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It can be an overwhelming and scary decision to come off the hormonal birth control pill. For me it was one of the best decisions I ever made and wish I’d done it sooner.
In 2022 I finally stopped taking the hormonal birth control pill. I had been taking the combined pill Microgynon for just over 10 years. I first started taking it due to uncomfortable and heavy periods and was moving to Switzerland to work. I didn’t want to have to continue putting up with the same symptoms and unpredictable nature of my periods any longer and made a trip to my GP for help.
Contrary to the GP I had visited in my twenties about my heavy and uncomfortable periods, this GP was understanding and prescribed me the medication, but didn’t linger too long on any side effects and best practices. I learned that when I got the medication from the pharmacy and read the enclosed leaflet. Nothing seemed to jump out at me to warrant any concern and so I started to take the pill as prescribed.
When my periods became regular and lighter I berated myself for not standing up for myself before. I was disappointed that the first GP I had seen didn’t want to prescribe me the pill for cultural rather than medical reasons. He could have saved me over 15 years of pain and misery.
Something many women I knew had experienced when taking the pill was that the often documented hormonal ups and downs of our cycle seemed to disappear. However, this wasn’t my experience. In fact I started to see these different stages of my cycle much more clearly. I felt more irritable and craved sugar the week or so before my period began. I felt extremely tired the first few days of my period. And once my period was finished for the month, I had boundless amounts of energy. This was different to how I had felt before taking the pill. I had constantly been feeling lethargic and angry for most of the time, so this was a welcome change!
When I hit my late 40’s I started to think about the next stage of womanhood - the menopause. I had had a few of the peri-menopause symptoms that women talk about: night sweats (although not extreme); brain fog; aching bones. Aside from bouts of feeling extreme rage (which I put down to frustration of my job at the time), I can’t say that I felt any different and at times I wondered if I was experiencing peri-menopause at all.
I read the book ‘Period Power’ by Maisie Hill in 2020 and felt sad that this book hadn’t been around when I started my periods as a 12 year old in secondary school. It was extremely informative and would have provided the information and reassurance that I didn’t get from the women in my family or teachers at my school.
Reading the book made me realise how disconnected I was with my own body and the wonderful things it goes through as I journey through life. I didn’t want to blindly go into the next stage of my life. I wanted to be able to feel what my body was going through and hold it through its journey.
With one thing and another (pandemic anyone!) I kept putting off the inevitable. I decided to discuss with the Practice Nurse at my GP what I wanted to do and she advised that if I had no side effects from the pill, there was no reason that I couldn’t keep taking the pill until I was 52 when they would recommend to stop taking it for menopausal women. In fact she suggested it would help with peri-menopausal symptoms. I wondered if that’s why I hadn’t been feeling symptoms as extreme as other women around my age.
Her suggestion put another kink in my plan and made me rethink my decision. It took another year or so before I finally made the decision to stop taking the hormonal birth control pill.
Before I did so I decided to get some support from someone who specialised in this type of thing. Being a coach myself, I know that there are times when we can’t do things alone and the support and encouragement of someone else who has been through what we’re going through can be comforting.
Luckily for me, I knew just the person. I met Sophia through a 4 month coaching programme. She is a period and hormone specialist and regularly spoke and coached women in hormonal health for better periods. As if the Universe was listening to my intentions, Sophia was running a masterclass on hormonal health and so I signed up.
The masterclass was eye-opening and made me even more determined to stop taking the pill and start to reconnect with my cycle and myself. I hired Sophia as a 1:1 coach for 3 months.
I was still taking the pill to begin with as Sophia took me through a liver detox programme. She did encourage me to come off the pill even though I had concerns that my periods would return to their pre-pill state and be uncomfortable and heavy. I can’t lie, I had a great deal of resistance to some of what Sophia was taking me through until I had my first period post-pill.
It was so different to anything I’d experienced before. I felt all the different stages of my cycle just as I had when I was on the pill. I felt a deeper connection to myself and really took care of myself for the first few days of my period. I didn’t try to ‘power through’ any discomfort like I usually did but took the time to nurture myself and my body just as Sophia had advised me to. It was the first time I actually enjoyed my period and didn’t see it as an inconvenience!
For the next few months, my period arrived when I expected it to and apart from some initial cramps, it was painless, light and welcome. Again I started to wish that this type of help had been available when I was younger. It may have helped me appreciate my womanhood rather than be at odds with it.
Since then, my periods have been regular. They have been light and relatively pain free. I have been able to experience the different stages of my cycle through tracking my emotions and feelings.
Coming off the hormonal birth control pill has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. I have grown to accept and love myself more deeply. I have learned to work with my cycle and have deeper compassion for myself. I have allowed myself to rest when needed. I have learned to lean into my feminine energy more.
The journey has complimented my journey with nervous system work, sovereignty and self acceptance. I’m glad that I had a great support along the way.
If you would like help with your periods and hormones, you can find Sophia on Instagram. Her handle is @sotremendous.
Or, if you would like support with your nervous system, feel free to reach out to me via email.