It’s official…I’m drug free! And by drug, I mean hormonal birth control. I first began questioning the use of hormonal birth control after listening to a podcast discussing some of the common and uncommonly known side effects. The wheels began to turn, but I was not ready to give up what was seemingly such an easy, effective and innocent form of birth control.
Like many lessons in life, it took my own poor experience with hormonal birth control along with significantly more education on the topic to finally make the decision to go off of hormonal birth control all together.
My Experience with Hormonal Birth Control
I used the Skyla IUD implant for 3 years and, I have to say, looking back it is hard to pinpoint any specific symptoms. Common side effects of hormonal birth control are anxiety, depression, nutrient malabsorption, nutrient deficiencies (and the host of ailments that accompany deficiencies), weight gain, etc.
At the time I first started hormonal birth control, I was a junior in college facing the standard stress of college life and an already poor diet. Did I begin to experience any of these symptoms during that time? Yes, absolutely. But with so many other stressors in my life recognizing a connection was difficult. It was not until just over a year ago that I really began to see a clear correlation.
In January of 2018, I went to see my gynecologist to change my Skyla for the Mirena IUD. The Skyla is good for 3 years and it was time to replace it. As the Mirena lasts for 5 years (and trust me there are no plans for children for at least twice that length of time) I decided to switch from the Skyla to the Mirena.
My Symptoms from hormonal birth control:
- Painful cramping
- Ovarian cysts
- Depressive thoughts
- Less patience
- Uncontrollable emotion
- Easily fatigued
- Slow recovery
- Easily scared or startled
For any who are using or have used IUD implants, you know that it is normal to experience cramping, discomfort and spotting for up to two months after insertion. Unfortunately, my pain was much more drawn out. I had almost daily cramping (that is not an exaggeration) for an entire year as well as the development of multiple cysts on both of my ovaries. I noticed I felt extremely tense, easily fatigued and slow to recover from both physical or mental exertion, much less patient and often times not in full control of my emotions.
As someone who does not struggle with anxiety, depression or anger I was beginning to feel like I didn’t even know myself anymore. Who was I and why was I suddenly losing control of myself?
I visited my gynecologist at least 4 times throughout the year to have ultrasounds on the cysts, ultrasounds to make sure the Mirena was in place properly and discussions as to why I was having these symptoms. My gyno ensured me that these symptoms were normal and nothing to worry about. After all, the cysts were completely benign….How very comforting…
After an entire year of these almost unbearable symptoms I decided to have the Mirena removed. I kid you not, from the moment the Mirena was removed my physical pain was gone. The relief of not being in constant pain was unbelievable. My intention was to try going back to the Skyla, but I was so scarred from the experience I did not return to my gynecologist for another 6 months.
The Turning Point
Just over a month and a half ago, I made an appointment with my gynecologist to have the Skyla implant inserted. My body and mind had finally seemed to recover from the nightmare of the year before. Following insertion I had severe (the worst cramping pain I have ever felt in my life) cramps for a month straight. Again, the gyno assured me this was completely normal and should cease after another month or so.Naive as ever, I clenched my teeth and readied myself to continue enduring the pain.
What began to raise warning flags in my mind was the sudden return of my irritability, anxiety, mood swings and seemingly uncontrollable emotions. I had not even realized that these symptoms were gone until they had returned again! I paused and realized that I had not felt any of these things the last 6 months that I was not on hormonal birth control, yet these were the exact same symptoms I had experienced the previous year while I was using the Mirena.
During this past month with the Skyla I accidentally stumbled across another podcast on the effects of hormonal birth control and things really began to click for me. The timing of this information was so coincidental I couldn’t help but pay attention to it. I then purchased several books (Beyond the Pill, Sweetening the Pill) discussing the topic of hormonal birth control much more in depth and was left stunned at the scientific data proving that my many symptoms were in fact real and being experience by hundreds of thousands of women worldwide. It was like a light bulb went on in my head.
I knew it was finally time to listen to the signs my body had been giving me all along. Signs screaming that this was causing harm to me in a multitude of ways. I am now completely free of hormonal birth control and I cannot even begin to explain the relief coursing through my veins.
As someone who majored in Public Health and worked as a research assistant during my undergrad, I am very comfortable reading through research articles and distinguishing between credible and not-credible studies. Having read through the information both in the books below as well as specific research articles, I am honestly shocked at the lack of information I was given from my gynecologist. Along with this, how quickly my symptoms were cast aside as insignificant. Just because ovarian cysts are a “normal” side effect of hormonal birth control does not mean they should be considered “okay”. I could go on ranting about the lack of education provided by many medical professionals, but instead I will leave you with this…
I learned an important lesson that my health is ultimately my responsibility. My own knowledge on what goes into or on my body is MY RESPONSIBILITY. While I am sure there are many doctors who provide thorough information to patients, I need to take the initiative in educating myself and not simply rely on my doctor to share everything with me. Health and wellness begins at home and to be honest, at this day in age, with unlimited resources at our fingertips, we have no excuse not to educate ourselves.
And you know what? I feel pretty damn empowered having gone through this journey of self education. Now, I can share what I have learned with you and hopefully inspire you to dive deeper into your own wellness journey through greater learning!
Books on Hormonal Birth Control:
- Beyond the Pill by Dr. Jolene Brighten
- Sweetening the Pill: How We Got Hooked on Hormonal Birth Control by Holly Grigg-Spall
Current Birth Control
After much reading, I have decided to use the Daysy Fertility Tracker as my main method of natural birth control. For more information on the Daysy, here is an amazing podcast on hormonal birth control and a complete description of the Daysy Fertility Tracker.
I hope you found this article informative and I would love to hear any comments from women who are currently on hormonal birth control or who have also decided to give it up! I am just as eager to learn from your own knowledge as I am to share my own!