Going Off Birth Control Pills: My Story

We all know the benefits of birth control pills: they’re safe, effective, regulate your period (hello, cramps and flow!), help fight acne, and when taken properly, prevent pregnancy. Your hormones are under control, the sun is shining and birds are chirping your favorite song.

But what happens when you go OFF hormonal birth control pills (BCPs)? This is something rarely discussed – or at least, discussed much less than what to expect when you go ON BCPs. So, let me share my story with you.

I went on BCPs as a teenager to help regulate my periods. They were, in a word, horrendous. I’m talking 10 days of bleeding, most of them heavy, with cramps that would double me over in pain. There was also the dreaded PMS that made my friends and parents run for cover. Birth control offered a much needed respite from all of this. It was like a magical pill – within a couple of cycles, my period’s duration was cut in half and I no longer considered buying stock in Super Plus absorbency Tampax. My skin was also clear and my cramps nearly non-existent. I was no longer debilitated 1/3 of every month. The only downside was that I couldn’t get out of chores because of cramps or gross my dad out with talk of my heavy vaginal bleeding and clots. Cue the sun and singing birds.

Now, fast forward 13 years. My husband and I would like to start a family soon, so I consult with my GYN and decide to stop taking my beloved BCPs. I understand that it could take a “couple” of cycles to regulate, but otherwise, I blindly expect a smooth transition. With a mixture of excitement and trepidation, I throw out my last birth control pack. That was nine months ago.

Cue the storm clouds and dead, silent birds falling from the sky.

Within days of stopping BCPs, I start bleeding. But it’s a weird bleed – not at all like a typical period. It lasts a couple of days and then disappears as quickly as it started. No biggie. Just my body regulating, I decide. A few more days pass and I wake up to discover that my face has literally EXPLODED overnight. I went to bed with clear skin and somehow was transported back in time to age 13. Not only are there breakouts all over my face, but suddenly (and I do mean suddenly), parts of my skin are oily that never were before. Ah yes, and the “backne” also set in, which I’ve never ever had before.

This is only the tip of the iceberg.

I’m also extremely emotional. It gets to the point where my husband won’t say hello to me when he gets home from work until he’s surveyed the situation. He opens the front door to our apartment and cautiously peeks his head in. Am I curled up on the couch sobbing? Hurling insults at the cat for her “attitude”? Manically dusting everything in sight?

I also have trouble sleeping. I’ll sleep for a few hours and then wake up, sweating all over, tossing and turning. The lack of good, sound sleep only adds to my unbearable bitchiness. Even I can’t stand myself.

Fifty seven days pass with no period. After confirming with home pregnancy tests that I’m not pregnant, I make an appointment to see my GYN, who wants to check my hormone levels. But because these blood tests have to be taken on days 3, 14 and 21 of my cycle, I first have to bleed and jumpstart my cycle. My doc prescribes a course of synthetic progesterone that does just this. The blood tests confirm that while my hormones seem alright, I’m not ovulating. Which, by the way, isn’t something you want to hear once you’ve decided to try to start a family. All there is to do is wait and see if my body starts to cooperate.

A couple of more months pass, and I have a period. But it lasts two days and is scanty, despite the horrible cramps that accompany it. Strange, but at least it was a period, right?

Let me add that by this point, my face hasn’t cleared up and I’m the mayor of Bitchville. It’s safe to say that I scare my husband and my cat won’t come near me for snuggles anymore.

Another month passes, and out of the blue, I get excruciating pain in my lower left abdomen. Not to be confused with menstrual cramps, it feels like something inside of me is literally bursting. And I get so bloated I can’t button my pants. This lasts for 3-4 days and I start to panic. Back to the GYN who, after examining me, informs me that I’m (finally!) ovulating – what I feel is my follicular cysts bursting. Apparently, I’m among the small percentage of women who have painful ovulation. Yippee. Two weeks later, my period arrives, hangs out for a few days, then peaces out. Just like when I was a teen, the cramps are awful.

That was three months ago. Since then, my cycle seems to have FINALLY regulated – not your “typical” 28 day cycle, but a 35 day one, on average. I still have painful ovulations but have learned to cope (thank you heating pads and Tylenol). And while I’m sleeping better, my skin is still a proverbial shit show. I’d also like to think my moods have stabilized, as evidenced by both my husband and cat being open to snuggling and spending quality time together again. I guess you could say I’m taking the good with the bad.

I realize every woman’s experience is different. Some transition quite easily from being on hormonal birth control to cold turkey, while others, like myself, struggle. Given the panoply of women’s experiences, why aren’t we talking about this more? Perhaps if we did, I would have been more prepared to deal with the hormonal fall-outs and the uphill battle to regulate my cycle.

What about you? Have you had any difficulty coming off BCPs? I’d love to hear your story!!

Editors’ Note: Thanks to everyone for contributing their stories in the comments section. We have turned off the comments feature for this post, primarily because of the unofficial “medical advice” being given out in the comments. We are not medical professionals. Please trust your medical provider for accurate feedback about the side effects you experience going on or off of birth control. That’s the most reliable source of information.

Comments

  1. Hello all! I just turned 19 and have been on birth control for about 3 years. Right around new years i switched from a microgestin to lo-estrin 24. Beginning of March I had to come off because of a big blood clot in my leg and am now on blood thinners (it was never determined if the birth control was the cause of the clot because I had an injury and was in a walking boot for a month and a half). Anyways, a few days after coming off the birth control I had my period like I normally would during my “period week” as if my body assumed I was going back on the pill in a couple days. Being on the blood thinners made it 10 times worse than being on birth control. It has been a month and a half since then and I still haven’t had another period (I had spotting a few days ago but it wasn’t even normal spotting and was only for maybe an hour but was more so brown tinted like it had been on the tampon for a little bit). My boyfriend and I have used a condom every time we’ve had sex so I don’t really think that’s why I’m not getting it but i plan to take a test tomorrow just to make sure. I had finals all last week and started back to work this week so ive been stressed. What are other reasons it could be late? Is it something I should worry about since I’m only about 2 weeks late or should I make an appointment with my gyn?

    • We know of others who had blood clots and will never go back on BC. The good thing is that we have an option of Natural Family Planning that is 99% effective and in many cases, MORE effective than many forms of BC, without any of the side effects like blodo clots, depression, reduced sex drive in about 50% of cases (which is one main reason feminists did not support BC in the beginning.). Anyway, I shoudl point out since we have had 7 years of training in this area or reproductive health, that condms during your fertile time drove to effectiveness in the 60s so a preg test may be in order.
      Spotting could be for any number of reasons-1. low progesterone which coudl be something to have tested even more so if you actually were pregnant but if not preg, you can treat hormones that are off with NATURAL vs. the fake hormones in BC, 2. some have spotting when they ovulate so it may not be the best tiem to be tog if you’re trying to avoid preg and 3. implantation spotting, literally, spotting when teh egg is implanting so it can keep growing.
      Keep us posted on how you are feeling.

      • I took a pregnancy test last night and it came back negative. I have heard that it can take a while for my period to start back up after bc so I’ll give it another week or so, take another test, and head to the doc.

      • Nicole says:

        Natural Family Planning is how I ended up with my daughter. I can’t afford any more kids so I’ll risk the blood clots.

  2. Brendy says:

    Thank you so much for this website. It helps considerably just knowing whats going on. I’ve been off of BC for 6-7 months now and the depression and anxiety is starting to really affect my life and responsibilities. Somehow, knowing there’s a cause and effect makes this easier to deal with. I don’t know whether I will try and tough it out and do without BCs (they caused nasty migraines, which required another medication) or try to go back on birth control but either way, this place really, really helps.

    • I can offer a little help even though it would be helpful to know your age or length of time that BC impacted your system and even at 6-7 months, the BC could still be impacting it negatively. I feel for you and we’ve had clients that have contacted us with thier Natural Family Planning questions who have battled with depression. Before this depression worsens and takes over more of your life, we’d encourage you to take a multi-pronged approach: 1. someone to treat the depression specifically who will work in conjunction with 2. a doc who can evaulate your hormones to assess a hormone imbalance and 3. nutrional changes via diet and vitamins to boost you physically and emotionally.

      Please try to find a doc from OneMoreSoul’s website first in your area who knows how and what days of your cycle to test various hormones such as variations of estorgens, progesterone, LSH, FSH, your adrenals and maybe even some male hormones, etc. and then understands how to balance those hormones natually. That alone could make the difference. In addition, you can make the nutrition and diet chances I have taken the time to highlight at a high level below and then if you need to add in another approach for the final piece of the puzzle to great health, , you can ask your new doc to integrate the help of a psychiatrist or psycologist to treat the depression end.

      For the nutritional changes which in many cases make a huge difference, you can read up on pges 185-186 and Ch. 7 of Fertilty, Cycles and Nutrion, 4th edition by Marilyn Shannon. Too many suggestions to list in a blog post but dependin gyon your body and age, one key area could be focusing on stabiliizing your blood sugar and helping your adrenals if they are fatigued with reg meals that include protein, unrefined carbs and healthy fats could be the “best way to get off the blood glucose roller coaster…Nourishing the adrenals=calmer nerves, improved sexual desire, and normal levels of estrogen..” Reduce caffeine intake and ensure adequate vitamins A-E, magansesium, Zinc, Mangagnese, flax, cod liver and fish oils (sounds great but work wonders in MANY cases to balance hormones), EPA, DHA, etc. Much more info in the book.

      Do you want to try some suggestions and let everyone know how much better you are feeling? We’ve seen this happen and wihle tempintg to go on BC, you’re only continuing to mask what needs to be treated and prolonging your road to the healthier you that you can be. We hope to save you the wasted time and agony.

      • In addition to those wise reccomendations I would like to add something I recently discovered. My daughter was been going through hormonal hell post bc pills and she is sensitive to meds in general. I have been living with acute anxiety. My search for relief led me to a real miracle : Dr. Bach’s flower essences. I am not some 64 year old “flower child” but after taking our own customised mixtures in a tinture bottle the results were amazing. My panic reaction has been turned off and calm has replaced my jangled nerves. My daughter says it helps her moods too. It will not remove problems or physical symptoms but provides emotional tools to cope and even enjoy. It may not work the same for everyone but it can do no harm…not addictive, no side effects. They give it to babies and animals. If your body does not need the particular essence then nothing will happen. I take 4 drops 4 times a day and feel like a new person and have since the first time 3 weeks ago. I hope this helps someone.

        • Jennifer says:

          hello,

          Just wondering what mixture you are using? I have GAD and have heard they work wonders. Is it a mix or just a single supplement?

          Thanks!

  3. Lauren says:

    Hello all,
    It has been so helpful to read everything I can at this time. I am in the current situation of trying to stay calm while also stressing out. I was on birth control for 4 years with my ex. Started out taking YAZ it worked just fine for me, then as kaiser does, they switched me to yazmin, but transitioned into it pretty well. Then we broke up. Shortly after kaiser switched my pills AGAIN without informing me to ocella, which gave me the worst cramps and made me the biggest bitch. And since I was only on the pill for birth control I decided to stop taking it.
    Then everything seemed better I lost a little weight because I felt better, I wasn’t having sex so I didn’t worry or keep track of anything. It seemed as though my first month was smooth and I got a regular period and everything. Then the second month came.
    Started seeing someone new, so I noted my last period as April 4th, 2012 tracked when I would be ovulating, had no sex at the time and just about every time we used a condom, or started barely and then put the condom on, although we still pulled out almost every time. But still no sex at all when I ovulated.
    Well its now 33 days since my last period and nothing. I had every single symptom of getting my period, acne, bloating, pms, bad cramping, salt cravings all my regular symptoms but no period. It is alarming because before the pill I was like clock work every 28 days and now its day 33 and nothing. I have been researching more stories and feel a little more calm because this seems common. I really don’t believe I am pregnant, haven’t taken a test because it is too soon. Like I said every symptom of getting my period but no period. I haven’t had sex for over a week and a half and have had cramps all week with no bleeding. If anyone has suggestions or information of what to do or think I would greatly appreciate it. As you all know the waiting is the hardest part so please let me know somewhat soon. Thank you very much I appreciate it.
    Thank you.

    • I wanna stay off of the pills due to age, blood clots, risk of stroke, and sudden nausea (never had it before). But I’m terrified of not knowing when my period will arrive and also the very heavy bleeding & cramping is a nightmare esp for someone who travels often. I am getting married soon and the pill is a great way to regulate yourself in prepping for conception which I hope won’t be too far off in my future. Just don’t know what to do; stick out the pills or stop now. Please let me know when you regulate. It might help me decide what to do!