When I was sixteen, my mom was driving me to the doctor for my last Gardasil (HPV vaccine) shot. She asked me if I also wanted to go on the pill. My periods were manageable, and using it for birth control was about the farthest thing from my mind. The latter was what she wanted me to go on it for, so I responded with a disgusted, “NO!”
When I was eighteen, my period came a week late and I almost passed out from the cramps. My next cycle was a week shorter than usual, and the cramps were non-existent. The next cycle was, once again, a week longer than normal and while I functioned a bit better, I still needed Will to drive me home early from our robotics meeting so I could curl up with a hot pad and pain pills. Those two months were the only times I ever used pain pills in response to cramps, so I finally let my mom take me to the gynecologist, where they drew blood and put me on a low dose birth control pill. The tests came back normal, but I stayed on the hormones.
It’s been three and a half years since then. I grew accustomed to the pills. I liked knowing when my periods would come – accurate within a few hours. I liked that they were lighter, shorter, and cramping was minimal. But after about two years, things started to feel…off. It was such a gradual change, I didn’t notice it. But I started to recognize that I didn’t feel the same as I did before going on the pill. I had no libido, I would get stomach and headaches more frequently, I was crabby a lot. But these things didn’t show up in a way that I could tie to the pill. I didn’t know if it was just me changing, or if the hormones were changing me. I wanted it to be the hormones. I didn’t like who I was.
In the meantime, I was also discovering green living. I didn’t want to put chemicals in my body. I didn’t like that there were boy fish turning into girl fish because too much estrogen is getting released into our water. I wanted to live a natural life. I hated taking pain pills because I didn’t like relying on drugs. It was always important to my family to buy hormone-free milk. So what was I doing taking artificial versions of hormones my body already makes?
I did a lot of research into what to expect going off the pill and into alternative methods of birth control for when I get married next summer, both of which I will talk about in future posts. And finally, at the end of April, I took my last pill and my withdrawal bleeding started 3 days later, like clockwork.
It has been 117 days since my withdrawal bleeding started. I have not ovulated. I have not had a period. I have been eating clean, detoxing my body, and living healthy, but my hormones still aren’t doing what they are supposed to. I noticed some changes right after going off: a break out, slightly increased libido, just small things. But I am not happy with where I am, and for the first time in my life, I am longing for my period. I am longing for a sign that my body is working properly. I am longing to feel like a woman in such a primal way.
I don’t want to live my life with regrets, so I am not going to regret going on the pill. Things will eventually regulate, and I will be fine. But hindsight is 20/20, and I do wish I hadn’t started it. Some women are lucky, and everything snaps back into place. But in a way, I’m glad I am struggling with the transition (and I’m glad I’m not trying to conceive while doing so!). The struggle gives me something to show. These pills are NOT okay. They are NOT good for you. And they DO screw up your body. What I am going through is “normal,” but it is not natural. This is not what my body is supposed to be doing. No one’s body should be doing this, and I strongly believe that the treatment of birth control pills as a cure-all band-aid is wrong. It should be a last resort, not a first.
Over the next few posts, I will talk more about why hormonal birth control is bad, what some alternatives are, and what to do once you have gone off the pill.