Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Quitting Hormonal Birth Control - My Experience

Well, that's a rather serious blog post title! With what people might consider rather serious implications; however all is not as it seems - I am not trying to get pregnant, nor do I plan on it any time soon! I just thought I would share my story as it is something I have been very interested in lately.

Since around November I seem to have went rather 'hippie' with my approach to health and my body. It all started when I went vegetarian last March - since then I have been constantly educating myself about food and nutrition and believe that food is one of the best medicines we can use. I watch a lot of videos on veganism as, while I am not vegan, I do try and eat very little dairy etc and like to get meal ideas. While watching various videos by vegan YouTubers I stumbled across videos about hormonal birth control and why many vegans don't use it. Apart from the fact that many versions of the birth control pill contain dairy, putting artificial hormones in to your body can have so many negative side effects. It wasn't until I started watching these videos and then doing my own research that it really clicked with me how many of the symptoms I had. Some symptoms I had always attributed to my thyroid, but perhaps birth control was also having an affect too? I decided I wasn't going to use artificial hormones any more and that I would let my body get back to its normal, natural state of being.

I started taking the pill when I was around 17. Scarily enough, I took the pill in various forms for ten years - a decade! At which point I thought "Why am I taking a pill very day when I could get the implant and not worry about it?" so in September 2014 off I went to the doctor and had the Nexplanon implant inserted in to my arm. I really didn't give it too much consideration; I just thought it would be more convenient than taking a pill daily, plus the implant lasts for 3 years. Yet once I did my research I realised that the implant was affecting me much more than I thought. My main issues with it were:
  • Weight gain: (around a stone over the 16 months I had it)
  • Hair loss; (I have naturally thin hair but was losing loads)
  • Irregular periods;
  • Loss of libido; (TMI but a harsh reality - so many people complain of the same thing!)
  • Depressed mood;
  • Mood swings. (I was not fun to deal with! Apologies to my fiancé!)
I suppose as a contraceptive it was highly effective; you're definitely not going to get pregnant if you (a) have gained weight and feel self-conscious and crap, and (b) can't stand your partner touching you! I was a total nightmare. My moods were all over the place and at the time I couldn't understand why. I have always been a laid back person who enjoyed a good laugh but I felt like I was going slowly insane; being constantly grumpy and easily irritated, always putting on a show for others to make it look like I was ok... it wasn't me at all. 

I even went to the doctor several times about the low libido - I assumed it was due to my thyroid as that can affect sex drive. The first time my thyroid medication dosage was increased, with very little effect. A second visit resulted in a full blood test and hormone profile, which came back normal. A third visit resulted in a physical exam (which was normal) and talk of being referred to gynaecology and perhaps a therapist in case my issues were psychological! Honestly! Not once was it suggested that the implant might be to blame. And as for the irregular periods.... at first I went months without having any, then had one that lasted a fortnight, and after that they arrived whenever they felt like it! The last straw was in December - I had a period early in the month which was fairly light and lasted about 4 days so I thought that was me for a while, but no! Two weeks later I was in work one morning when I got the most horrific cramps - I just wanted to double over except I was in a meeting and had to grin and bear it. My period was back again, heavier than ever, and I had absolutely no provisions with me in work to deal with it. 

I had well and truly had enough and saw the doctor about having it removed. I got my implant taken out on the 12th January and already the difference is amazing. My cycle seems to have returned back to normal fairly quickly which is reassuring. I started what was either a period or a withdrawal bleed 2 days after the removal, and then I began tracking my cycle using the app Clue, which was very useful. I used cheap ovulation tests every day until I got a positive result on 6th February. I am definitely not wanting children any time soon, if at all, but it was still a relief to see a positive test and know that my body was doing what it should! I have minimal scarring from the implant, just a small red mark that I'm hoping will fade in colour over time.

Scar from implant removal - 8 days post removal
I may write future posts about what I am doing regarding contraception now that I am free from hormonal birth control, but so far I am very happy to be hormone free! My mood has improved dramatically which I am pleased about - I am more like my laid back self and much less grumpy. (Interestingly, my doctor said that the implant shouldn't cause mood swings as it is progesterone, however my own research uncovered forum threads about Nexplanon and so many women said it made them moody and grumpy and killed their libido, so I am not the only one!) I've noticed less hair loss, and libido seems to be on the right track too. My weight hasn't changed yet but I am starting back to the gym this week which will help; it is hard to shift weight with an under-active thyroid anyway! If you think that your birth control might be causing you any issues, perhaps have a think about what it might be doing to your body and consider what is best for you and your health!

I hope this has been in some way informative - let me know if you have experienced anything similar as I would be very interested in hearing other ladies' stories! 

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