Back in November I blogged about coming off the Pill and I was overwhelmed by the response to it, both publicly and privately. It made me realise that not enough people talk about these issues (which is slightly mental, given how many of us are dealing with them) and that we’d all be better off if we were happy to talk about contraception and periods more openly.
So in the spirit of that, I thought I better give a bit of an update on how I’m feeling three months down the line of having kicked my 10 year Microgynon habit. You might want to read that last post for more of the “why I’m quitting” reasoning and general pre-quitting MEGAFEAR.
As for how I’m getting on…I’m gonna break it down into the areas I was most concerned about, but if you have any questions then just comment at the end as I may have forgotten something! Apologies for the essay, but hopefully it’s useful!
MOOD AND ANXIETY
One of the reasons I wanted to come off the pill was that I thought I may have been going a bit doolally. I would get properly bleak and depressed during the few days before my pill break, to the point where I knew I had to step back and not trust the decisions I made on those days because they’d usually be coming from a pretty depressed mindset. Over the past few years I was starting to get very physical anxiety symptoms at certain points during my pill regulated cycle. Whilst I wouldn’t get anxious in a mental sense I very much had the heart racing adrenaline pumping side of it which was driving me crazy. Feeling like you’re having a panic attack when you’re not remotely panicking is very strange indeed.
It’s very hard to describe what being pill free feels like, but it just feels so REAL. I think it’s the type of thing where you don’t notice until you’re off it how much it clouded your personality, it’s like a fog has been lifted and I now feel so much more normal and calm.
A good example? I’ve never been scared of flying, but in recent years I’ve had really annoying physical symptoms of anxiety whenever I’ve flown…to the point where I’ve had to self-medicate or really concentrate to not let it escalate into a panic attack. But when I flew to Grenada (11 or so hours) in December I didn’t have that AT ALL. The only thing that had changed between that Grenada flight and the long haul flights the month before was that I wasn’t on the Pill any more. And generally day to day I haven’t felt those physical symptoms of anxiety once in the three months I’ve been pill free, no matter how crazy busy or stressed I’ve been.
Whilst I feel a lot more physically relaxed, I have noticed that I’ve also become more intolerant and ragey. The funny thing is though that I genuinely don’t think I’ve been unreasonable with it. (Hah!). It just feels like I’m standing up for myself more and not taking crap from anyone. I’ll argue back but I won’t regret it, whereas on the pill I might have been very unreasonable about a tiny thing then two days later I’d be begging for forgiveness because I’ve realised I was being completely mental. Now I feel like some sort of Superwoman who will get things done and not stand for any nonsense, it’s massively invigorating.
In sum, I feel calmer and happier than I have in years. But I’ll tell you bluntly if I think you’re being a dick.
Heaven forbid my boobs would get smaller, that would just be too darn easy wouldn’t it? I haven’t noticed any change in my stupid boobs unfortunately when it comes to size.
I’ve always had quite painful boobs (as in wear a bra to bed and want to cry if I accidentally touch one) but now it feels more cyclical rather than a desperately awful constant. I still have days where I feel like I am carrying around 10 kilograms of poisoned lead which has been cursed by an Ancient Egyptian God of Pain, but I also have days where they don’t hurt at all. That’s a miracle in my book.
My skin did look a bit dull and grey for a while but it’s hard to tell if that’s just because my honeymoon/Grenada tan had disappeared and the real pale me was revealed or if it was hormonal. Obviously eating mountains of naughty nonsense at Christmas would have had a negative effect too, and general January stress. I think I probably get a few more whiteheads around my mouth now which may be hormonal, but it’s no major change and nothing that hasn’t been fixed by ramping up my skincare and being more consistent with my omega supplements. I had good skin pre-pill though.
I haven’t lost or gained weight, but I think I could have easily lost weight if I’d actually tried. One of the most marked things I noticed when coming off the pill was how much my appetite reduced, but because of ingrained habits I didn’t really eat any less which is presumably why I haven’t lost weight. Had I listened to my appetite rather than gone into auto-pilot when it came to mealtimes and portion sizes I think I’d have lost a fair few pounds. Unfortunately I let habits get in the way of hassle-free weight loss.
In the first fortnight or so after stopping the pill I had some terrible disabling migraines, I was terrified that they’d continue but thankfully they didn’t. I still get headaches but they’re not worse than before, which was my main worry. I’d say they’re much more manageable actually, more of a “take two paracetamol and they’ll go away” headache rather than a “put me in a dark room and if all else fails behead me” type headache.
THE ACTUAL PERIODS
I stopped taking the pill at the end of a month’s strip, so I should have had a ‘breakthrough bleed’ (i.e fake period) within a few days of stopping. But nothing came at all for FIVE WEEKS. This was massively annoying as on one hand I became paranoid that my ovaries would never wake up and on the other hand I was constantly worrying that my period would start at the worst possible time. I’ve now had three ‘real’ periods, one with a 26 day cycle and the other with a 30 day cycle…so they seem to be settling normally. That was a big worry for me because I’d read horror stories of 15 day cycles and 60 day cycles, but I don’t remember my cycles being particularly unusual in my pre-pill days and they say it’s likely to be similar to how you were before.
Having periods that come of their own freewill rather than by my medicinal meddling is a weird thing, I can’t just book a holiday and know I won’t be on my period. I have to concentrate when booking waxes. I have to actually remember to buy and carry tampons. But apps help with all that (as I’ll mention in a minute).
I’ve felt more period pain too, which cracks me up as it makes me feel like I’m literally 14 again. I’ve used a hot water bottle for the first time in a decade. I think I’d genuinely forgotten how rotten those ‘peak flow days’ can make you feel, but the novelty factor is actually making it quite entertaining for now. (I suspect that will wane quickly!!!!). Flow wise they’re obviously heavier than when on the pill, but they’re not heavy by any means…again I think this is just reflective of my pre-pill days.
Oh and I get CRAZY HOT during the night before my periods start. I’d forgotten that from my teen years. I had to have the windows open one night when it was snowing. Husband was not amused.
I was convinced I was pregnant for the first month of being off the pill simply because I spent the whole time wanting to vom. I was never actually sick, but I ran to the toilet a few times and generally felt like I was on the brink of puking most of the time. I read that ‘fake pregnancy symptoms’ are very common when coming off the pill, which I guess makes sense as your hormones are all over the place. The nausea has gone now though (yey!) so I should have trusted all the medical advice that said in three months you’ll be over the worst of it all.
I started taking pre-natal supplements when I came off the pill, NOT because I’m trying to get preg (shut up mum!) but because my doctor said they’d help regulate my hormones as I came off the pill and would make the transition easier. She also said folic acid (which is in all pre-natal supplements) was important in case I did accidentally get pregnant, in fact she near enough said all sexually active women should take it ‘just in case’. (Folic acid prevents spinal and neural deformities forming in the early developmental stages of pregnancy, but the advice is to take it for at least three months before conception, which obviously most women don’t do). I’ve been taking one by Seven Seas which is basically Vitamin D, B6, B12, folic acid, biotin, iron, zinc and selenium. When I bought it on 3 for 2 it had ridiculously embarrassing packaging (literally “TRYING FOR A BABY” emblazoned across it and an actual photo of a baby) but they seem to have toned it down now to being more plain.
I’m not sure if taking these has helped make my transition so easy and I guess I’ll never know, but there hasn’t been any downside to taking them and they were cheap – less than a fiver for a month’s supply and seemingly always on 3 for 2.
I don’t know how I wouldn’t have lost my mind during this process if it wasn’t for downloading the snazzily named ‘Period Tracker Lite‘. (It’s a free app and unless you’re trying for a baby and very obsessed with data I can’t see why you’d need to upgrade to the paid version). Whilst it’s essentially a clever calendar app, it’s more helpful than that as you can track your mood and symptoms, get projected ovulation dates (a lot of people use it to have ‘safe’ unprotected sex on days they know they’re unlikely to get pregnant – I wouldn’t be comfortable recommending this in case you DO get preg but lots of people seem to trust it!), track your period lengths and see projected period dates for the future etc etc. If you’re trying for a baby, it will tell you the best time to do it. You can also tell it when you’ve shagged if you are trying for a baby, which would presumably help with dating conception if you did fall pregnant and so on.
I timed coming off the pill with a bunch of scientific papers being published on how women supposedly stop fancying their partners once off hormonal contraception. The good news? I still really fancy my husband. I still love sex. I shan’t go into more detail. (Again, hi mum!).
And I think that’s about it!
All in all I highly recommend being off Microgynon as I feel like a real person again. Granted, I don’t have the very negative side effects of periods that some women have (I’m very grateful for this) but I’ve never felt better so I can’t speak highly enough about it!
Enough oversharing for one post methinks…