What’s Your Take On the Pill and What Happens When You Go Off It? A Girl In Paris Needs Help!

Quick disclaimer and then we’re going to get right into it and talk about the birth control pill (Happy Monday!): Nothing I say in this post constitutes medical advice, and you should never stop or start taking prescription drugs without talking with your doctor. (Especially the starting part; pretty sure that would be illegal, right?) Also:

There’s no judgment—implicit or explicit—on anyone who is on or has been on birth control pills. Some people love them, some people have to take them for medical reasons, some people abhor them. Here, we want to talk candidly about what happens when you go off them. Because, whoa. That can be hectic.

Feeling like an overshare, so here, I’ll start: I got on the pill for the first time pretty late, comparatively speaking. I was 22 or 23, I got on Ortho, and almost instantly became the girl who cries at commercials (OK, still am, always have been, but this was extreme!) and one time I even broke a plate when my loving boyfriend at the time did basically nothing. This was not normal for me! I was being nuts! I quickly got off it, quickly went back to normal, and then didn’t start it again for another several years.

I was 26 or so when I went back on the pill, Mircette this time, thinking it would add convenience to my personal life, and clear up my skin—after all, that’s what my dermatologist told me would happen. I stayed on it for two years. During that time I didn’t cry a lot or break stuff. My skin was OK but not perfect. My libido was OK—which seems better than most, according to this new research, but “OK” does not equal amazing. I didn’t have major mood swings or anything. But something never felt quite right. The best way I can put it is, I sort of felt like a prisoner in my own body. I’m not sure why, and no, I can’t elaborate, but something never felt quite right. It was FINE. But FINE has never been all that appealing to me, and so I talked it over with my GYN and we decided it was time to stop. It wanted to let nature run its course. And by nature I mean, like, ovulation and stuff.

After I went off the pill, my skin freaked out. It was erratic for a few months, throughout which I tried everything: Products, lasers, facials…products. Not clean ones, either. (This was pre- everything I now know.)

My take, in retrospect, is that you shouldn’t try a million things at once, nor should you spazz out. If I were doing it all over again, here’s what I would do: Coach my body, with the help of a doctor or acupuncturist or both, to get my hormones in balance. I would stay away from, or at least limit, eating hormone-pumped meat and dairy, take folic acid and omegas daily, get plenty of sleep and keep a routine, and use a gentle, organic skincare regimen.

I emphasize hormone balancing because what’s happening in your skin is a reflection of what’s happening inside your body—not on the surface of your skin. Also, because the other thing that happened when I went off the pill: my period went away for the better part of a year. I have many explanations for this, both medical and completely esoteric, but suffice to say it was really disconcerting. To be in your late 20s and have it…missing, for months at a time, feels indescribably bad. On the PLUS side (there’s always a plus side, you guys): Now that I’m regular again, I’m so very thankful every single month when my period comes. And no, I will never, ever go on the pill again.

Anyway, because we understand the challenges that come with such a major decision, we were moved by a recent reader letter from Paris. She’s gone off the pill and, yes, ugh, skin woes. She really wants NMDL readers to help! In her words:

“I accept that my body is going to go on a roller coaster ride. I’m ready for the acne this time. Last time I thought I could just stop taking the pill and my skin wouldn’t talk to me. How oily my scalp got and the abundance of acne caught me by surprise. I froze up and caved in and took the pill again. This time, I will be ready for them, and hope to have better ways to deal with them or even prevent them.

I’m making goals to keep up my running and yoga, to perhaps splurge on that gray cashmere scarf and occasional new tube of W3LL people lipstick.  I know that I am going to have to raise the bar in all the other areas of my life that make me feel good to deal with emotionally with the acne. If I feel fit and a bit like Jackie O from now until March with big sunglasses and dash of lipstick and a big soft scarf, then all the better.  It’s sort of like hibernating in public… I’m mentally prepared ahead of time that I will have to pamper myself a bit in other ways to feel beautiful. I can’t wait to see what advice or comments the other NMDL readers will have.”
Are you guys all in love with her now, too? We thought so. Now let’s help a girl out. Who’s tried what? And even if you don’t have advice for Paris Girl, have you gone off the pill ever? What happened? Share, yes? Please and thank you.
Comments
94 Responses to “What’s Your Take On the Pill and What Happens When You Go Off It? A Girl In Paris Needs Help!”
  1. Laura says:

    I took Yasmin for a about a year when I was 18 (I’m 21 now) under the suggestion ( aka it was basically shoved in my face) and originally went off it because it was too expensive and I had gotten out of the serious relationship I was in so therefore no longer cared about the contraceptive part. Admittedly, I had been extremely happy with how well my skin/cycle had become while on the pill, as a cystic acne/severe dysmenorrhea sufferer, it had allowed me to actually function on the first few days of my cycle instead of being basically crippled. After going off the pill (which I did on my own accord, not my MD’s) my cramps and acne have become 5x worse than they were prior to taking the pill :( Luckily I am now seeing a naturopath and working on changing my diet, which is so far helping a little bit, though we think the acne may be due to my testosterone levels being higher than they should be. Though it’s been painful, frustrating, embarassing, I won’t ever go back to taking the Pill….there’s just something about synthetic hormones that really irks me and after learning so much about the human body, health care (I’m now almost certified as a registered massage therapist) and all the wonderful natural solutions that are out there (thanks NMDL!!), I don’t want any of that crap in my body ever again! It’s very refreshing to see so many others that feel the same way. I think it’s horribly wrong that doctors are pushing the Pill on teenage girls these days :(

  2. Elizabeth says:

    I was on Ocella for about two years and had no particularly bad effects. Then my doctor suggested that I switch to MonoNessa because pills like Ocella are controversial since they use potentially dangerous hormones. The MonoNessa instantly messed me up – making me bloated, moody, and my face always felt dirty. When I realized that it was silly to make so much progress toward going natural when I was messing my body up with artificial hormones and also because I started to become more aware of my Catholic faith, I decided to go off of birth control and start using the LadyComp. My sister and cousin have been using it for years with positive remarks. I think it’s best to use the LadyComp when you are in committed relationship and your partner supports it. It’s also a fairly large financial investment being about $500 but some people say it should last a lifetime. Because I’ve only been on it for less than a month, it’s given me all red “no sex” days and, while that’s frustrating, it will be worth it in the long run. When you decide to have children the software can be updated to turn it into a BabyComp and help you conceive and even predict the gender of your child.

  3. Sarah says:

    I’m so on this wagon with you! I went off the pill after 10 years and boy did it wreck my skin! Luckily I didn’t get depression or any emotional issues that I read from some commenters, but I definitely had horrible acne. It’s been a little over a year since I stopped taking the pill, and my cycles weren’t back to normal. They were anywhere from 12-50 day cycles with no sign of ovulation, which kind of started to freak me out. Like you said before, I never wanted a period before but now I was aching for some sense of my body returning to normal. I’m going to read through the rest of these comments, cause I’m always interested to hear how other women deal with the situation. Recently my midwife put me on 10 days of progesterone to “restart” my cycle. We’ll see if it works!

  4. Patricia says:

    As a holistic facialist I’m alarmed at how esthiticians recommend women go on the pill to clear up their skin. When I was in ‘beauty school’ this was being taught to training esthiticians. The pill carries so many dangerous side effects, one being increased risk of breast cancer. Recently though I saw a woman who had such a strange story but as it turns out is becoming increasingly common. She spent her teens and entire adult life on the pill, aside from her pregnancies – so basically her entire reproductive life. When she finally went off the pill in her early forties and her body began to function as it should with hormonal fluctuations, she started having monthly anaphylactic reactions to her own estrogen! She had her ovaries removed and it stopped. Her doctor has since seen several other women with the same issue.
    Be careful messing with mother nature!

  5. Jaime says:

    I was on the pill for about 10 years as well and when I went off it my skin freaked out. It has been about 2 years now for it to get back under control but I think that is because my hormones are now more level.
    I never felt right on the pill as well and just never put it together, I was tired often, depressed easily, mood swings, and always felt bloated. When I went off I easily lost those last 5 pounds and felt great.
    My skin after the pill had all these small breakouts and dots all over my forehead that would never get better. I started with proactive (I know, big opps!), then Murad, then finally figured out the whole clean thing. Now I use a handmade line from a local shop (http://healingtouchofnature.com) and my skin has never been better. But man has it been a learning experience!!
    I am disgusted by doctors and how they are drug pushers. It is making us all sick and it is not healthy to be on the pill. I wish I knew what I knew now about our “health” system and that it is really about keeping us sick and loaded up with drugs, that’s where the money is.
    Good luck ladies!

  6. therese says:

    Can’t say much about the pill except that I have managed to avoid it. I don’t trust synthetic hormones. But a word of advice for the cramps. Try Raspberry leaf tea and yoga. I have had a few days that were so intense and the tea just melted it away. Also if you can avoid processed sugar and caffeine around your period. Go for a piece of dark chocolate if you need something sweet. What you eat really does affect your periods.

  7. Brinklen says:

    @ Karen: Let me get back to you. I have the list at home and as the products are pretty specific, I don’t want to mislead you. But I am more than happy to share! I’ll post them for you tonight or tomorrow.

    @ Valerie: My first naturopathic physician (Boulder, CO) was a recommendation from some connections I had as a massage therapist. When I moved to Texas, I lost the holistic community with which I was familiar and so I did an internet search for “naturopathic physician” and “alternative health provider.” The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (http://www.naturopathic.org/) provides reputable sources you can search for based on your location. As for allopathic, again, I had a great recommendation from a friend who is also holistically inclined. But allopathic simply means a general practitioner/physician. And in my current city, there is an OBGYN with a holistic slant that I’ve heard of but haven’t yet seen as she is so popular, she has a lengthy waiting list. I learned about her first from the natural foods store; this is a GREAT place to get holistic recommendations and then take the next step and do some more research on your own to see if they’re reputable. Otherwise, there are free publications in many large cities that have listings of alternative health options. Also, seek out a holistically-inclined community or individual. They make this journey toward a better kind of healthy and clean seem a lot more “normal” and less apart from the so-called “norm.”
    Hope this helps!

  8. eva says:

    Interesting about the omega connection. My HAIR gets insanely greasy when I take my omegas! I always feel horrible not taking them, especially now that I am pregnant, and I imagine all the wonderful things they are doing for my body (I like Solgar, which is cheaper than most high-end brand but still really good). But, dang, my hair gets greasy – it’s literally like all the extra oil is seeping out of my scalp! Am I the only one who has noticed this? Perhaps they’re jsut a bit too rich for some of us? I still take my pre-natal whole spectrum ones and deal with the hair through Ctonics (seriously, their stuff is AMAZING. It’s ridiculous. I didn’t KNOW I had such nice hair).

    My hormones have always been out of whack and I’ve been on many different kinds of hormonal contraception -including Yaz with ..wait for it, estrogen patches for migraines during my period. That particular combo sent me round the bend to the extent that I was sobbing uncontrollably into a towel in our bathroom, with my worried husband and step-son knocking on the door frantically. It was just awful.

    I’ve been off the pill for two years now and I really, really like it. My skin DID get worse, then got better, but most importantly, off the pill I felt more at ease in my body. Also, my libido returned (only to be banished by the anti-depressants for a while though. I find I def feel better without any medication!)

    I recommend omegas – if are not like me of course, acupuncture, Evan Healy and most importantly, the book “It’s my ovaries, stupid!” which is an extremely helpful introduction to the wonderful world of hormones and all that they do for us! Also, written by a MD (always nice). It helped me be much more informed and confident at my doctor’s office.

    I don’t know if anyone else with sensible hormones have experienced this, but pregnancy has helped (so far). And I’ve heard a lot of anecdata about how periods are easier and better after a pregnancy..I’ll keep you posed!

  9. christina says:

    THE PILLS MAKE ME CRAAAAAAAAAAZY!!!!!!
    I mean, like, moreso than my friends who eat them get. So, I am 30 and have only ever been on low-dose BC for a very short period of time.
    But, I can attest to the fact that if you are trying to get a regular period, you don’t have to take them! I started acupuncture 3 years ago & although I go intermittently now, I still have amazingly on-time periods.
    My skin will just have to do whatever it wants to do, because nothing will make me ever eat BC pills again.

  10. LuAnn says:

    Your question interested my daughter and I. We happen to know two women who are experiencing acne, but haven’t yet linked it to stopping the pill.
    I really feel for you. Even one breakout can really zap your confidence. I agree with Brinklin, I would find an alternative practitioner. Our family has been through the medical ringer, we’ve searched for answers to several conditions only to see over and over how the traditional medical model is failing us. The dermatologists are awful when it comes to acne. Medicine doesn’t look to the root of the problem, just a patch. Beware the Retin A, when they recommend that to you. My daughter feels it really damaged her skin. Do your own research if you end up considering that option. Now back to your question. I’m 49. I was on the pill for several years starting in my late thirties. I’ve been off for about 6-7 years now. When I wanted to stop taking the pill my doctor stepped me down slowly. I changed brands twice, each one a lower dose. If I recall I stretched this out over a year. Both times when I made the change I remember waking up with night sweats for a couple nights as my body adjusted to the change. That showed me just how much the hormones affect us. When I finally stopped things went fairly smoothly. It was mood swings I was worried about. I’m so glad I decided to stop taking it, I wish I never had started, but I trusted the doctors back then. They hand out the pill like candy, and downplay the risks, and side effects.
    As you prepare to discontinue the pill, you might want to consider a gluten free, dairy free (or limited) diet. That would be a bummer in Paris with all the yummy croissants, but the sacrifice could be very worth it. This will bring down your overall inflammation. As a bonus, you’ll probably lose a few pounds too. I would start on a good probiotic also. These are the types of ideas an alternative practitioner can help you with. God Bless you as you take the leap.

  11. courtney r says:

    Wow, how timely is this?? I was actually going to write you guys my own sad story about acne/stopping the pill and look what I find! I stopped taking YAZ 3 months ago because I was a walking mummy and could not loose weight. The only way the weight would budge is if I was training for a freaking marathon, not kidding at all here. I stopped taking it on accident when I forgot to pack it on a camping trip and lost 8 pounds that same month. Granted, I thought I was hemorrhaging when I got my period after barley having one for so long, but I am determined to stay off of it. I didn’t like the way I felt (very numb) and I didn’t like this new body it gave me.
    Now my skin: I seriously thought about going back to the Proactiv. It was that bad. Actually, my acne was worse than I ever remember it being pre-bc pill. And it was all along my jaw line and just gross. Here’s what I am doing now: evan healy and red organics facial wash with a clarisonic. some kind of natural spritzer followed by evan heavy’s acne oil, sunscreen in the day time, and Retin A at night. I know, I know, on the Retin A but I had to do something. I am also EXTREMELY conscious of what I eat. Very little sugar/dairy/meat, lots of omegas (foods and a supplement) and a multivitamin, green tea, green juices and carrot juice, etc. AND I started going for weekly facials. I figure if I can get some help in calming this down, I can work more on cleaning out my toiletries. However, I must say that I am concerned about the lack of products out there for the TRULY acne prone. I would love to hear more product suggestions and good luck! This too shall pass….

  12. Alyssa M says:

    Sooo after reading all these stories I was inspired to look at my own options, and I have decided to try going off my Yasmin! I have an appointment with my naturopath who is going to help me try to regulate my hormones as I go off. I am absolutely terrified that my skin will break out, but my mom had estrogen-responsive breast cancer last year, I suffer from depression and have a super low libido thanks to the combination of anti-depressants and birth control. Since going off my anti-depressants isn’t an option for me right now, I’ve decided to see if I can go without the cocktail. Luckily my partner is super supportive and willing to go back to condoms for now. My sister is an acupuncturist, so I am hoping I can also get her on my team to help out with side effects. I have been on hormonal birth control since I was 17 and I’m pretty excited to see how I feel without it. But also kind of scared.. just shows you how backwards things are these days, when we are scared of going WITHOUT our medications!
    Thanks for all the great advice and I’d love to hear more!

  13. a says:

    I am seriously considering going off of BC, so this post was very timely! I am getting married next year, so if my skin freaks out, I may go back on it until after my wedding. My naturopahtic doctor doesn’t seem too concerned about the acne aspect, though, because we addressed the root problem already.

    I can’t speak to what happens when you do go off it, because I haven’t crossed that bridge yet, but I can speak to acne. The best solution for me was a naturopathic doctor. We found some food allergies, healed my gut, and my acne is gone. Just 15 years of terrible skin and a dermatologist, then, gone…though my skin is still acne-prone. It’s pretty awesome. But, for healing acne quickly, I really, really like Marie Veronique Organics acne line. Expensive, yes, but I’ve found it to be very effective. I keep coming back to it after trying other things…I suppose my skin just likes it. Their tinted moisturizer is also very, very good at evening out skin tone.

  14. Sassy says:

    Oi vey! The pill! I first went on it in college & I was probably 19 or 20. My doctor recommended it as I was concerned with some, what I now realize was, very mild acne. I went on generic orthotricyclen. I didn’t really notice any sort of side effects or feeling different. Eventually I wasn’t satisfied with its results (because my skin wasn’t 100% perfect all the time, and my expectations were far from realistic!), and was prescribed Yasmin, eventually going on the generic version, Ocella.

    Eventually I started to pay more attention to was I was putting in my body and took a closer look at the potential dangers of the pill. I knew there were pros and cons, and understood the chances of anything truly serious happening was probably slim, but I decided to stop. At the time I could find very little on line information about what’d happen after – which is why this is SUCH a great post!! I did not consult my physician…I know this isn’t recommended.

    I had been on the pill for 4-5 years, & I quit last December. For a month or so my skin was fine, until about mid-January, when my skin started to break out. Each month for maybe 3 months it got progressively worse. In May it seemed to kind of plateau. It was ALL over my face. Angry, painful red bumps, chin, jaw, cheeks, around my lips – upper and lower, forehead, everywhere! I gained 15lbs. My period, however, was, and has been, regular the whole time.

    I ended up going to a naturopath. She was very kind, and recommended I change my diet. I cut out gluten, tomatoes, dairy and of my own accord, sugar and caffeine. She recommended some supplements (I’d have to look back to see what she said), and finding a good green drink and multivitamin. Slowly my skin got better. And by better, I mean less angry mounds of acne. I do think a lot of this has been my body re-balancing naturally over time, but that the supplements/diet have given a helping hand. We recently had a loss in the family, and I ditched the diet, and let me say, I feel like I can tell the difference! I have more pimples than I had a month prior – nothing compared to what I HAD had, but enough to notice myself. Needless to say, I am going to try and stay a little more true to those eating habits!

    I also lost the 15lbs I gained and then some. Weight isn’t super important to me, as I truly believe in health at any size, but I gotta say, when your face is horrendously covered in acne, and you’ve just gained 15lbs, it’s hard not to just feel down on your appearance all over. So it did feel kinda good to at least feel like something was back to “normal.”

    My skin, nearly a year later, is still FAR from perfect. And actually I still get multiple angry pimples, but no longer does it feel like a mask on top of my face. Now though, my main issue is SCARRING. Ugh! Any suggestions on naturally ridding myself of these scars??

    Oh! One more thing I was surprised about! My naturopath seemed to knew VERY little about what to put ON my skin. It wasn’t til the second or third visit she recommend I use clean makeup because she had just read about the harmful stuff in most everyday make up. By this point I had already DEVOURED the NMDL book, and actually was fairly confident I knew more than she did on the topic! At the time, I’ll fess up!, I was NOT using clean make up! I wanted whatever I could spackle on and best “hide” my acne. Nothing truly worked, but somehow I felt better with the bad stuff. Now that my skin is mostly under control, I DO use clean makeup. You can usually still see my scars underneath, but I am sooo exhausted from dealing with it, and am soooo glad the majority of zit-town decamped and got the heck outta town, that I can deal with it!

    So?
    1. See a naturopath. Hopefully yours will understand a little better the importance of what you put on your skin! If nothing else, they will get you started on the right supplements and diet for you!
    2. Wait it out. Do not go crazy with products (especially non-naturals)! It will most likely make your face a bigger war zone than it already is! Your body has to re-adjust and that will take time no matter WHAT you try to make it do!

    And Lastly, my question, any tips on healing facial scars naturally? Thank you all so much!!

  15. Jen says:

    I am so grateful for this conversation and for everyone who has shared their story!! This has really made me realize I need to be more proactive on what I am putting into my body and educate myself better.

    I went on the pill for a solution to my acne, like many of the other stories. Initially, I was against using the pill as an acne solution but when nothing else helped and both my gynecologist and dermatologist recommended this, I went for it. I started using Yaz at age 19 and it truly helped with regulating my period, which until then had never been regular, and clearing up my skin. At the time, I had not felt like I was having any negative symptoms from the pill but looking back I think it may have been contributed to some of my mood swings at the time more than I previously thought. A year later, my insurance switched me to the generic version which caused a few issues with spotting and overall things just didn’t seem to be working as well. I stayed on the generic for a little over a year until I realized I really needed to switch- turns out I am part of a small percentage of people who generic prescriptions do not work as well for. Then, at the beginning of this year I went on Beyaz which I am starting to think may have been the cause of a few problems that occurred after. A month after this switch, I had a hypertensive episode which landed me in the hospital. Since I am 22, I have been seeing a few doctors to make sure there is nothing more serious causing my hypertension but there has been great talk as to if the pill could have set off my high-blood pressure. So far, nothing has been conclusive especially since hypertension is very predominant in my genes and truly could have just started rather early. So, I have currently stayed on the pill (now for contraceptive purposes) while now also taking high-blood pressure medicine.

    After all this occurred, I have started having a lot of issues with my libido and have been getting really worried. I’ve been using a lot of remedies to try and help this but nothing has been greatly effective. I checked into my blood-pressure medicine, thinking that could be the cause, and found nothing that would support my thoughts. I really had not truly considered that it could be the pill that is the cause of my issues. I started feeling so comfortable being on Beyaz for all of the things it has been providing me that I never actively looked into all of the negative effects that could be taking place. I am so thankful to hear of everyone’s experience! I am definitely going to look into possibly going off the pill and getting an IUD and have already started doing a lot more research about everything! Thanks to everyone for the awesome tips and advice!

  16. Amy says:

    I’ve unfortunately been on the pill for longer than I’ve been off… I went on when I was 16, but I was also taking antidepressants at the same time and couldn’t really distinguish between all of the crazy side effects. I went off for a few months when I was 18, and got off the antidepressants as well. Then a long term relationship put me back on the pill (ortho that time) for fear of getting pregnant, and I was an emotional wreck. There were days at a time where I would just cry for no reason at all. I finally realized (one day as I sat crying even though my life was perfect and I had no idea what I was crying over) that it was the pill and switched to a lower estrogen one (loestrin). That helped tremendously and I’ve been on it for several years now. I’d like to go off completely, but I have a huge fear of getting pregnant… maybe that’s something I just need to get over! All of these synthetic hormones are starting to seem worse than a pregnancy scare.

    @ courtney r – I’ve struggled with acne and resorted to Retin A also. About 9 months ago when I discovered NMDL I decided I had to go off and one thing that helped me was a supplement that a nutritionist recommended, called “derma klear akne zyme.” I’m generally cautious about supplements but this one came from a nutritionist I’ve been seeing for years and sincerely trust. It helped me go completely off of the Retin A, and although I still get the occasional zit or two, my face is nothing like the disaster it was before! Coconut oil and honey have also helped me tremendously, although I know some people have the opposite reaction with coconut oil.

    Thanks so much for this post, it’s been so helpful to read everyone’s experiences with this. I feel like it’s something that isn’t talked about enough, and I’ve always personally felt very limited in my birth control options.

  17. a says:

    I just talked to my naturopathic doctor about alternative (non hormonal) forms of birth control…has anyone tried/used/hear od fthe FemCap?

  18. Brinklen says:

    @ Karen: My product list was as follows: (I purchased it all from Pharmaca)
    Phyto Pharmica’s Probiotic Pearls (90ct for ~$25)
    Nordic Naturals Cod Liver Oil capsules (90ct for ~$15)
    Spectrum Organics Flax Oil (Cold Pack – 16oz for ~$15) – don’t get anything added, like lignans!
    Keep up with whatever multivitamin you are currently taking but TAKE A MULTIVITAMIN!
    Cut out anything white, all sugars, AND all wheat products (jncluding whole grains!) for the first two weeks then slowly re-introduce whole grains into your diet
    Drink 6-8 glasses of water per day
    Enjoy some sunshine (“basking”) for 10 minutes per day
    *I will foreward you: going through the detox meant a true purging of my intestines! But after the very first day of “what is happening?!” I had renewed vigor and less lethargy.

    Hope this helps!

  19. Karen says:

    Thanks so much, Brinklen! I will definitely give it all a shot (except no cod oil for me… Hope it is not too vital!)

  20. Shanna says:

    Paris Girl,
    I’m in a very similar boat that you are! Though some of my symptoms are a bit different. I’ve always had cystic acne but it slightly improved when I was on the pill. I was on Jolessa for 9 years (the 4 periods a year pill) and started to wonder if being on the pill was actually making it worse. Not to mention my hormones were getting out of whack and my pms’ing was more like psycho time. I then moved to the low hormone pill for almost a year and holy cow – it was FAR worse. That low hormone pill not only gave me the worst acne I had ever seen, it make me a nutcase. I had panic attacks (something I’ve been lucky enough to never deal with) and had that feeling Siobhan had of just overall weirdness. I knew something was affecting/controlling my body and I couldn’t take it anymore. I completely stopped taking the bill in June of this year and will NEVER look back. I can’t believe I spent 10 years of my life on it.
    Since I stopped taking the pill I had a few months of weird weight fluctuation and random acne. My hormones were a little off but then it evened out. I have felt SOO much better since. My period lasts for maybe 3 days and I have almost no cramps. My mood swings are minor or non-existent. And my face is FINALLY calming down. I’ve got a much better hold on myself and my body now, and I could not be happier.
    I hope this helps you. Take care of yourself and know that there is an end in sight – it just takes time. :)

  21. Paige Worthy says:

    Wow — what a thought-provoking conversation. This has actually moved me to start doing some research on my own birth control pill (Kariva, the generic of Mircette) and find out what it’s been doing to my body. If I find out the hormones in this pill are somehow related to the bizarro depression I’ve been going through for the past…really long time…and I could actually fix a LOT of problems by going off it? Man, I’ll be kind of annoyed.
    And empowered.

  22. Michelle says:

    I recently stopped taking the pill 8 months ago after being on it for 8 years. I have had some definite issues with my skin and breakouts but it seems to be clearing up. Overall I think it was a great decision and I will never go back on the artificial hormones. During my quest for being “clean” I’ve learned so much about my body. I think it is strange that out of the 70+ comments related to BIRTH control, the topic of charting your cycles to prevent pregnancy hasn’t come up…

    It really saddens me that so many women have very little knowledge about their bodies and the amazing things it can do! We rely too heavily on doctors who just throw medication at us instead of taking matters into our own hands. Keeping track of your cycles is really NOT HARD. Charting your basal body temperature, cervical mucus production, cervical position, etc. can be very effective at letting you know when you are fertile and hence when to be careful to avoid pregnancy.

    I hope that more women who are questioning the pill will think about their options and take time to really get to know their bodies & do what is best :)

  23. Virginia says:

    @Molly — Thank you for sharing that Depo horror story! I have the same migraine/stroke issue with estrogen birth control pills, so after I started getting the cysts, but wanted off the progestin-only mini-pill, my gyno said that Depo might be my best next option. Now that I know it too can cause the non-stop period and dead libido I will be avoiding it at all costs! (And crossing fingers that my cysts stop rupturing… )

    @Sophie — I totally agree with you that the non-hormonal IUD is a fabulous and unsung birth control option for younger women. I just wanted to share my story about the painful insertion because I had NOT been properly warned about it. Now that I’ve been on it for five years, I’d absolutely do it again even with that pain — it’s awesome not having to think about contraception and awesome not having synthetic hormones messing with my cycle/sex drive/migraines/skin.

    I just wish they’d explained it better to me so I could have been a little more prepared for the initial shock! But it definitely does seem to vary — some women have no problem with it (especially if you’ve already had a kid) others experience a lot of pain. I’m glad it worked out so well for you!

  24. Jerilynn says:

    I lasted exactly five days on The Pill–of course that was in the late 1960s when it had a MASSIVE dose of estrogen (100 micrograms for those interested). I got so bloated and swollen I couldn’t even wear sandals, couldn’t stand my fiance, went out with the girls and had six beers (for someone who never drank–that was a lot) and got my first migraine headache.
    When I stopped it and asked a buddy who was an intern (I was a medical student at the time) for a water pill. Being cautious and surprisingly scientific even then, I weighed myself and took a half a pill. When I stopped peeing about six or eight hours later I weighed nine pounds less!
    My suggestions for those of you coming off The Pill are:
    1) For cramps take ibuprofen 200-400 mg at the first hint of pressure and repeat with 200 mg as soon as the pressure starts to return (even if it is only an hour later). Stay ahead of the crampy pain and it will “work.”
    2) For irregular cycles and to avoid the male hormone excess that makes pimples and oily skin, ask your physician for a prescription for cyclic natural progesterone as a pill (Prometrium in North America), in a dose of 300 mg at bedtime starting 14 days after you stopped The Pill and taking it for 14 days. Take that for 14 days on and off for a few months and then stop and see if your period has righted itself.
    For more information, see http://www.cemcor.ubc.ca.
    Cheers!

  25. Laura Wershler says:

    I’m glad to see my colleague, Dr. Jerilynn Prior, has added her well-informed two cents worth here. She’s an expert on menstrual cycle health. Readers of this blog could do worse than make http://www.cemcor.ubc.ca their #1 source of information about menstrual cycles, from menarche to menopause. And if readers are interested in a blog that talks a lot about menstruation and every aspect of our lives that is impacted in some way by our menstrual cycles, check out http://www.menstruationresearch.org/blog, or like us on Facebook so you can keep tabs on posts that might interest you.

    Today’s post is “What to tell the girl in my life about menstruation.”

    All the best to Paris Girl and others as you explore living life without the Pill. If the response to this post is any indication, you are a growing community.

  26. It was exactly for all the reasons above and many more that Megan Lalonde and I wrote a guide to help women come off the pill — Coming Off the Pill http://www.justisse.ca/ComingOffThePill . May you find it useful.

  27. I went on birth control for one week and decided to stop as it was causing me to eat like crazy, severe dry mouth, and killing my libido. My PCP told me to lay off for a few days and see what happens. After three days of being off of it, I noticed that all my symptoms went away so I decided not to continue taking the pill. Yesterday, which marked the 4th day of being off of the pill, I started bleeding – heavily. I am still bleeding. Not sure if this is normal and how long it will last? I really hope my period cycle isn’t totally screwed up after this because I was as regular as they come before going on the pill. Help!

  28. SumairaFlower you can get some help to begin with by checking out the http://www.cemcor.ubc.ca site and/or the http://www.justisse.ca/ComingOffThePill site. On the Justisse site you can find Holistic Reproductive Health Practitioner who can help walk you through some of the difficulties. It is difficult to give specific advice for your bleeding issue without knowing your medical history and other health information — don’t want to make matters worse. Certainly I understand your difficulty. Best of luck in sorting things out and returning to health. Geraldine

  29. Anna says:

    In October I went on Aviane for one cycle. That was enough to convince me to quit taking it.
    What really pushed me to go onto the pill were a few comments from hook ups and a once-fling friend that made it seem like I really ought to be on it. First mistake, obviously, in the whole deal was allowing the general opinions of men in my life to make me feel like I should be doing something, especially something that affects the natural state of my body. Even though I don’t have a partner persay, I am still sexually active from a few times a week to a few times a month, varying. When I got the prescription at the clinic, they definitely assumed that I had a boyfriend, which was a bit disheartening.

    Onto the more physical aspects. It gave me a dull headache for the first few days. It made me feel foggy. I would go through the day and feel more tired than usual. It made me crave constant “PMS” foods, despite my usually healthy diet. I didn’t have the motivation to get up and exercise, even though I had been exercising regularly up unitl I began taking the pill. It made me feel depressed, and not willing to go get the support from friends that I usually use to get over slumps in my mood. The worst, though, was that it made me not want to go out at all. As a university student, having the energy to go out and socialize is a really important part of my university experience and also my sex life. I am a very energetic person. When I’m with people, I’m constantly moving and talking. The pill made me act and feel the exact opposite. It made me feel like I wasn’t myself. To sum it up, it made me feel fat and lazy and sad, and also (perhaps partially because of those things) it made me not want to have sex. Which really defeated the purpose for me, so I went off of it immediately. What you said about being trapped in your own body resonated with me. That is exactly how I felt. Since I have been off the pill, I feel so much better about everything. Even though I am currently going through a lot more stressful situations than I was when I was on the pill, I am able to handle everything a lot better without it, and I really notice.

    In my experience, the pill wasn’t this liberating token of feminism that it is marketed to be. I went on it largely because of male dominated and outmoded ideas of social structure, in which it is not acceptable for a young woman to have a child until she finishes college, finds a job and finds a husband. To be honest, even though I am only 20 and still in school, I think that I am more prepared for parenthood than I am willing to take the pill again. At least the former allows me to be myself.

  30. a says:

    All of these comments have been very, very helpful. I’ve decided, for myself, to go off of the pill and use Paraguard (non-hormonal IUD). I was so refreshing to have a forum that discussed this – I feel like the side effects & bad things about the pill are so overlooked, almost like they don’t exist. I so wish I had objected to the pill when I was 16 and my dermatologist suggested if for acne but I was desperate to make my skin beautiful, and later, I was afraid going off of it would make it worse. Now I’ve decided to embrace the changes for the short term while my body returns to normal, with the help of Organic Excellence’s bio-identical progesterone cream (which users seem to really see results from, so I’m hoping it helps!).

  31. Hi there – well, this sounds all too familiar. I am boosted to read about others trying a meat and dairy free diet as this is what has done the trick for me in terms of clearing up my skin and balancing me out after 2 years off the Pill. I have documented my decision to come off the Pill and the consequences in this blog -

    http://www.sweeteningthepill.blogspot.com

    Thank you for posting this piece.

    Holly

  32. Please check out my post on the pills Yaz/Yasmin. These brands are often prescribed for acne in particular, and they do often work very well, but at a cost to your health.

    http://msmagazine.com/blog/blog/2012/02/09/just-how-safe-is-yaz-women-need-to-know/

  33. Connie says:

    Well, I’m tardy to this party, but I’d like to add my two cents.

    1) I went on the pill early because of uncomfortable, irregular periods. They could last anywhere from 3 days to 2 weeks, and after a couple years, when they were supposed to have evened out, they didn’t. Had my family known about menstrual cups at the time, maybe it wouldn’t have been as big of a deal, seeing as my best remedy for the discomfort was exercise.

    2) Acupuncture does nothing. As a professional, nationally certified massage therapist, I applaud you for seeking out holistic remedies rather than simply treating symptoms. However, massage will only relax you when you need it (unless you’re seeing on as complementary to physical therapy), and acupuncture. In short, it’s merely a modern form of blood-letting (which some acupuncturists still practice). At length, I’ll refer you to Paul Ingraham, a certified massage therapist turned science journalist. The bottom line is, as much as even medical doctors want to believe in acupuncture, it isn’t nearly as effective as we once thought.

  34. Lindsay says:

    Could we do a follow up to this post over what was learned by others and get any info you ladies have received since then?! I’ve been thinking about going off for a year now and I think another post on this would be much appreciated by many!

  35. Shan says:

    can anyone comment on morning after pill acne.?I stupidly took it without knowing it was such a massive dose of hormones and it has destroyed my skin. This was 4 months ago. Prior to this I hadn’t taken the normal bcp for over 5 yrs and I can’t stop blaming myself for what i’ve done. It has messed up my cycle and i’m so depressed about the effects on my skin. Will this be permanent? I’ve tried everything from natural supplements to microdermabrasion. it’s not like cystic acne but little lumps under the skin all over my cheeks and forehead. I also have fine lines on my forehead and around my eyes which I didn’t have previously. Please help, i’m so stressed my hair is even thinning. I’ve been to the drs several times and they can’t give me any answers as to whether it will clear up or not.

  36. Holly says:

    I’m looking for women to interview for a piece for the Canadian Women’s Health Network magazine who have taken Diane-35 for acne, are still on it, or now off it and using other methods to treat acne. Please email me at hollygriggspall@gmail.com

  37. Karr says:

    i took the pill for almost 8 years
    now i stopped and i have sooo so so much hairloss :(
    i cant change anything but it really is terrible. my hair is more than a 3 quarter less and soso thin

    can somebody tell me, if there is anything that would work ?

  38. I took Triquilar for 17 years. I stopped it cold turkey when I was 34 because I was getting married and wanting to start a family. What happened over the course of the next 8 months I could have never have expected; I basically experienced menopause and post-partum depression in the extreme. I could not get more than 2 hours of sleep a night, sweaty, then cold, had a period every two weeks for the first three months and the depression/ansiety was so extreme I eventually lost my job, and then the fiance. We could say that birth control, and the fact that I didn’t consult with a doctor about quitting it cold turkey after taking it for so long, almost ruined my life completely. When things hit rock bottom, I moved back home with my parents, consulted with various alternative practitioners, and started my journey back into wellness. I first did a saliva test to see where I was at, and the results showed I had unopposed estrogen (low progesterone) and high cortisol. I tried Progesterone cream, then herbs and changing my diet, stopped taking the anti depressant, and took better care of myself, started consulting a naturopath regularly and I can say that for the most part, I’m finally back to my old self again. I really missed that girl. I think Birth Control is given out far too freely, and GP’s should be better educated on the many different types, and what affect they can have on women’s body’s, let alone psyches.

  39. Betsy Gray says:

    I was on and off the pill several times in my 20s. I experienced all the effects that the other women on this site mention- in particular greasy skin and depression. I now understand that it is because your own menstrual cycle is a very complex mechanism – the pill overrides it completely and therefore it doesn’t just hitch itself up and go back to normal operation straight away. I was ok while on the pill but did start to experience depression-(theory goes that this is due to the extra demands the pill places on vitamin requirements)… but much worse was to follow when I came off it- my whole body seem to shrink ( including my boobs) , my skin became so greasy – ( it had only been greasy for a short while in my teens- I was lucky enough never to have had acne) but I also had black rings under my eyes and my skin actually became wrinkly – it was as if someone had stuck a pin in me and deflated that youthful spring in my skin. I also had horrendous PMS, became quite hairy ( yes!) and experienced really bad depression. (Probably because in the period of time your body takes to recover you really do not have enough circulating oestrgen! )None of my friends seemed to experience any problems coming off the pill … but I realise now all of them were married and were lucky/ young enough to come off the pill and become pregnant fairly quickly .. so avoiding the worst of the “withdrawal” of coming off the pill. Drs also po-poed my experience and said that they hadn’t heard of other women experiencing these problems. Mmmm.
    I now believe some of us have unfortunately more sensitive hormone pathways- which don’t just spring back to normal.Oestrogen is important for the appearance of a woman’s skin and also for maintaining serotonin ( the feel good neurotransmitter) in your brain. It also of course gives us women less hairy skin. Looking back on this – I realise the effect of being on and off the pill wrecked my twenties – it led to problems with relationships, depression and really undermined my confidence in my looks/ sexuality. It wrecks your natural hormones- mine did come back to a more normal level after a while – in fact I would say I looked and felt better in my thirties than I did in my twenties. I found vitamin and mineral supplements and evening primrose oil helped my body recover.
    I would advise any young woman to avoid the pill ( especially if you have had hormone problems/ acne) and use other forms of contraception.

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