I have heard so many horror stories from my friends about coming off the pill after 5+ years. Most girls my age were fed the nonsense that taking oral contraceptives would help straighten out heavy periods, acne, etc. The same girls then reach their mid twenties and realise that their bodies shouldn’t be pumped full of synthetic hormones, and they look for an exit strategy. But getting your body back into the swing of normal functioning isn’t always the easiest thing. I am one of the lucky ones – I managed to get my period back as soon as I stopped taking birth control. But, that isn’t to say I’m without symptoms. So, let’s talk about my experience coming off the pill, and how you might curb the awful symptoms that we often face being women.
The symptoms & noticeable changes
For me, the most noticeable symptoms after stopping birth control were heavier periods, the return of my acne, hormonal headaches, and mood changes. At first, it may seem like your periods are too heavy, especially coming from little to no period when on the pill. But it’s actually typical to lose 30 – 80ml of blood (majority in the first few days of your period). For reference – as I use a menstrual cup – an average sized cup holds 15ml. So don’t stress if you feel like you are losing quite a bit more blood than you’re used to.
Once my body fully adjusted to coming off the pill (it took around 6 – 9 months), my acne came back. No surprise, considering I went on birth control to clear my skin up. I also noticed that I would start to get headaches in the week before getting my period. In better news, my moods became so variable. This sounds bad, and while it is sometimes a rollercoaster, I much prefer dealing with my emotions than a constant feeling of the world being grey. If you’ve ever been on birth control, you can probably attest to this – your mood is a very constant ‘meh’. Once I was off the pill, I realised that I actually had emotions – crazy!
Now, there’s a few things that I’ve learnt in the 3-ish years of being free from the chains of birth control on how to manage symptoms & pain. Let me share them with you.
Track your cycle
You don’t have to be preparing for pregnancy to take control of your hormones and fertility. Tracking your cycle is such a good way to monitor your period heaviness, length, whether you ovulate, and any symptoms you might have. Temperature tracking can also indicate whether you have a healthy metabolism or not – burning calories creates heat! When I started out, I downloaded the app Kindara – but there are so many apps out there that are free and easy to use. Also, Google is your friend – that’s how I learnt what my varied temperatures meant in each part of my cycle.
If you haven’t read this post yet, go do it! Gut health is so important for optimal functioning of your body. Poor digestion can lead to an accumulation of estrogen in our tissues, as excretion of this hormone happens through our stool. An excess of estrogen disrupts the beautiful harmony of hormones within our bodies and imbalances can occur. Imbalances are what create the symptoms. A few things that I continue to do to maintain a healthy gut are eating enough soluble & insoluble fibre (25g is ideal for an adult woman), incorporating pre & probiotics, and eating liver supportive foods to reinforce the best detoxification practices.
Blood sugar balance
Your blood glucose heavily impacts your hormone health. It affects the use of progesterone – a very important hormone released after ovulation. If your blood sugar levels drop, adrenaline increases, and progesterone is unable to be used by your cells. And once again, estrogen is left without accountability and will cause an imbalance. Eating every 3 – 4 hours and including a healthy balance of carbs, fats, and protein for each meal / snack will keep your blood sugar steady.
Drink some tea
If you have PMS / period symptoms – start drinking raspberry leaf tea. I typically get a little crampy on the first day of my period. I am so thankful that that’s all it is, but it’s still there. Once I drink this tea, within an hour or two, my cramps are gone. And I’m sure that if I remembered and could be bothered to drink this tea consistently in the week leading up to my period, I would have little to no symptoms at all. Keep in mind that mine are quite mild – so don’t expect miracles if your period makes you contemplate murder. But, it will alleviate some of that pain.
With all this being said, you can’t be perfect when it comes to maintaining the best healthy habits. Consistency is more important than perfection. The aim here is to try and know our bodies better so that our periods can be more comfortable, not completely symptom-free. We’re learning, and we’ll always be learning.
Cover photo by Kool Shooters