Saturday, 10 January 2015

Going off the birth control pill

Dear Lovelies,

This is a rather personal post but I felt like sharing my experience to reach out to those who are unsettled/insecure and hoping for some illumination.

First of all I am neither a doctor nor otherwise qualified to make medical statements. There are many different birth control pills available across the globe, this article is no generalisation. Furthermore this article is based on personal experience and not on scientific data. It is always best to discuss your very personal situation with your doctor.



I've been on the pill since I was 16. A micro pill to be exact called "Belara". Mainly for contraception, but the pill clearing my skin was a nice bonus. I never had troubles with the pill, no side effects, no weight gain, I took it regularly and never skipped a cycle. Being an early mum was never an option for me so the pill just seemed to be the perfect and easiest method of contraception.

It was after 10 years of being on the same pill that I started bleeding in between periods. More a spot bleeding than proper red blood but still, I knew that this is unusual. I asked my gynecologist and she assured me it was quite normal to bleed a little bit in between periods especially when being on a micro pill. Having experienced such a thing for the first time and not being able to read the signs that my body gave me, I believed her and just accepted having to wear liners most of the time. One year after that I moved to Australia. The pill I had been on for 11 years by then was not available so I went on a different micro pill called "Yasmin". At the same time I got a PAP smear done and while the doctor took a sample and the cotton tip came out blood red, she told me that this is absolutely not normal and there was far too much blood even for spot bleeding.

That was the time when I began to feel more changes. It is really hard to explain but I didn't feel like myself anymore. Almost as if I'd lost the connection to my body. Physically I felt bloated and fat and psychologically I had the worst mood swings and was upset quite often. To the point where I cried randomly and showed many signs of depression.
Not to mention that during this time I lost my sex drive completely. When you encounter a situation like this for the first time all you feel is insecurity. "Am I seriously ill? Cancer?" and "Is this normal after only three years of being married?" were frequent questions in my head, not knowing what's happening to me.

Not being able to pinpoint it directly to my pill it took me a while to realise that this is not me. All this doesn't happen because of life and work and stress, all this has to have a real cause, so I went back to my doctor. She was convinced the new pill she prescribed me at the blink of an eye is more suitable for my body at this stage in life and so I hoped that being on a new pill would bring positive changes. But it didn't. That's when I decided that this has to stop! After almost two years of these side effects I wanted my body back and my sex drive and my health! All the doctors I had consulted during this time said it can't be the pill and when I asked if going off it is an option they all looked at me in disapproving surprise asking me if I want to start a family.

I made an appointment for a blood and urine test (pregnancy, STD's, etc.), another one in a female clinic for an ultrasound and an appointment in the hospital for a biopsy to make sure that I'm ok physically. After all results came back absolutely fine I made up my mind and decided to go off the pill.

Yes, there was the option of going on a stronger pill, or using another hormone based contraception method but I was well and truly past the point of wanting to feed my body more hormones. But how would it be without the pill? What would my body be like without the pill? Would I revert back to the pubertal, pimply teenager with period cramps? Is it worth it?

The following months were quite a learning curve. The first thing you learn is to listen to your body again. My skin broke out, randomly and unpredictable, it was very oily. My beloved foundation (yes I am still part of the generation which is loyal to certain brands) all the sudden was too oily for my skin and my powder just "swam" away on my shiny face. My back was full of pimples. My scalp was so itchy and I well and truly could've washed my hair twice a day.
And as if all these puberty-typical things weren't enough I also developed a form of the skin disorder Rosacea in my face.

Apart from all the things that DID happen, there was one thing that DIDN'T happen - there was no sign of my period. The first 3 months you actually enjoy it and it is so liberating not having to think of this "time of the month". Then you slowly start to think that there's something wrong (out of the frying pan into the fire). It turned out that in my personal case it took my body 11 months to "restart" the female program. All puberty-like symptoms have also vanished, the Rosacea is gone and everything is back to normal!

The conclusion? Of course it's challenging. You need to learn again to control skin outbreaks with a good cleanser rather than hormones. Find gentle products which work for you.
You may have to change the shampoo you love because your scalp now needs to be treated differently. Pay more attention to what you eat as it also has an effect on what your skin looks like.
Always carry tampons with you to avoid surprises, so yes, many things are like being a teenager again. But instead of feeling frustration I feel joy. Joy that I finally hear the voice of my body again, that I am truly myself now.

At 29, so almost three years after the first "symptoms" I'm more than happy that I went down the path of going off the pill and should we want to start a family then I think it is best to get all these hormones out of the body as early as possible anyway.


With Love,

Coffeebeanlilly

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