I’ve had this conversation with friends recently. Stay on or go off birth control. We all often have concerns either way and there are a lot of factors to consider. I’m going to preface the rest of the post by saying I decided to go off birth control at the beginning of July. However, I’m not advocating that someone should. The pill is really good for a lot of reasons (mainly, you know, helps if you don’t want to get pregnant).
Individual Differences: So there are a lot of different reasons people might choose to go on the pill and to stay on the pill or go off of it. For example, I decided to go on the pill because it is supposed to help with menstrual pain and cramping. When I was younger I got really bad cramps and often had to go home sick from school or call in sick to work. The pill actually really, really helped with this. I stopped missing work due to cramps and my periods were much less bothersome. Because I was married to a woman at the time I had no concerns around pregnancy – though after I divorced and was back to dating women and men, I did appreciate that I had less worry about getting pregnant when sleeping with men. Some people will also go on the pill to help with depressive symptoms as it can improve mood in some people. It can also reduce risk of certain cancers (ovarian, endometrial) And of course, most go on to prevent pregnancy. All are valid reasons. And so, it’s the same as far as individual differences go when going off of the pill. I went off because my periods were incredibly light, I’m getting older so if I decide to have kids at some point, I want to make it easier on my body, and though I’m single and still date men and women, I’m comfortable with any male partners using other types of contraception. Many people go off of it to become pregnant, some people have side effects they don’t want, etc. Again, all valid reasons.
Concerns & Questions: There are a lot of common questions or concerns about making this change.
- Irregular cycles – I talked to my naturopath about this, as she mentioned it can take a few months for a cycle to come back (not the case for me but common).
- Heavy flows, lots of cramps – Another part of the conversation with my naturopath. I did notice my flow increased to normal and I certainly had cramps, though not as bad as I used to get them (ask me again a few periods from now and we’ll see)
- PMS comes back – I didn’t know this until, again, I had a conversation with my ND. PMS often disappears or becomes milder while on the pill. So going off means you might experience again (so far, I have not but I also didn’t really have much of it before).
- Weight loss – Some people will lose weight after they stop taking the pill, so beware of this if it’s a concern for you (I haven’t, again, may be too early to tell).
- Acne – I think most of us have heard this one, though my ND also mentioned it. It was probably one of my bigger concerns since I had terrible acne as a child (yes, as a child, literally ages 8-16). I’ve had a bit more than normal, but mild at best.
- Increased hair – I didn’t know this but apparently it can cause unwanted hair growth (https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/stopping-birth-control#seeing-a-doctor)
- increased libido – I asked my ND about this because I was literally laughing at myself for days about this. I feel like I’m a 18-21 year old version of myself. Which honestly, there is nothing wrong with, but also something to be aware of if you go off of it.
- Changes in mood – this is one that seems to be everyone’s biggest concern, which is understandable. As I mentioned early, sometimes the pill can help with depression, and so, going off can mean you experience lower mood. There are many coping strategies available for low mood (self-help books/podcasts/tiktoks, therapy/counselling, etc. can help). I haven’t experienced mood changes.
According to some articles I found online there are some added benefits of going off the pill. Apparently it can cause headaches in some people, so going off will bring relief to that. And also, that cancer protection we talked about earlier, apparently that can continue (if you were on the pill long enough).
I think what’s really, really important when making these types of decisions is that you talk to your doctor and other healthcare professionals. If you’re a Spoonie, include your specialist in the conversation if necessary. If you have a naturopathic doctor, they can be helpful to provide tips for natural relief for cramps, acne, etc. And if you’re experiencing mood changes, especially if you’re already prone to low mood, seeking help for a licensed mental health professional can be beneficial.
Take care and keep making the most of it!