Like millions of women in the US today, I was in my teens when I started taking the birth control pill. I wanted to be responsible, and it was the best way I knew how. In my 20’s, I tried pill after pill. There was something wrong with everything I tried. Birth control’s side effects are well documented, and I had what felt like all of them. They gave me anxiety. They made me depressed. They gave me awful cramps. Weight gain. Breast tenderness. I lost my period entirely. I had acne. I was miserable. But I managed it, like a lot of women do, because I thought it was my only option. I got married when I was 26, and around then I had an IUD inserted. I hadn’t had a baby yet, and at that time many OB’s wouldn’t even do it if you haven’t given birth, but luckily mine did. The insertion was extremely painful and I almost passed out. But I’d heard great things and I needed to get off the pill.
My IUD was the low hormone version, but it still wasn’t perfect. I barely had my period, I had awful mood swings, and I was generally bloated and felt off. But it was way better than any pill I tried. And I knew I wasn’t going to get pregnant before I was ready. Looking back, I wonder, is that normal? Is it really normal for a woman in her 20’s or 30’s not to have a period at all? What was it doing to my estrogen level? Progesterone level? Testosterone? These are essential sex hormones that most women know almost nothing about. Yet they are wreaking havoc on our lives. As women, we live our lives based around these hormone cycles.
We’re either waiting with baited breath every month to make sure that period shows up, or we’re sitting on the toilet with a negative pregnancy test crying our eyes out. We’re terrified of being pregnant. We’re terrified of not being pregnant. Our hormones are a mystery, and yet a generation of women have been taking some form of hormonal birth control for the greater part of our adult lives. What are the consequences? No one knows. The pharmaceutical industry surely isn’t going to tell us.
I’m 37 years old. I have two beautiful children and luckily I didn’t have difficulty getting pregnant. My husband took one for the team and had a vasectomy, because now it’s my turn. Finally, for the first time in close to 20 years (aside from my pregnancies), I’m not on any kind of hormonal birth control. It’s been a few months, and I still don’t know what to expect on a monthly basis. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, going off birth control wasn’t a magic solution for me. I didn’t automatically lose 10 pounds, much to my dismay. My cycles aren’t completely predictable and normal. My Vitamin D and B levels dropped dramatically. I have an autoimmune disease and a I’m hypothyroid, and those are additional factors contributing to what may be an never-ending battle with my body. What you eat, how you exercise, your stress level, how much sleep you’re getting, all of those things can impact your cycle. But for me, going off birth control means there is one less factor that I have to worry about.
Hormonal birth control is an amazing medical advancement for millions of women, empowering us to take our reproductive rights into our own hands. Right here in Colorado, we’ve dramatically reduced teen pregnancy rate and abortion rates by providing IUDs to teenagers. But even with this plethora of benefits, there are detriments as well.
If you’re interested in getting off of hormonal birth control but still want to prevent pregnancy, there are ways to do it. You can use condoms, spermicide, vaginal sponges, or take your basal temperature with a smart device like a Daysy thermometer. If you want to learn more about a vasectomy for your partner, check out my post here.