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?!
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.