This post is intended to share my story, and ongoing journey regarding quitting hormonal birth control after religiously taking my pill for the past 10+ years. It was a decision I made to better understand my body, my hormones, and my life.
Why I Started Hormonal Birth Control
You see, like many 90’s babies, I was introduced to the wonderful world of birth control shortly after getting my first period as a method of dealing with cramps, PMS, long periods and pretty much everything else that was really sort of taboo at the time. I happily took my pill once prescribed by my doctor with little to no discussion of side effects, benefits, or anything else, and for years I had no issues. In fact, even up until deciding to stop, I really had no major side effects or negative impacts on my health that proved to be of chronic concern. My periods came and went with little to no concern. They were light, quick, and pain-free. Sounds amaze, right?! Don’t get me wrong, it was, but eventually (I’d like to think as a result of me becoming older/wiser) I wondered if this was really natural and optimal for my future fertility.
The Decision To Quit
This all came about after several years on this non-toxic lifestyle journey and me forgetting to take my new pack of pills with me while out of town. I panicked at first, thinking “OMG! I’m going to get pregnant and start my period simultaneously as a result of forgetting my pills. How could I be so forgetful?!” (totally irrational…I’m aware) Well, what actually happened after just three days was quite eye opening and liberating. I noticed my skin one morning was actually much less red than usual. My skin tone seemed to be more radiant and even. I was curious if the events could be related so decided to research further. Thus began the deep rabbit hole that is the internet of finding so many details about what my pills could have been hiding all these years.
Shortly thereafter, I had the opportunity to attend Well + Good Talks about Biohacking and listened to the incredible Alisa Vitti, author of Woman Code and founder of Flo Living, talk about how embracing her cycle and creating a nourishing food and lifestyle plan that honored the amazing-ness that a woman’s body is. I was hooked and immediately dove into her book, signed up for a webinar, and scheduled an appointment with my nurse practitioner to discuss this new found information.
After getting the okay, I was pumped to throw away my last pack of pills and let my body do work! I signed up for Natural Cycles and also the MyFlo App to be extra diligent in tracking my cycle. Having all of these details made me feel so incredibly empowered! I finally felt in charge of my body and it was AWESOME! Keep reading to find out more about my most important takeaways I have learned after 6 months of being hormonal birth control free.
Basal Body Temperature
One of the reasons I had stayed on my hormonal birth control pill for so long, amongst several others, was to prevent pregnancy. I wanted to make sure I still had control of this aspect and better understand if I was in fact capable of ovulating on my own. I used my HSA to purchase a membership and a thermometer from Natural Cycles (I feel it necessary to mention this as if you are covered under health insurance, this may be a covered cost, similarly to your hormonal birth control. It’s best to check with your specific provider for additional details). This app tracks basal body temperature and gives green or red days based on how fertile or infertile you may be at a particular point during your cycle. Read more about how basal body temperature indicates cycle phases here. This app can be used for both prevention and planning and is incredibly easy to use. I simply replaced my morning routine of swallowing a pill to taking my temperature and voila! Boat loads of information I never knew about my body is available right at my fingertips.
Living According to Your Cycle
If you haven’t read Woman Code, I highly recommend it. The book, in conjunction with the MyFlo App, have helped me better understand how to cycle-sync. I use it to modify my diet and eat nutrient rich foods that can help replenish my depleted micro-nutrients depending on if I am menstruating or not. In addition, the app also made me realize that listening to my body when it may be more tired or energetic and modifying my workout plan to harness my feminine energy can determine whether I practice yoga or partake in a HIIT workout for the day. Women run on a ~28 day cycle as well as a 24 hour cycle, which is different than men who run on a 24 hour cycle only. Basically…biological proof that we are better at multi-tasking. 😉
What Can Happen When You Quit Hormonal Birth Control
I want to make sure you know that it’s not all rainbows and sunshine when committing to detoxing from artificial hormones. Everyone’s body reacts differently to the absence of medication. Here’s a snapshot into what mine did and how I combated these symptoms.
I suffered from acne as a teenager and my skin has never been perfect, but fairly manageable throughout my twenties. One thing I did not anticipate was the cleansing process takes some time. As a result my chin was covered (okay maybe not covered, but it seemed absolutely awful) for the first 3-4 months during my luteal and menstrual phases. I thought about taking photos to document, but honestly couldn’t even bear to look at the photos I was so embarrassed. Currently at about the 6th month off of hormonal birth control, I am happy to report that my skin has never been more radiant. I still have the occasional zit pop up if I have indulged in some excess sugar or strayed from my diet, but nothing as dramatic as those first few months of painful cysts.
Some recommendations from the book, as well as my own personal recommendations to help manage acne include:
- Time. Be patient. Don’t stress; it will only make it worse.
- Don’t pick! I know it’s tempting, but try not to touch your face which will spread bacteria.
- Make sure you are using a paraben-free/non-toxic cleanser. Here are some of my faves.
- Increase water and leafy green intake.
- Try a natural hormonal regulator like Vitex Berry which has been shown to manage progesterone levels and can stop breakouts. Use this link for savings on your first order!
Lack of Ovulation
Realizing that food could actually help give me energy and flush my endocrine system, was probably one of the greatest takeaways from Woman Code for me. It helped give me back my power to work with my body to nourish it into a flo that was most impactful for my body. While on hormonal birth control, your body actually stops ovulating (if taken correctly) and once off, your body must begin to ovulate again on its own. This can take some time. For this reason, I would highly recommend buying a pack of ovulation tests to start. The Natural Cycles app will suggest this as well and I found it helpful to monitor the day my luteinizing hormone ( LH ) levels were raised to better understand what point my body had officially transitioned back into a “normal” cycle.
Here are some ways that I helped regulate my hormones, encourage ovulation, and track my LH levels:
- Eating and exercising based on my cycle. See chart above.
- It was a new found journey for me when I discovered that my diet could actually encourage ovulation and help in regulating my menstrual cycle. Eating a diet filled with nutrient-dense is crucial no matter the time, however consuming energy-sustaining grains like buckwheat can be optimized when eaten during the menstrual phase specifically. Here is my favorite recipe for incorporating buckwheat during your cycle.
- Same thing goes for exercising. The MyFlo App suggests HIIT workouts early on in your cycle, versus yoga and pilates when energy may be lacking and nutrients a bit more depleted.
- Take ovulation tests when suggested by app.
- I had never taken an ovulation test, but tracking my LH levels allowed me to better understand and track this essential part of my cycle.
After realizing and wanting to find out more about how my hormonal birth control was in fact controlling my life and body, stopping the dependency has been thee most powerful and liberating feeling. I am so grateful that I was able to honor and embrace my woman code by allowing my amazing body to do what it was naturally created to do. Artificial hormones aren’t the devil, but they can hide certain conditions like PCOS, endometriosis, etc. These types of issues can cause major implications if you are unaware of how they are affecting your body as a result of the artificial hormones overriding how your body functions normally when in cync with your flo.
Like many things, this is a journey, and I am grateful that I know have the power to understand and manage my natural cycle and get back in the flo of my life and my body!
Have you recently quit hormonal birth control after researching the benefits? How has your life changed?
Please share. Would love to hear your story, beautiful!