Why I quit birth control pills and will never, ever look back.
It started when I was 15 years old, I had my first “boyfriend” and my mom sat me down and said “I think it would be a good idea for us to go to the doctor to get you some birth control… you know… so that when you need it, you’re already used to taking it”. I wasn’t sexually active yet but I had heard that birth control did good things for your skin and I thought that sounded pretty good. My doctor took my blood pressure (which was fine obviously because I was 15 years old) and prescribed me the pill. I was told nothing about side effects to the pill. At 15, I barely even knew what a side effect was because beyond taking Tylenol & Advil for my cramps, what medications was I ever taking? Probably none.
Fast forward to 17, after experiencing depression and mood swings and loosing friends because of it (I was a NIGHTMARE at times), It came time to think about a prom dresses. I went shopping with my mom and found a super cute little white sparkly dress, but it was just a tad too small. I purchased it in January and thought “no problem, I have until June to shed a few pounds which should be no problem because I love to work out and eat healthy!”. So I did. My mom would take me to the gym before school with her in the morning and I was known as the salad girl at school, always eating a clean lunch. March rolled around and I had lost 1 pound. I was so upset and discouraged. I now think back about how fucked up it was that I was stressing about loosing 5-10 pounds at the age of 17, but at the same time It is concerning that despite my efforts, I wasn’t able to loose any weight. Something inside me made me wonder if my birth control pill was causing me to gain weight, so naturally I hit up Dr. Google for some advice. Sure enough, hundreds of women over various different “fourms” (as they were called back in the day ;)) with testimonies of how birth control made them emotional, depressed, suicidal, fat, and killed their libido. I checked nearly all of those boxes and couldn’t believe that nobody had ever mentioned this to me before, especially my doctor. Not once over the years, in all of my appointments for a refill on my prescription did he ever ask how things were going for me. (PS this is not a stab at my doctor, I respect him to this day, he’s a great doctor and did amazing things for our family when my mom was sick and dying but womens health is definitely not his specialty).
So I decided in that moment to stop taking my pill. And to my surprise, by June, I fit into my dress. I had lost 20 pounds in 2 months and I felt like a completely different human. I was happier, I had so much more energy, everything felt lighter. Over the next few years, with nursing school starting I had tried to go back onto the pill (for fear of becoming pregnant at a highly inconvenient time) but every time I tried it, it didn’t work. Over my lifetime I have tried Tri-Cyclen, Alesse, Yasmin, Linessa, Marvelon, the depo shot (which was by far the worst – holy shit), and the Nuva Ring. Some made me less crazy than others, and some gave me more yeast infections than others, but over all they all did the same thing – caused me to gain weight, be depressed, have low energy and generally a lower quality of life.
But what about avoiding pregnancy? I’ll admit it. There aren’t any reversible methods of contraception out there that are as mindless and effective as the pill is. Learn how the pill works here. And if you’re taking the pill and its working for you, then great! Keep it that way. This is NOT an article to try to convince everyone to stop taking their birth control! Hormones aside, I did try having a copper IUD for a while, which caused me chronic pelvic pain the whole time and turned my period into a hemorrhage. What I became more drawn to was this idea of the Fertility Awareness Method – Tracking bodily symptoms to figure out when you’re fertile and when you’re not, and scheduling your boom-boom-business around those times or using a barrier method during your fertile window. I avoided learning the method for years because I didn’t trust myself to be able to understand and practice it well enough for it to work. But after a few years of using condoms and becoming allergic to latex, It seemed I was running out of contraception options (yes except latex-free condoms). I ordered “Taking Charge of your Fertility” by Toni Weschler, and got myself a drug store brand basal body thermometer, and starting charting my fertility in the app called Kindara. I joined a FAM facebook group and asked for advice from other women practicing the same method as needed. That was five years ago, and I haven’t been pregnant yet. Not only am I not pregnant, I have learned SO much about my body. I can tell you exactly which months I ovulated and which months I didn’t, and I can tell when I’m going to get my period. If my period is late, I can tell by looking at my daily temperatures whether I’m pregnant or if I just ovulated late. The body confidence I’ve gained from tracking my cycle and practicing FAM has been so empowering. And so this is why I’ve decided to become a certified FAM instructor, using the FEMM method – Fertility Education and Medical Management. I start the course in January and will be taking clients probably in April either in person or online via skype and I am SO excited. This is my passion – this is my true passion. I can only hope that eventually, one day this information will be taught to girls in high school so that they don’t have to experience the same dismal effects that me and so many other women have experienced!