I started oral contraceptives—birth control pills—in September 2015, and stopped in the third week of November 2016. I was on Alesse’s 21-day packet that included 7 days “off” that lacked the hormonal contraceptives and was supposed to simulate a period.
Why I started
Well, the most obvious reason was the sexual health and not getting pregnant. But my PMS symptoms were getting really bad. The change in hormone levels made me moody and really affected my depression. In a way, I used the birth control as a form of mental health: I was not capable of handling the emotional changes that come with menstruation. For the first few months of 2016, I went to therapy once a week and finally learned some tools to deal with my mental illness. The birth control helped to balance out everything, and I was able to get more in-tune with how my emotions and mental state were affected by hormones. It was easier for me to see what was depression, binge-eating, and trauma—and what was simply change in hormones. My acne was also causing me a lot of stress and body image issues, and I knew taking birth control could help with that.
How it affected me
I knew I would go through a transition phase as my body got used to the change in hormones. It lasted 3 months, actually, and my withdrawal bleeding (like a period, but an egg doesn’t get released) was incredibly sporadic. My mood was also very up and down, although mostly up. But aside from that, I felt fairly normal. I moved around when I took the contraceptives and the placebo pills a few times, to coincide with when I’d be seeing my boyfriend, or to stretch out the pack until my next refill. The only downside was the 7-days-off: I would have breakouts more easily, my overall body odour was a lot stronger, and the bleeding was a bit sporadic. Sometimes the withdrawal bleeding (the simulated period) would come a few days before the 7-days-off pills; sometimes not at all; sometimes longer than the placebo pills; and sometimes just as scheduled. I thought this was caused by the change-arounds I did, but it happened when I was taking the pills on a schedule too.
Why I stopped
First and foremost, my coverage and prescription both ended and I would have been paying about thrice as much for the pills. But I decided not to get a refill for reasons other than finances. I want to see how my mental health would be with the natural hormone balance in my body. I’m also curious to see how my skin handles the difference. The main reason, though, was to get out of the 7-days-off transition. It was a little unpredictable, with the odour, acne, and bleeding. I could look into different brands with different levels of estrogen/progesterone, but I don’t want to go through the larger normalisation period again, or risk a birth control pill that doesn’t work or have more intense negative reactions with me. I also felt that nearly a year and a half was a good span of time considering the reasons I went on to the pill. I also kind of missed having my period, complaining about cramps, and the joy of wearing cute panties again without fear.
If I need to in the future, I would definitely go back onto the pill. I might not use the same brand, but I might stick with it just because I know what to expect.