First off: no, I’m not trying to get pregnant. So, why am I sharing this personal information with the world, you might wonder? Well… because when I looked for information online, I barely found anything about this. Which is kinda weird, since sooo many women are using hormonal anticonception. All information should be out there and accessible. And it’s not. And it’s important. So yeah, that’s why.
Hormonal anticonception = anticonception that is based upon the working of hormones. Examples: the pill, nuvaring, etc. You also have non-hormonal anticonception: condoms, a spiral (disclaimer: most spirals still contain hormones, so check with your gyneacologist), etc.
(Hormonal) birth control for everyone!
It’s been a few years since I started doubting about hormonal anticonception. It’s something so common: every girl/woman I know, seems to use it. It’s easily prescribed and not always to protect from pregnancy; also to regulate the period, to fight acne during puberty and so much more. A lot of girls start taking the pill when at a very young age and most of us keep on taking it until we decide we are finally ready for kids – or when we decide we do not want kids.
We use hormonal birth control without a lot of questions. It’s so normal to use that we don’t even raise questions anymore – as a girl, it’s simply a part of growing up. When you want to have sex – it’s the easiest (and one of the safest) methods to avoid pregnany. We forget, however, that we are constantly releasing hormones in our body, disrupting our natural balance. Hormonal anticonception is a relatively new invention, which means that we are not yet fully aware of all the effects it may have.
Positive and negative effects of hormonal anticonception
Hormonal anticonception prevents pregnancy, but has a lot of other positive side-effects: less acne, bigger boobs, a regular period.
There are also some negative side-effects, although those vary per person (same for the positive ones too). The most known negative effect is that your libido might go down. Other ‘common’ effects are flattened or intensified emotions, energy loss and weight gain.
Why we should think twice about hormones
It’s not a question if you WANT to start using hormonal anticonception, it’s only a question of WHEN you want to start with it. Most of the times we don’t have a discussion about what it entails. We easily accept those side-effects and brush them away, partially because doctors and society seem to tell us that it’s okay and that it’s worth it.
I understand this, having gone through this myself – when in puberty, trying to explore your sexuality, it’s nice to feel protected. In your teenage years, the world is chaotic enough as it is, so it’s great not to have to worry about becoming pregnant. Or that your period might start when in class. We’ve all been there, right?
BUT STILL, we should be able to make this important decision fully informed.
This is no blogpost about wether hormonal anticonception is good or bad. I don’t think there is an answer to that question and I’m no scientist. I do think it’s good to widen our view about this and raise some questions.
When my boyfriend and I took a year off to travel, I decided it was the perfect time to quit with hormonal anticonception. It was something I had been thinking about for a while, because I wondered about the effects on my body.
And also – being honest here: my libido did go down when I started the pill. We are made to believe that this isn’t that important, right? But is it unimportant? I wonder how medication for men would be perceived if one of the frequent side-effects was a lower libido.
That all set aside: I wanted to experience how my body would be without the impact of those extra hormones.
It takes one year for your body to recover
Before I start about what happened – a small fact: it doesn’t take that long for the hormones of the anticonception to leave your body, but it takes about a year before your own body has restored your hormonal balance. A YEAR. I think that’s crazy.
I didn’t research a lot, I mostly wanted to experience being free of the side-effects that come along with taking anticonception. I knew that it would influence my body and mood, but I simply thought that it would undo the effects from taking the pill. Sidenote: like most girls, I started young, so I wasn’t even totally aware of all the effects it might have had.
What I didn’t know at that time, is that quitting hormonal birth control has side effects of it’s own. And THAT is why I share this story with you. Because we SHOULD know this.
What happened when I quit
I stopped taking hormones seven months ago and this is how it went. It’s not an exact timeline, but that doesn’t really matter because every person reacts different to it anyway. So, if you are thinking about quitting, know that your experience might not resemble mine. Same as the side effects of starting the pill: it’s different for everyone.
I want to share this – even though it’s very personal – because we are warned about (some) of the side-effects that accompany starting anticonception, but no one tells us about the side-effects of quitting. And there are quite a few and not all of them are pleasant:
- The first weeks I felt no different, but after a while, I realized I was easily irritated. Luckily, that went away quite soon and didn’t feel like too bad of a side effect – but it surprised me none the less because this was the first real impact on my mood (which is sooo strange to experience).
- The first real side-effect was a really pleasant one: I started getting more energy. I felt more active and had a bigger urge to move. It’s not that it’s such a big difference in my feelings, but it’s like a layer of tiredness has been scrubbed off and I feel more energetic and crave less couch hanging.
- A less pleasant side-effect that at first I didn’t realise was one: I started losing a lot of hair. This one was the scariest, because as a woman, your hair is important. It’s not like I had bald patches, but my hair was getting thinner and I was losing so much more than usual. This freaked me out and almost made me go back to using hormonal anticonception again. No one really noticed (except for my boyfriend who found my hair everywhere haha) but still stressful. I did some research and found a few (almost none) similar experiences online and found out that it should stop afer a while. And it did. Luckily. I have not experienced pregnancy, but I think it’s similar to the hair loss lots of women experience then?
- The famous one: the libido. Same as for a lot of other girls, my libido did change after starting the pill. I didn’t notice it at first, because it’s not an instant shift, but at one point it became clear that it changed (yes, it went down). I looked for other reasons: stress, busy life, being tired, etc. But I started wondering after a while – and quitting the pill confirmed my suspicions. Yes, it has gone up now.
Those are the (most important) effects I noticed after quitting.
Why we should know this
Honestly, I’ve doubted a long time about sharing this. The reason is pretty clear, right? This isn’t something I normally would share with a lot of people. Not even people I’m close with, let alone posting it online for everyone to read. However, I think it’s crazy that this information is not available – or there’s no easy access to it – while it’s so important. I searched the internet and there was so little information on this topic. It’s mind jarring. Most of it were blogposts like this one – and believe me, I was so grateful for those.
So many girls and women take hormonal birth control without fully knowing and/or understanding what it entails. I think that’s not how it’s supposed to be and that’s why I’m wrote this down.
Like I said before: this is not about being pro or contra hormonal birth control. I don’t think there’s a right choice to make and everyone is entitled to make their own decision. BUT if we make a choice, we should know what it entails. What I learned and experienced when quitting hormones is all new to me and it should not be.
Even with the negative side-effects, I’m happy to go back to the natural balance of my body – the fact that these effects are so huge, makes me wonder about the impact that tiny pill can make. I’m done messing with my hormonal balance and I feel less foggy, my mind feels clearer and my body has so much more energy. I feel more like myself and that… is why I quit hormonal birth control.
Thank you for reading this, I hope this brought you something.
Lots of love,
17/07/2020 @ 23:28
Zo trots om te lezen dat mijn nicht hierover durft te schrijven en nog méér dat zij zichzelf deze vragen stelt! Knap gedaan Elise!