What Happens To Your Body When You Go Off Birth Control?

what happens to your body when you go off birth control, getting off the pill, #birthcontrol, #hormones

This post is in partnership with Hancock Regional Hospital as part of their empowering women and children site. All thoughts, experiences, and opinions are my own. Be sure to check out their site for additional resources and support, as well as their Girl’s Guide To Birth Control.


A lot of you know I’ve been in a bit of a rough spot the last couple of months in terms of energy, focus, and motivation. And some of you may have put two and two together after the post about my fears of pregnancy – No, I’m not pregnant –  but ICYMI I went off birth control! And it’s been an absolute rollercoaster… like how has nobody ever told me about what happens to the body after birth control?!

Some Background First:

I’ve been on birth control for around ten years. I love being on birth control. It regulated so many things for me, from my cycle, to pain levels, to mood swings, to acne. It felt like an answer to so many problems. I believe every woman should have the freedom to choose whatever contraceptive method she likes, and for me, that was the pill… and honestly, I’m excited to go back onto it someday.

So let’s have the conversation today about what to expect when you go off birth control, because I felt totally ill prepared!

You can get pregnant right away

First things first, you can get pregnant right away. I actually knew this because it happened to a friend, but I wanted to include it since I know a lot of people think your body needs time for the pill to leave your system, but that’s not true. Your body needs time to get back into it’s typical “rhythm” (more on that below) but the pill itself leaves your system in just a day or two. That’s why if you’ve ever missed a pill you start spotting!

 

Bye, bye, predictable cycle

One thing I forgot about before going on birth control, was how erratic my period was! Sometimes it would come in three weeks, then six, then two! It was literally all over the place. And now that I’m off birth control it’s doing the same thing. So expect your “regularity” to go back to it’s original state after the first few months of being off birth control.

I felt like I got punched in the boob

Honestly, the first month I went off birth control, I thought I was pregnant right away since my boobs were SO sore and I’ve heard that can be a side effect. Seriously, my breasts have never hurt so much in my life. To boot they also looked bigger! Apparently, when you go off the pill, your progesterone and estrogen levels aren’t regulated the same way. Meaning that as ovulation begins again, and the body prepares for your cycle, the boobs prepare to produce and release milk. Ouch! So sore and enlarged boobs does not equal pregnancy but it does mean that your body is preparing for pregnancy!

Flow & Discharge Fun

Apparently your period flow may get heavier once off birth control. For some women, hormonal forms of birth control like the pill, help regulate this, but if you had a heavy flow before birth control, expect it to return when you go off.

Also, this may be a little TMI, but when you’re on a hormonal birth control you don’t ovulate. So vaginal discharge wasn’t something on my radar. Then when I started reading up on getting pregnant, everyone kept talking about types of vaginal discharge and I felt SO confused and out of the loop. So vaginal discharge is a thing. It can be sticky, creamy, egg white, or stringy even. Who knew?!

Increased bloating

Sure, on the pill I definitely would bloat a little during my time of the month, but it was nothing compared to what I’ve been experiencing! Apparently, some pills have drospirenone, a diuretic which helps reduce water weight. What’s frustrating about the bloating, is that I already don’t drink carbonated beverages (I basically only drink water and coffee or tea), and I barely have artificial sweeteners (is stevia even an artificial sweetener?!), so that just leaves reducing my salt intake… fun.

 

Mittelschmerz is thy enemy

My husband looked up my symptoms one day and said, “you have mittelschmerz!!” and I looked at him like he was crazy. That can’t be an actual thing?! Well guess what, it is! It’s a German word meaning “middle pain,” which is appropriate since the sharp, shooting pang happens during ovulation when the egg emerges from its follicle. Since my cycle has been out of whack, knowing this has actually been helpful in figuring out when I’m ovulating. But boy, I don’t wish mittelschmerz on anyone!

 

Welcome home my old friend: Cramps.

Speaking of stabbing pain, let’s talk cramps. If you’re one of those women who has never experienced a cramp in your life, I’m so jealous of you. I on the other hand would find myself curled up into a ball each month before birth control. It literally felt like someone was repeatedly stabbing my uterus. And guess what? Now that I’m off birth control that feeling is back! It turns out, cramps are actually the uterus muscles contracting to shed the lining.

 

Spikes In Testosterone

Testosterone spiking can lead to increased break outs (fun *sarcasm*) and a higher sexual drive (actually fun).

But like everything mentioned here, the best indicator of what your experience will actually be like, is looking back on your experience before birth control. Meaning if you didn’t break out that often before, you probably won’t now. Or if your desire for sex channeled Samantha from Sex & The City before the pill, expect that to return as well.

 

Oh, let’s not forget the mood swings

Honestly, the most difficult part about going off birth control is that my mood has been all over the place. One minute I’m laughing, the next I’m hysterically crying. Which is why I’m practicing even more self care than usual.

So, what’s the good news?

Well, knowledge is power. I felt so lost and confused until I started learning about what was actually happening to my body which is why I wanted to share all of this with you. If you know what to expect, you can at least prepare for it, or know that it’s normal. And if you look back at your history in the above areas before going on a hormonal contraceptive you have a pretty good idea of what life will be like after it.

Plus, once you get past the first month or two, things start to even out again.

Remember, there are plenty of women’s health issues aren’t talked about enough and there is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s important to start a conversation and get to know your body. If what your experiencing seems more drastic or amplified than what you think it should be, there are hormone tests available to help determine if you are experiencing an imbalance or larger chronic issue.

Lastly, don’t forget that open enrollment closes on 12/15/17 so make sure to enroll! If you’re feeling stuck, check out my guide to understanding health care here.


RELATED READS:

6 Months After Using Those Weird Period Underwear: THINX

9 Fears About Pregnancy + Why It’s Okay

Why I’m Scared To Have Kids [+ How I’m Working Through It]


Want more self care? Download TCM’s Positive Self Talk Worksheet Now!

 

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  • Okay, these gifs made this post, haha! Too funny and I love that you’re so open and honest. I’ve never taken birth control and I’m so glad I haven’t!

    • Ah you’re lucky! Why are you glad you’ve never been on it?

      • Well, I’m grateful to have always had a regular cycle and for personal reasons, I chose to not go on it for any other reason. I’m just glad I don’t have to go through the process of coming off of it! My sister did and she had a rough time.

        • That’s interesting! I mean the process of coming off of it is honestly going back to what life was like before it, so I’m grateful I went on it. Like many women, it really helped with everything listed above and I started it because it helped with everything listed…I can’t wait to go back on it someday!

          • Oh, I’m not knocking it at all haha I’m pro birth control for those who choose to use it. I’m just glad I didn’t choose to go on it or have to use it for health reasons. 😉

  • Yes girl!!! I laughed so much reading this post. I think these things need to be talked about and no woman should be ashamed of sharing her story. I have thought about sharing about mine in a way, but I was like my reader will be like ugh… I loved this post though. I have been on birth control myself for a little over 10 years and I know when I get off of it….lord help everyone around me. I hate cramps!! They seriously are the worst thing ever (or at least that I can think of for now). When I switched birth control last year, my face went into a complete breakout shock. Not cute at all. Thankfully it has chilled out. Thanks so much for sharing this with us girl!!

    • Thank you!! I’m surprised by how some women have come out of the wood work and seem to be shaming the pill! It seems like any form of contraception (or more importantly in this case, hormone regulation) that works and helps someone should be supported!!

  • I fear the day I go off the pill! Mainly because What if I get pregnant and then I have to lower my coffee intake?! I loved this post, though. It’s good to know what you’re getting into!

  • Courtney Heathcock

    This was SUCH a good post! I have been on birth control for 7 years, and by the time my husband and I want to start trying, it will be close to 10 years. This was extremely helpful! Thanks for sharing!!

    • Your welcome! Happy it was helpful! I wish I would’ve just been more prepared about what to expect because while this stuff does suck, at least it doesn’t suck as much now that I know whats happened haha!

  • I went off birth control a few years ago and can totally relate. I found this super interesting even though I have already gone through this. I, too, was on birth control for more than 10 years! Crazy.

  • Does anyone have a regular cycle? I’m a guy with a horrible Ohio public school sex education, so I honestly have no idea how that works, but I’ve never known anyone to have a regular cycle… Always missed periods or at the “wrong” time it seems.

    • Ha! The only women I ever talk to that claim to have regular cycles are deeply religious and have never taken any form of birth control other than abstinence. I’m sure someone has done a study on it though lol but it seems like they are very few and far between!

  • Oof, that sounds like a lot to go through. I don’t look forward to ever going off the pill (we’re still debating kids, so not sure if I’ll have to yet!). My periods were so heavy and cramps were so bad before I started taking it… and it’s been so much improved that I’m a huge pill fan too. I actually went on it because of my awful cramps before I was sexually active, so I have no idea if my sex drive would increase a lot if I went off of it, haha!

    • I went on it for the same reasons! I think so many people have such a negative connotation about the pill, and don’t realize how much it helps so many women! So I did a lot of reading about sex drive after the pill, and most women won’t see a major noticeable difference doctors cautioned, but I did notice a bit of an uptick personally!

  • Niki | Toot’s Mom

    Dude, after you have a baby, get an IUD. Zero periods. No pill to take. It’s the best.

  • Yes! I think so many people don’t realize how HELPFUL the pill is regardless of your sexual activity! I started taking it before sex too because I was in so much pain and hated how irregular I was. That’s why it’s so important that employers don’t pull out of supporting women’s contraceptive methods! The pill is so much more than just birth control!

  • Ahh I bet! I was so surprised that no one ever told me what it would be like going off! Like I said, mine was never normal so unfortunately I won’t ever experience that!

  • Haha thank you!

  • I’ve never been on the pill…but I often wonder about whether or not it would’ve helped my acne years ago. The doctor actually recommended it for me at one point for that reason – ha!

  • This post was so helpful because I’m actually thinking about getting on the pill soon! Just about all of these things happen to me as part of my natural cycle (also great to learn that there’s a word for mittelschmerz!) so it’s good to know the pill might help a lot of those things lol sorry you’re having to deal with it all now though!

  • Lol these GIFs! Too hilarious.

  • Bibi Camilo

    this was such a good post! So insightful!

  • Daynna Hartjes

    I’m so glad you wrote a post about this. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever talked about this with anyone. I went on the pill when I was 17 because all through high school I was actually physically ill from the pain that I endured from my period every month. Like I’m terrified to go off of it and experience that again. However, I’m so glad to have all this information for when that does happen! Thanks for sharing this girl, hope your symptoms start to get better soon! <3

  • It is so good you are talking about this! We need to share these types of things more often. I have never been on birth control and follow the NFP method. But you are so right in that knowledge is power! It is so good for us women to know our bodies and how they respond to different methods of reproductive health management. Thank you for being so honest and sharing this!
    xxx,
    Mary

  • Adriana

    This is SO great and I totally love the GIFs! 😉 I’ve had a roller coaster ride when it comes to birth control too – I was on it for years and then stopped taking it, and to my surprise felt 10x better without it. There are so many pros and cons and different reasons for it – I think a lot of people still don’t realize that!

    • Definitely! And that every person is different! Some people feel so much more themselves off birth control, whereas some people like me feel so much less ourselves haha! I think it’s so important for people to know their body and do what feels right and not be shamed for their decisions because, like you said, there are so many pros and cons!

  • This is such great info, Rach! I’m definitely not looking forward to all of the negative pre-BC side effects + new ones when the time comes to go off. Ugh!

  • I just got back to the pill after 4 months and I’m so happy! My body messed up during the months without the pill. The cramps were horrible and I got other weird symptoms. I’m so happy to be back. I feel so much better!

  • Taylor Smith

    I literally JUST went off the pill last month. All of these things happened to my body, too!!

  • Patricia Eales

    This is such an informative post! As a healthcare practitioner who specializes in womens health issues – specifically hormones, I see a lot of this in my practice and even more.

  • Oyeeeeeeee. I was on the pill forever and after I became single four years ago, I decided to take a break and get off of it for a while. BAD idea. One- I get my period every 21 days, not 28 – so I felt like I had my period ALL THE TIME. I should ALSO mention that TWO- I’m on the pill where you get your period every three months, and that’s because I get horrible menstrual migraines so decreasing the frequency of my menstrual cycle is key. My skin also broke out like crazy. I know you can’t be on it forever but damn, it works wonders for me in so many ways.

  • Oh my goodness this is too funny – your gifs so accurately represent my feelings haha! I just went through the same thing but for different reasons. Hormonal bc was making me literally crazy, so I got off of it and switched to a copper IUD. And HOLY COW. All of these things (plus side effects from having an increased copper levels in my case)! But all in all, I made the right decision for me and now that it’s been a few months things have regulated a bit I can say it’s way better than dealing with all the crazy stuff I went through on bc.

  • This post is so relatable! Like some of the other comments, the pill made me feel so unlike myself. After 9 years on, I decided I wanted to know what it felt like to be just me. It was ugly at first! My hormones made me feel really, really angry for a couple of months. I also experience middle cramps but I’ve learned to deal with them again over the past year and a half. Overall I feel much more comfortable using natural family planning. It’s important for women to do what feels right for their bodies, not what the socially accepted norm is or the doctor recommended method sometimes!

    • Ahh I am SO happy you brought up feeling angry! I’ve been SO angry these last few months since going off! Like EVERYTHING is just pissing me off and I don’t want to do anything. I honestly was beginning to freak out that I was the only one and I’m reading people’s responses saying “I feel so much more myself off birth control” and I’m over here like: “Uh I feel like a raging psychopath, please let me go back on it!” – happy it balanced out for you! How have you been coping with middle cramps?

  • Ahhhh thank you so much for posting this! I have been wanting to go off of birth control for a while now, but I just cannot figure out when is a good time. I have a cruise next month, a wedding the month after, then napa etc etc etc. I am so nervous that my period will be insane in the middle of the cruise or something like that if I go off now hahaha

  • mckenna bleu

    Wow! Thank you so much for posting this. I had no idea some of these things. Very good to know.

  • Gery G.

    This was so helpful! I went off the pill few months age, after 7 or 8 years taking it, my cramps are back and it’s horrible but rest is OK and I am glad that I did it! At least my doc told me that giving birth wasn’t much worse and I will be more prepared haha will see someday 😉

  • Carissa Link

    I just stopped this summer after being on the pill for 10 years, mainly because my pill was causing me hyperpigmentation and rosacea. For the first 3-4 months after being off, everything was exactly the same as when I was on the pill (I don’t know if the hormone strayed in my body longer than norm?), but I do remember during that time I hit an emotional LOW, like a flat out couldn’t control my own thoughts, sit staring at the wall for hours, anxiety low. Now I just cry about evvverything when I’m ovulating or on my cycle – puppies, delicious foods, other people crying, this season’s dancing with the stars – you name it. Up until 3 months ago my menstrual cycle has now FLOPPED. My periods are light for the first 5-6 days, then BAM, it hits me with unbearable cramps and bloating for 2-3 days at the end before suddenly stopping. I’m at least comforted knowing I’m not the only one going through a crazy bodily change…

    • OMG I know exactly what you mean by the low! I’m beyond anxious and just stare at the wall most of the day on and off crying. I feel so crazy it’s not even funny. I really hope I pull out of it soon. I’ve only been off for like two or three months.

  • Audrey Knizek

    I love the gifs you included in this post! Definitely makes a not so fun topic a bit more fun. I experience that same pain around ovulation which is SO annoying. It feels like a dull ache with an occasional fun little stabbing feeling! Oh the joys of being a woman. This is such an informative post, thank you for writing it!

  • Goodness gracious. So I am not trying to go off BC but I have been so bad at taking it over the last few months. IDK what is wrong with me but I have def experienced the mood swings. Like why on earth am I the most rational person one day and not the next?! The struggle is real. I am scared for the day I actually leave my pills on purpose lol…I should start calling them my crazy pills instead of BC…

  • Paige Rankin

    I had to go off of it for medical reasons and getting back on was difficult. Almost has the same issues as getting off…

    xoxo, Paige

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