Around 19 years old, I decided to go on the pill. It might have been for acne. It might also have been because my boyfriend at the time wanted to go all the way and I was ready to do it like in a Katy Perry song. Either way, since swallowing my first dose of estrogen and progestin, I’ve been regulating my body’s baby-making ways by dutifully taking a tiny pill at around 10 p.m. everyday for a little more than 10 years.
It Seems Your Doctor Can’t Choose Your Birth Control
Asking your doctor (ar at least mine) whether you might want to take a break from the pill is a lesson in not getting an answer, especially when your reasons include nothing more than being happily single, pretty sure you never want to have kids, and wondering if facing the rest of your child-bearing existence pumped full of synthetic hormones is a good choice. Also, staying on the pill is most appealing because you remember what your skin was like during that brief two months you went off it because you forgot to refill your precription. I still have scars from that break-out of what my mom called “Angry Red Planets.”
Here’s What My Doctor Told Me & What this Blog Post I Found Confirms
- Taking birth control pills until you hit menopause is okay.
- Prolonged use of birth control pills increases the risk of cervical cancer and liver cancer.
- That said, it decreases your risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer.
- It is thought that oral contraceptives slightly increase the risk of breast cancer, but ten years after stopping the pill, the risk returned down to a level similar to if a woman had never taken birth control.
So basically, staying on the pill isn’t the worst thing you could ever do, and it reduces your risk for two cancers, but increases your risk for another two, so you break even. But here’s the thing that has been niggling at me for a couple of years now: hormonal birth control can kill your sex drive, and change the type of person to whom you are attracted.
No, I’m not blaming my relationship failures on hormonal birth control, but when so many relationship decisions are based on gut feeling, what happens if you can’t trust some of that gut? What’s more, I suffer chronic headaches and had read somehwere that birth control could be a factor. Some people also find that it affects mood in not so fun ways, and as a person with depression, it’s enough to make you wonder.
Waiting for The Communists
So I went off the pill. Single, not really looking to date (i.e. no where close to having the baby-making sex), and frankly, curious as to what would happen, I didn’t start a new pack one Sunday after a period. Now, anyone who understands a little about hormonal birth control knows that the period you have when you’re on the pill isn’t a true period. I was warned that my first period following the pill had the potential to be like The Somme in terms of uterine violence and sheer volume of blood.
So I waited. Seven weeks. And then I had a period that was about the same as what I’d had on the pill, only less predictable as to when it would start. I spent the seven weeks I was waiting trying to decide if certain emotions were part of my cycle or just me being slightly off my rocker that day.
Cycling Again and It Is Weird
Once I started that first period, I downloaded one of those period tracker apps and I’ve been obsessive about collecting data. So far, my cycle averages 29 days and my period lasts a reasonable four days, with two of those being not-even-close-to-heavy. My vanity is pleased to see that my skin has not broken out; what’s more, I feel like I have fewer zits off the pill than on it, though it’s still early days.
What I’ve been most fascinated with is my emotions and libido. As I write this, I am experiencing what I suspect is my first bout with PMS in ten years. The pill, bless it, removed any PMS symptoms. All today, I’ve felt as if I would burst through my skin. I was anxious. Near tears at one point, and seemed to have the attention span of a kitten. As far as my libido, it has definitely improved.
What’s funny is that before this experiment, I was feeling very Liz Lemon about sexy times and dating: it wasn’t for me, at least for the moment. I was not finding my usual type attractive and frankly, even the thought of a naked visit from Ryan Gosling seemed like too much work.
Off the pill, however, I’ve been much more likely to, as the kids say, check someone out. All sorts of dudes seem attractive to me, and it’s kind of fun. It’s something I haven’t felt in a really long time.
As for the headaches? Still there, but they do seem to have dropped off in severity and frequency, which is a relief. I can’t say much about how going off the pill has impacted my emotions, but I haven’t felt remotely depressed in the three months I’ve been off of it (though I suspect that has more to do with being in an awesome place in my life more than anything.)
Well, this is purely, as the sciency-folks say, anecdotal evidence. Birth control is a very personal thing, as is everyone’s reactions to being on or off of it, but so far, I’ve been okay with what my body has been doing. I’ll probably change my mind whenver I decide to start dating again, but this experiment has made me more interested in pursuing non-hormonal birth control.
So if you’re thinking about taking the plunge and going off the pill, give it a go, though, you know, if you’re having sex and don’t want kids, be sure to be extra good about using condoms or other form of non-hormonal birth control.
Have any of you ladies on the pill for forever gone off of it lately? What was your experience like?