Why I Decided to Come Off The Pill

I had been on the Pill for half my lifetime. At the age of 16, I was fed up with years of erratic periods and had heard of the "benefits" of the combined pill so I found myself at the Doctors' surgery with my irregular cycle circled over a diary and left with a prescription in hand. Enter Microgynon: the cheapest combined pill on the market (or so I was told). A daily sugar-coated safety net from pregnancy and control over my menstrual cycle. I never thought at that time I would be spending the next 15 years popping those little tablets on a daily basis. 

What a luxury it was to have some regularity in my life! Oh, the extravagance of curating when I had a period and choosing to ‘back to back’ pill packs if my seven-day break corresponded with a holiday or a dance show! Despite the obvious positives, every year when I would pop into my local doctor’s surgery for my annual checkup, I would ask the same question; would it be a good idea to give my body a break from the Pill? Whether it was a Doctor or Nurse I asked, the same answer came back every time: No. There were no studies to show that being on the pill long-term has any negative side effects or impact on your fertility. So, why stop?

I have always known I wanted to have children. Throughout my life I’ve taken it for granted that when I want to get pregnant, it will happen. Naive to say the least. But mostly, I’ve spent the majority of my life actively trying to prevent pregnancy. So, after months of discussions and a few false starts, I decided to stop taking the pill in the Autumn of 2018. The main reason was to give my body a chance to be hormone-free, recalibrate itself and let my "natural cycle" fall into place. Who knows what that looked like?! We weren't ready to start a family at that point but we knew it's not always so easy or quick as you may hope once you finally start trying. Largely encouraged by my husband - and I'm so grateful for his support - we agreed it would be good to give my body a break. I almost stopped the Pill in the September but the night before I was due to start another pill pack I freaked out and dove straight into the next cycle. It wasn't until a few days later when I felt a creeping sense of 'I don't want to take these tablets anymore' which prepared me for 28 days later actually braving it cold turkey!

With what little research there is out there to go on, I didn’t really know what to expect when I stopped taking my daily hormone hit. I read a post by Beth Sandland which gave me a taster of the rollercoaster I was in for. Other sources had different experiences so it really is a case of suck it and see! Reported boob shrinkage, mood swings and spots sounded like there sure was fun ahead. Oh joy. I issued a verbal warning to the husband and proceeded with caution!

Writing this retrospectively and from the "other side", I can say it was the best decision for me at that time. I was in a committed, stable relationship and my focus was on my health and wellbeing long-term. It wasn't until a year later when I read Period Power by Maisie Hill that it made me wish I had stopped taking it sooner. It is an absolute must-read for ANYONE with a womb! 

Here are some extracts  from my experience coming off the Pill; the side effects and hormonal comedown I experienced that my poor husband witnessed first-hand. God, it's so much easier being a man!

14th October 2018 | Day 0. 

Technically the last pill-free day of my 28 day cycle. For the past 15 years I would be getting a pill pack ready from my medicine cupboard so I don’t forget to take it the next morning. Not tonight. It feels strange. I had a ‘serious word’ with Ryan that he may be on the receiving end of some PMS/mood swings/rage and is to grant me a pardon (and provide hugs) if evidence of this arises over the coming weeks and months.


15th October 2018 | Day 1. 

Spent the whole day thinking, It’s ok - you can always take one tonight if you change your mind. It’s not too late. I'm coming to the end of my withdrawal bleed. I’ve heard I could bleed again as soon as later this week. Who knows?! *Makes mental note to stock up on tampons* Ryan says I should tell someone else (other than him) about this - I query why he thinks I should. He’s suggested just so I have someone else to talk to about it. I think he’s secretly worried I may kill him in a hormonal rage. I take his advice and choose to tell my sister when I see her next.


16th October 2018 | Day 2. 

Admit to self I’ve probably gone too long now without a pill that there's no going back. Not even a last-minute panic double pill... I know it would wreak havoc on my body and that's exactly what I'm trying to counteract. Stick to your guns, Rose, this should make you feel better and healthier in the long-term. It may be hypochondria but I swear I could actually feel my uterus today. A really tender feeling really low down in my tummy.


17th October 2018 | Day 3. 

At a funeral today. Could not keep my emotions in check. Is this pure grief or hormonal fuel on the fire? Told my sister, my pill-taking partner in crime, I have stopped taking the pill to be met by a raised eyebrow followed by a smile. After gabbling through my rather clumsy explanation that this is not about starting a family, I felt relieved someone else - a fellow female - knew and I had propped open that door if I need to talk about it further.


18th October 2018 | Day 4. 

Hints of headache and tender boobs. Bloated AF. I swear being almost 30, married and bloated means everyone in the office looks at you with a ‘knowing' smile. What they don’t know is I’m just wishing I could fart freely.


19th October 2018 | Day 5. 

Driving to a friend's wedding and cried the whole way in the car. Literally silently sobbed, unable to stop the tears or get a hold of my emotions. I have no idea why this started but I definitely blame the hormones. If Ryan dare suggest the same thing, I will not be held responsible for my actions!


5th November 2018 | Day 22. 

PMS is seriously bad. The 3 weeks immediately after stopping the pill were definitely pretty low and tough. It's quite staggering how much those hormones must have been interfering with my body that coming off them has thrown everything out of kilter. Emotions, skin, hair - everything is just a bit raging! Have a moment of regret because I used to be quite smug about my lack of PMS... perhaps it's all about to change now I've gone au natural


18th November 2018 | Day 35. 

I feel like my journey post-pill has become a weird silent movie in which I'm not having dramatic highs or lows now but I'm just going through life wondering, will I ever have a period again?


4th December 2018 | Day 59. 

November came and went. Just little old me waiting for that first period like a kid waiting for Christmas to come.

12th December 2018 | Day 63. 

Hallelujah! It's here!


13th December 2018 | Day 64 - Second Cycle Day 2. 

Being reminded of my 14 year old self huddled over a hot water bottle breathing through contraction-like pains. (Luckily this period only lasted 3 days.)


18th December 2018 | Day 69 - Second Cycle Day 7. 

Noticed my sex drive seems to peak in the first week after my period. That was definitely masked by the artificial hormones before... bonus! If only it weren’t for the nagging worry about pregnancy prevention!


15th January 2019 | Day 97 - Second Cycle Day 35. 

Natural period no.2 arrives after 34 days. Sensitive boobs definitely seem to be the telltale sign of what’s going on in my uterus - must note for future! 


18th January 2019 | Day 100 - Third Cycle Day 4. 

Relieved to find period no.2 was less painful than the last. I always suspected I had one ovary worse than the other back in the early days! Only a 3 day bleed, very light compared to a pill-bleed.


18th February 2019 | Day 131 - Fourth Cycle Day 1. 

I'm still operating a 34 day cycle. The boobs are still doing the trick of signalling to me what's happening. It’s a new kind of boob warning than when I was on the pill which was more heaviness and deep tissue aches. This is now more surface sensitivity - watch out nipples!


19th February 2019 | Day 132 - Fourth Cycle Day 2. 

Period pains first thing this morning - oh yay! Spots on the right side of my face - double yay! 


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What followed after this point was all captured in the Clue app - a free tracker for all things cycle-related including mood, hair, energy levels etc. It was a great way to be able to check in with myself on a daily basis and record what was going on. What emerged over the following months was a slightly shorter cycle, averaging at 32 days. The pre-menstrual mood swings are definitely a new feature of my monthly cycle and really can knock me sideways. It reminds me how tough it was to be a teenage girl and have hormones coursing around my body not knowing what the f**k they're doing whilst dealing with school exams, boy drama and general teenage angst. There also definitely seems to be pattern with hormonal outbreaks taking over my chin and jawline as my period looms. But on the whole my periods are significantly lighter and shorter than the 'fake' period (aka. withdrawal bleed) I was having whilst taking the Pill. 

Whilst the natural cycle isn't always rosy - particularly when my period hit smack bang in the middle of a beach holiday - I feel so much lighter both mentally and physically knowing I'm not pumping my body full of hormones. I feel like I'm not worrying so much about the impact it has had on my body as I've emerged on the 'other side' and can see my body is operating on its own agenda. 

Side note - obviously I'm no medical professional and all that is documented here is one woman's experience of coming off the Pill. I feel there's so much judgement around contraception and especially deciding to come off it, without triggering those unwanted questions and attention about 'starting a family', that it's not a topic spoken about that freely. I know just from my circle of friends that this may be helpful for them to read and if that's the case, it was worth writing!

All for now,
Rose (and her hormone-free spectacles)

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