A Year Without The Pill

Friday, 2 March 2018


So the end of this month marks a year and a half of me not taking the contraceptive pill Rigevidon. And my, my it's been a journey! A mostly positive one, I am now completely without chemicals in my body managing my hormones and it feels amazing to say that, so lets talk symptoms I have noticed, mood change, periods and attitudes towards contraception and my vagina in general. 

At the end of January last year, I decided to stop taking my Rigevidon after relying on it for contraception and period pain control for 6 years. There were a lot of reasons why; my long term relationship at the time ended, I had been doing a lot of research into the contraceptive pill and the long-term effects it had on the body and the main one that scared me the most; I was relying on it so much for my mental health. I was essentially using my contraception as anxiety medication. So after forgetting to take it and having a panic attack about the fact I didn't have it with me to control my panic attacks, I knew I had to come off Rigevidon. 

After doing some more, further research and a few rather scary hospital appointments too with ovary pain, my GP, therapist and I decided it was the right thing to do. Rigevidon has been in the press recently for all sorts of scary things and while some of them are over-dramatised and fear mongering, it has been proved that it can be harmful for you to remain on the combined pill for more than 5 years. This is to do with the added hormones of oestrogen and pro-oestrogen to balance out the timing of your periods, also the combined pill raises your chance of getting some types of blood clots and cancers. I also want to state that I am not fully 'anti pill' I've had an okay experience with it and I know people where the pill has worked for them brilliantly and they're very happy with their decision to be on it. All I'll say is before making the decision to start the pill or even come off it, do at least a week's worth of research, read all the things and consult your doctor before making both decisions.

 I  just felt like I didn't want chemical hormones to control my body and brain anymore, I hadn't had any experience being a fully grown adult with no extra hormones being pumped into my body and that's a terrifying thought for me, so I said no more and had my first natural period in 6 years! So let's start there:

Periods___________________________________________________________________________

After coming off Rigevidon, it took around 2 months for my first proper period to arrive. I was spotting for a long time but nothing more than that. When it eventually arrived I noticed quite an increase in pain, my ovaries were crippling me and I had to just go to bed for the first few months when it struck. I also developed the most awful boughts of pms that I'm still struggling with now. I tend to get irrationally angry and upset about the smallest things and my craving for chocolate and sweet things increase un-naturally for me, I'll chat more about PMS when we reach the mood section because it has been a ride. 

The periods themselves last for a shorter amount of time than they did with the pill. Normally heavy to medium bleeding for 3 days. Two things other than coming off the pill have made my life better; the first is my moon cup, I adore it! It's so, so comfortable once it's in and it's so nice to not be able to think about changing pads and tampons throughout the day. It's also so much better for the environment, I just adore it and it has allowed me to become a lot more confident. I can still wear nice underwear when I'm bleeding! The second thing is the app Clue, I've spoken about it on here before, but after having it for almost a year now, it has built up a data base on my usual menstrual activity and paints a picture of what my monthly cycle will look like, it's also very handy for me to track PMS and mood in general. It's taught me how to connect to my cycle and how many things it effects through that time of the month. 

I'm worried this section has been quite negative, but no woman's period is always going to be pleasant. It's literally your uterus tearing for fuck sake, it's going to hurt! What coming off the pill has made me realise with regards to my period is how much it effects me on a monthly basis, my decisions, my appetite, my skin etc. And it's so, so refreshing to see what my body does without any influence from chemicals. Bodies are magical and seeing how they tick and function on their own is very, very important for your relationship with them, preach. 

Body_____________________________________________________________________________

So after coming off the pill my weight has fluctuated much more, especially in the first few months of being off it. Now I don't know if that's because I went to Sicily and literally lived off bread and olive oil, or it was the smaller amount of oestrogen, but in the summer I did notice some weight gain. But recently I have started to lose quite a lot of weight again. Now with me being vegan I try to keep an eye on my nutrition intake and it seems to be fine. My food taste has changed as well, although I am much more of a savoury person, I have developed much more of a sweet tooth which maybe could be down to hormone changes or just that I have found the mecca that is vegan snackidge, we'll never know. My digestion has also gotten a lot better, but once again I don't know if that's the vegan diet and the gallons of peppermint tea I now drink. 

I did expect my skin to get worse, after stories from other people coming off the pill. But I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't see many changes. I do now have the inevitable hormonal chin spots, big, heady boys that I try not to pop ew. But nothing too extreme, I have to say after hearing that the combined pill prevents acne, I was pretty worried about the effect less oestrogen would have on my skin, but it mustn't have effected me in that way too much. What I will say about my skin is that the first 6 months of being off the pill had me itching all over with a weird eczema/skin condition thing going on. I started getting dry patches all over my body and had to go to the GP to get some special cream. Whilst I was there I asked her about the pill and she said that it's probably a reaction to the hormone change, which I found really interesting to know. The itchiness stopped after another month using the cream and I haven't had a flare up since so I think that's a sign that my hormones settled down after that. 

Mind____________________________________________________________________________

As soon as I found out my pill had a connection to my anxiety, I knew that coming off it would be difficult with regards to my lil' brain. At first I started to experience what I can only call strange withdrawal symptoms. My brain started to tell me that I needed my contraceptive pill to feel normal and not anxious and as soon as I took it away my anxiety sky rocketed, which I expected to be honest. But it settled much, much sooner than I thought. Maybe it was to do with the therapy I was receiving, or the happier situation I was in during the summer, but by June/July my panic attacks had almost completely stopped and my anxiety was almost none-existent. The only time it reared it's ugly head and still does is when the dreaded PMS comes around. 

I definitely think that the lack of pill has effected my PMS symptoms for the worse and is probably the most negative effect that is still ongoing after coming off the pill. My PMS is something else! As I said my anxiety tends to get worse (no panic attacks in the past few months though) but I also completely withdraw, I forget how to talk to people and almost forget social skills and ways to start conversation it's really weird. I forget words and names, I forget what I have done during the day, I stop talking mid-sentence and my mood man, my mood is something else. I become very, very irritated with the smallest of things, I also become very very unsettled wherever I am and immediately need to get out of any situation I find myself in . I'm essentially a nightmare and I'm still not too sure what I can do about it. This is my body and how it effects me and without chemicals I'm not too sure how to improve it. Of course I've tried more meditation, yoga and diet, but nothing seems to have improved my mood at that moment in time. Maybe it'll just take longer to settle, I know it's not unusual to feel like this during my menstrual cycle, but it is pretty annoying and to be honest I find it very debilitating. 

I have thought about returning to the combined pill, or even trying the implant or something different hormonally to solve this. But once again I don't want to pump my body with chemicals and for all the positive effects coming off the pill has had on my body and mind, it would be ashame to go back to square one because of monthly mood swings. 
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I think I've explained everything I wanted to, it seems that this experience has been quite negative but I know now after all of these symptoms have died down, that my body is much better off without those extra, artificial hormones and un-known chemicals. I also realise that a lot of these symptoms were maybe due to external influences and not at all connected to the pill, but after doing a lot of research on this topic, I do see a relationship between the period of time this was all happening and how long I had been off the pill.

I'm so glad that I decided to do this for myself, I now have a better grasp at how my body works on its own and it has been fascinating to observe. Once again I will say that contraception choice needs to be taken seriously and there a lot of factors to consider when making any decisions to come on or off the combined pill or any other form of hormonal contraception. The NHS website is great but I will also link you to the youtuber Hannah Witton's series called the hormone diaries, where she documents her journey coming off the pill in huge detail and it was basically the inspiration for this blog post. I think things like this are really important to share because many people still don't see the amount of impact hormones can have on their bodies and mind. 

My period is now fully synchronised with the full moon, which I find so reassuring and fascinating, we are all phenomenal women and we should certainly treat our bodies that way! 
I'd love to know if you've had any experiences, positive or negative with coming on or off the pill?





2 comments

  1. I came off the pill at the beginning of this year and have been using Natural Cycles and Clue to track my fertility/mood etc. I love that, with Clue, you can add in so much data on things like your mood, sleep and cravings. I'm only 2 months pill-free and I can confirm that my PMS has also been very bad, however it has now been contained to a maximum of a week, compared to when I was on the pill and experiencing the same things on and off throughout the month!

    I also love Hannah Witton! And I agree that the topics of sex/contraception and mental health are ones that need to be normalised and discussed way more frequently.

    I would love to have my period synchronised with the full moon! Here's hoping, haha.

    Thanks for sharing this post, it's really good to hear how other people have got on after stopping taking the pill :)

    Georgie xo

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    1. Honestly Clue has been great and so helpful through all this. I'm glad that your PMS is dying down a bit, it seems to be a real problem, just shows you how much our bodies rely on those extra hormones to feel okay, ew.

      She's great and such an inspiration and definitely because there is no doubt about it that that are clear links to MH and hormone based contraception.

      Aw it was amazing, I felt so phenomenal!

      Thank you for reading and I'm so glad it's helped you, once you've been off it for a year you should make a similar one, or even six months or something! Thanks so much for this comment G✨

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