My Journey off Hormonal Birth Control (AKA “The Pill”), Part One

June 18, 2018 | Post by Sam Presicci

My Journey off Hormonal Birth Control (AKA “The Pill”), Part One

I want to preface this post by saying that this is my anecdotal experience. While there is lots of research out there regarding hormonal birth control, I’m not presenting that here today. I’m presenting my own experience, but my intention is never to shame you for your choices. One size does not fit all! This is also not meant to be a total rebuke of hormonal birth control, as I’m fully supportive of women having easy access to whatever form of contraception they determine is the best fit for them. My intent in writing this post (and the parts that will follow) is to simply provide my own perspective and experience, in the hopes that it may help some of you on your health journeys.

From here on out, I’ll be referring to hormonal birth control as simply “the pill.”

Where it Began…

I originally got on the pill when I was 21 years old. In that way, I was luckier than many women who may be put on it when they’re 12 or 13 to address irregular periods or acne. In general, irregular periods are a normal occurrence when you first get your period and not a cause for concern. Additionally, acne has a root cause and the pill does not address that, but rather acts as a band-aid instead.

I made the decision to begin taking the pill before I had ever discovered paleo, the real food movement or functional medicine. My path would have been different had I been exposed to these approaches earlier on. I was actually a vegetarian (sometimes pescatarian) from ages 18-23, which surely didn’t help my body once the pill came into the picture (my version was low in fat, high in inflammatory foods, and low in protein).

A Change in Thinking…

As I finished up my time in undergrad and began prerequisites for grad school (in nutrition) in 2012, my entire approach to food and health changed. I discovered paleo and, in turn, functional medicine. From there, I began slowly changing all. the. things. Not only did I begin eating meat (I was craving it HARD core, to the point that I was feeling the need to sneak it. Definitely NOT healthy behavior), but I experimented with Whole30 and began eating mostly paleo (and always gluten free). I also changed up the products we used to clean our home and the beauty products I was using too. The one thing that remained was hormonal birth control.

Though I didn’t understand the mechanism, I knew it wasn’t natural. I remember telling a grad school classmate that every other area of my life was holistically focused, so why was hormonal birth control the exception to that? But it would take me another 3.5-4 years to take the plunge. Why the wait?

1) Lack of knowledge. Though I knew the pill wasn’t a natural solution, I didn’t really give much thought to what it was doing in my body. I assumed that the bleeding I got every month was indicative of a normal cycle/period (it isn’t).

2) Fear of the unknown/fear of more natural birth control options being “harder.” If I didn’t take the pill, what on earth would I use? I do remember going to the doctor and asking about other options a couple of years into taking the pill. I was told by my doctor that the IUD was an alternative. I can’t remember if she mentioned Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) or not. If she did, she surely added a “but that’s really difficult” at the end of her sentence. I made an appointment to get said IUD, but I chickened out and canceled my appointment.

Side Effects…

What did I notice while on the pill? An increase in anxiety/depression, adrenal fatigue symptoms, an inability to gain noticeable muscle, low energy, low libido and an increase in acne. I’m sure there was more, too. Why weren’t those enough to stop me? Because I considered taking the pill a normal thing to do. Why would my doctor (and everyone else’s) recommend it if it was potentially harmful?

The Transition…

The more entrenched I got in the paleo/real food/functional medicine communities, the more inevitable my transition off the pill seemed to become. I read articles and books, I read first-hand accounts. I also credit my eventual transition to the encouragement of a friend who had noticed detrimental effects on the pill and had stopped a few months earlier. She was the final straw and her glowing reviews of life off the pill sealed the deal for me.

Finally, in February of 2017 (after ~6 years on the pill), I stopped taking it. It was as simple as putting the rest of my pill pack in the bedside table and turning the nightly 9pm alarm off on my phone. But I began prepping for and researching a couple of months prior. If you’re interested in how I helped myself transition off in the best way possible, stay tuned for part 2.

Additional Resources…

If you’d like more information on the female reproductive system and hormonal birth control, I HIGHLY recommend Period Repair Manual by Dr. Lara Briden. My other go-to resource is the ‘articles’ section of Dr. Jolene Brighten’s website, which is truly a wealth of information.

 

 

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Amy

I can’t wait to hear the rest of your story. I am on the other end of my cycle the amazing phase called peri menopause. I have been struggling with a fibroid for about a year. Actually went to have a hysterectomy and had a complication and they could not do the procedure. So I was prescribed the pill to level out my estrogen. My periods are worse now and I have made the decision to try a different method including paleo.

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