removed, I was expecting all of my other issues to be solved. During the pandemic I have struggled with hormonal acne, and I thought that without birth control things may regulate. I think I have been surprised by the length of time it has taken my body to recover from all the different forms of birth control I have tried, all trying to fix a problem the previous one (or some external force) started. After a couple months without the IUD, my acne was still flaring so I got on a hormonal pill used off-label for that for several months. So, right now is probably the first time I haven’t been on any hormone since I was a teenager. I’m just now discovering how my body behaves without hormonal birth control in my mid-20s and I expect it will be a journey of recalibration."

Have you quit taking hormonal birth control or considered it? What do you wish you knew? Let us know in the comments!

by Meg Loughman

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