From 2005 – 2013, I tried various contraceptive pills to combat my acne. Starting with Norethisterone and later Dianette, Microgynon, & Yasmin. At the time, taking birth control seemed like the best and only option. While I hoped that it would have a positive affect on my skin, I also used it for its original purpose – to prevent pregnancy. Unfortunately for me during those eight years I saw no improvement in my skin. But who knows? Perhaps it did prevent my acne from getting worse…
By my mid-twenties I was done with synthetic hormones and the unwanted side-effects. For the first time in my life I was actually conscious of what I was putting in my body. I’d just broken up with my boyfriend of six years and was ready for some time alone! I realised that I’d only continued taking oral contraception because it was convenient for our relationship and not because it was the best choice for my body. As sad as it was to breakup, I saw it as the perfect opportunity to allow my body do it’s own thing!
What happens when you stop?
It’s time for me to insert a little disclaimer here! If you’re thinking of stopping birth control it’s important to speak to your doctor first to make sure you’re doing what’s right for you.
Depending on what type of birth control your’e on, it can take from two to six months for your cycles to return to ‘normal for you’. I didn’t measure my periods at all when I first stopped taking oral contraception and in hindsight I wish I did. It seems like second nature to me now but back then it didn’t seem important. What I do remember is that my periods were always unexpected. Looking back I don’t know whether that was just me forgetting when it was due or if I didn’t see the signs my body gave me.
My doctor warned me that I might experience an acne flare up after coming off the pill but to be honest my skin was so bad at this point, I don’t think I would have noticed a few extra spots! The one thing that was significantly different though was my period pains. Oh hey! Even now, the first day of my cycle is the worst and if I could, I would definitely stay in bed!
What surprised me the most was the change in duration and flow. I went from having week long periods to just four short days. And after just two days of heavy flow the rest of the time it’s light and pretty forgettable.
Now, this next part I’m sure you’re going to raise one eyebrow as if to say “really?!” But these days I can actually feel my ovaries cramping (depending on which side is releasing an egg). Say what?! This realisation was an absolute game changer for me and finally got me listening and respecting my body. I’m so in awe of how incredible a woman’s body really is!
My final observation may sound obvious and verging on patronising but if you stop taking birth control you might get pregnant! Sorry but I had to say it! It’s never something I had to worry about because when I stopped taking it I wasn’t having sex. But five years ago I met my husband Chris, so naturally I started looking for alternative methods of contraception. Taking hormones again wasn’t an option for me. I was in sync with my body and I didn’t want to give that up – and why should I?
Hormone-Free Birth Control
I didn’t have to look too far to find Natural Cycles – the only birth control app cleared by the FDA in the United States and marked CE in Europe. What I found even more reassuring was that there were already a million registered users. So how does it work? By this point I was pretty sure magic must be involved but then I started reading about its special algorithm. Naturally I was still worried about its effectiveness until I saw this on their website.
Later that evening I spoke to Chris about it, explaining that all I had to do was measure my temperature each morning. After telling him about the ‘green days’ (non-fertile days) he didn’t need much more persuading and recommended I try it for one month to see how we got on.
So, all I needed to get started was internet and a basal thermometer. And today, twenty-eight cycles later I still only need internet and a basal thermometer!
What I’ve learnt using hormone-free birth control
While I’m so happy that I’ve found a hormone-free method of contraception, I’m most grateful for everything that the app has taught me about my body. By using Natural Cycles to measure my periods, I’ve realised that my cycles are regular – indicating my hormones are balanced. So when I started journaling to identify the cause of my breakouts, I was able to rule out the possibility of hormonal imbalance.
The app sends me reminders of when my period is due and when I might start experiencing PMS symptoms. This has been great for when I get a bit overly sensitive and emotional, (who me?!) I get a notification and I’m like ‘oooh that’s why…’
Something else I’ve found really valuable about using the app is the ‘monthly predictions’. Although you can’t use these as actual results, it gives me a good idea at a glance of when I’m due to start a new cycle which is great for planning vacations!
But something I know you’ll love – the app has taught me when I might experience breakouts due to hormonal changes depending on what phase of my cycle I’m on. How did I not know this stuff before?!