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I’m Going Off Hormones

Alright, the time has come. This is the week I should start a new cycle with my NuvaRing… And won’t. I’ve decided to come off hormonal contraception. And since for some reason I feel no shame about topics like this, I’ve decided to document the process. Over the next couple of months, I’m going to let you know what happens to my body and mind as I re-adjust to my natural menstrual cycle, and become independent from artificial hormones. I’ll be sharing the good, the bad, and everything inbetween.

Lately I keep coming across more and more women who decide to come off hormonal contraception. It might be my age and the life phase I’m entering (24), but since the vast majority of these women aren’t looking to get pregnant yet, I don’t think that’s the case. I think it’s more to do with the trend of wanting everything to be more natural, and a rising aversion against long-term non-necessary synthetic hormone use. And I’m ok with that. Whatever the reason is, I’ve noticed more ladies would like to ditch their hormonal contraceptives and IMO, the more stories there are about the process, the better. Awareness, empowerment, education, you know the deal. So I’m going to add my story to the pool. Before I get started, it might be good to share a brief history of what contraceptive I’m currently on, and why.

I got together with my first boyfriend at age 18. I wasn’t on the pill (the go-to hormonal contraceptive in the Netherlands) before that, as I had no reason to. I had a normal, regular menstrual cycle with no extreme pain, I didn’t suffer from acne, wasn’t sexually active and I didn’t have any other hormone related problems that the pill could have solved. I do suffer from anxiety though, and after a couple of pregnancy scares at 18/19 (which weren’t based on much, to be honest. I was just absolutely horrified of getting pregnant) I realised I was desperate for more air-tight protection than condoms could offer. I was a bit hesitant about going on the pill, though. I don’t like taking medicine unless it’s absolutely necessary, I didn’t like the idea of flooding my body with so many hormones, and I would’ve most definitely forgotten to take the pill every now and then, had I gone on it. I’m one of those people who actually forget to brush their teeth or take their contacts out every now and then… It happens when you sleep at three different houses every week, ok?

Anyways, the pill wasn’t really an option for me. The IUD could have been an option, but getting it put in and taken out absolutely terrifies me. After doing some research I arrived at the NuvaRing, a plastic ring which is inserted into the vagina (by yourself) and disperses a smaller dose of hormones locally. It’s kept in for three weeks, after which it’s removed and you have a period. After a week a new one is inserted, and you start a new cycle. If you like, you can skip the period week and insert a new ring right after you remove the old one. I did that maybe two or three times in total, to save myself from having my period during a holiday. The ring was great for me as I only have to remember it twice a month, it’s a lighter hormonal contraceptive than the pill, and it doesn’t require a visit to the doctor’s except for the initial consultation. It’s served me well these past five years, and if I do decide to go back on a hormonal contraceptive after all of this, the NuvaRing will probably be what I choose again.

So, why have I decided to come off the NuvaRing? There are several reasons:

First and foremost, my mental health. When I first started using the NuvaRing, it was like I had a bad case of PMS for three months in a row. It was terrible. I was crying all the time, I was irritable, sad, angry… All the negative emotions, all the time. After three months that subdued, but I have had wonky mental health since. Now to be clear, I wasn’t exactly stable before, but it got worse immediately after I went on the ring. It’s hard to tell whether things got better or worse than pre-hormones after the first three months, I can’t really recall. Anyways, I’ve heard from several women who went off hormonal contraceptives that their mental well-being improved after. I’ve also heard about women going into depression after going off hormones. Anything can happen.

I’m curious to see what the change will do to my anxiety, hoping for the best of course. I’m at a point in my life right now where everything is good and stable, with a little bit of positive excitement anticipating moving in with my boyfriend soon, but not actually in the middle of moving. When I started using the NuvaRing I wasn’t really able to tell whether it was the hormones or my rather stressful circumstances at the time which were causing my bad emotional state. This time I’m prepared to document any changes in mood. I’m hoping it’ll make me more stable in time, although I’m expecting the first few months might be rocky, while my body re-adjusts.

Next reason: monthly periods. My cycle used to be around 5 or 6 weeks, and fairly regular. I have about a week/a week and a half of PMS before the bleeding starts, and then I bleed for seven days. SEVEN. DAYS. Same before and after the hormones. The bleeding has been reduced to five days since I started using a menstrual cup as opposed to pads, but still. With a 30 day cycle, that means there’s something “wrong” with me for more than half of the month: more than half of the time. I’m done with that.

Also, I feel like my PMS has been getting worse lately, to the point where I just really need to do something about it. When I have PMS, I’m so incredibly angry all the time for no reason. This bothers me of course (who wants to be angry all the time with no solution?), but I also feel bad for Robbert. I try to control it but it’s really hard and I usually do end up just being a grumpy troll for a week. That’s not what I want, especially now that we’re moving in together and he’ll have nowhere to hide 😉 There’s absolutely no guarantee that this’ll change, of course, it might actually even get worse, but I gather it’s worth a shot.

Like I mentioned above, the only reason why I’m on hormones is contraception. I never had extremely painful or irregular periods, no acne problems or any other reasons for starting hormonal contraceptives. There are other, hormone-free ways one can prevent pregnancy and I’m ready to give those a try. Condoms are the obvious choice of course and I will be using those, but I’d also like to look into the fertility awareness method. There are ways to track your ovulation and menstruation by looking at your temperature and cervical fluids, by which you can tell when you’re fertile and able to get pregnant. I know there are some apps you can use for that, but I’ve also come across the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler which I’d like to read, if only for educational purposes.

The reason why I’m only now willing to try these methods (I’ll probably end up doubling them up) is that they’re less reliable than hormonal contraception. I’m older now, have finished my education, and have a stable life. Even though we don’t wish to have a family right now, I feel like letting my body do its natural thing is worth the small risk that going off hormones poses. Should fate decide it’s time, we are now able to provide everything a small human would need. We’d definitely prefer if they wait a few more years before presenting themselves though, let’s make that clear 🙂 This is just to illustrate that where the possibility of a condom failing felt like the end of the world to me when I was 18, I’m more relaxed about it now.

Speaking of children, I’m curious to see what going off hormones will do to my wish for having them. When I was younger, I always wanted to become a young mother. Like, before age 25. All I wanted was a baby, or two or three. Around the time I went on the NuvaRing, this completely turned around and I actually wasn’t sure whether I ever wanted children at all. I’m not 100% sure this change is related to the hormones since of course I went on them because the thought of getting pregnant terrified me, but it could definitely have something to do with it. I’ve been watching Hannah Witton’s Hormone Diaries videos (highly recommend, by the way!) and when she mentioned feeling super broody a few weeks after going off the pill, I realised this might happen to me as well. We’ll see!

I’ve been using hormonal contraceptives for “only” five years, and I’ve used a low dose, so I’m not expecting anything super dramatic to happen. Still, over the next couple of months, I’m planning to document what happens to my body. Will I gain weight? Get mood swings? Acne? Will I end up with a completely different cycle and period than before the hormones?

I’d love to hear any of your stories about going off hormones, if you’re comfortable with sharing them. You’ll hear back from me on this topic in a month!

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22 thoughts on “I’m Going Off Hormones”

  1. I’ve been sexually active for 11 years and I’ve only used condoms. So far, it’s been effective or maybe I’m just sterile, haha. i doubt that, though, as my recent obgyn visit didn’t reveal any abnormalities in my genital tract.
    As someone working in the biomedical field, my personal opinion is that if you don’t really have to take hormonal contraceptives for health reasons, you should try avoiding them, especially long term, as there aren’t enough studies focusing on the long term effects (i.e. 20-30 years).

  2. Hi Lucy! I want to thank you so much for covering such topics, I feel very empowered when I see women talking about their bodies so freely. There weren’t any when I was a teen (I’m 26 now), and I feel like growing up I missed a lot of infos.
    I’ve never been on the pill, since my body does not need it (good cycle, no pain, not a lot of acne), and condoms are, for now, a good contraception for me. But thanks to you I dicovered the NuvaRing, and I’m really thinking about trying it. I’m kinda scared to put hormones in me, but giving a try will not hurt me for sure 🙂
    Thank you so much!

  3. I have never really been on the pill. A few times, to make sure I didn’t have my period on vacation, but that’s it. We use condoms, hasn’t failed yet and I’m 36 (but who knows, maybe I’m barren).

    The few times I was on the pill, was horrible. Let’s just say I’m glad I never killed anyone. I made me realize that taking hormones is just evil and I refuse to do it. Boyfriend doesn’t mind. And if at one point we have children and we’re “done”, he’ll get a vasectomy.

    Taking hormones… when you think about it, it’s just insane!! We can’t eat meat that has been treated with hormones, but women should just take them until they dry up?? Makes no sense…

  4. Hey Loepsie,
    I have been on the pill from age 15 till almost 20, which in hindsight kind of puts me off. I feel like I never really had a “normal” cicle, which isn’t true but it just had been so long. Starting early this year, I ditched the pill and it has taken really long for my period to get back to normal, sometimes having 50 days without. This might be something to have in mind, so you don’t have to wonder, I’ve read that thats completely normal, but I admit it did scare me a bit at the time.
    Thank you for sharing your experience!

  5. I have begun taking the pill three times in my life, took it for a few months and then stopped. The first time, amongst other side-effects, my hand started being very numb, which I’m not sure whether it was caused by the pill, but it started when i started taking it, and it faded very slowly after i stopped taking it. I prefer the feeling of being off hormones, hands down. It feels much better overall, less periods and no side-effects. I think that, with correct use, condoms are a quite good method of contraception.

  6. I tried 2 types of hormonal contraceptives and found my self slowly spiralling into depression both times. I only took each for a few months but it felt like forever in that state if mind. After coming off them it took a few more months to feel “normal” again. Would not recommend hormonal birth control to anyone!

  7. To jsme na tom podobně, přestala jsem s “prášky” pomalu po 10 letech letos v březnu (po státnicích, z podobných důvodů jako ty). A zatím celkem dobré, prvních několik měsíců tedy skoro pravidelné cykly, teď to trošku lítá, ale co jsem konzultovala v okolí s lidmi s podobnými zkušenostmi, tak je to normální (ale protože jsem mírně paranoidní, tak těhotenský test je jistota :D).
    Jinak jsou hodně doporučované různé ženské čaje, mě při “zpoždění” pomohla šalvěj, po dvou dnech pití dvou šálků denně se krvácení dostavilo.

      1. Dobrý nápad, já pro ně vyslala přítele (protože než bych se já odhodlala tak se to potenciální děcko narodí 😀 ).

  8. Hello!

    What an interesting topic! I myself have no personal experience of hormonal contraceptives, but my friends (we are in our 30s) have shared some of theirs.

    My best friend is on the pill because of long-term acne. Once she had to go off of her medication for some time and for her the experience was not easy. Painful acne breakouts, mood swings and weight gain. All was well when she was back on the pill again.

    Another friend of mine got a terrible rash when going off of the pill when trying their first child. But to her surprise, that never happened again when going off of the pill for trying their second and third child.

    Yet another friend of mine went off of hormonal contraception after 10 years and said it was the best thing she has done.

    So, in the light of the statistics of my heard experiences, these things can go in every way. Out of 3 ladies 1 gets a bad reaction, 1 gets it only one time and 1 doesn’t get it at all.

    Thank you for documenting things like these and providing useful information for ladies around the globe! 🙂

    Love from Finland!
    Lily ♥

  9. I don’t know what it is like being on hormonal birth control. I’ve never taken any form it. Personal health choice. Although, I have had health issues that might have been helped by being on the pill. I have terrible dysmenorrhea (painful and heavy, but usually regular in timing), but seems mostly due to iron deficiency and muscle problems. And, you can’t treat anemia with the pill. I guess it might have helped my acne? I just don’t want subject my body to it. I’ve had doctors suggest the option of hormonal birth control, had an argument with one of them. I don’t like thinking about potential longer term side effects. It’s enough to remember to take vitamin pills and my iron and B12 pills regularly. I take as little medication as I can get away with, and don’t like doctors visits. I have bad luck with medical professionals in general.

    So, I choose to treat or minimize my symptoms in other ways. I limit some of my activities close to the time of my period. But, I am very in tune to my body. I usually know what I need based on how I’m feeling, and I know my limits.

  10. I’m in the same situation as you! I’m 23 and I’ve been on the pill since I was 19. Every now and then I’ve been thinking of getting out of the pill. I havent had serious issues with it, but having a pseudo period (because we don’t actually ovulate) of 2 days is rather frightening. I also noticed my libido has gone down a lot, which in the end could affect my relationship with my boyfriend. I don’t want to get to that point in which I feel no sexual desire. I still don’t want to have children and right now it wouldn’t be a suitable time for that. I’m thinking on getting the copper T (which scares me a little but it’s safe and hormone free).
    Quick tip: start reinforcing your liver by eating dark leafy greens, garlic, lemon and a supplement if necessary (Vitex os highly recommended). It will help with the adjustment.
    I’ll be waiting for your updates!

    Big hug from Chile 🙂

  11. Good luck Lucy! I’ll be interested to hear about your journey. I think whatever works for you and whatever you decide is a great decision, and it’s cool that you’re so open about it. Women are so different, it seems so obvious, but it always amazes me too. I’ve been on the pill for over 20 years & I love it! I have a short, light menstrual cycle. I have no negative side effects like acne or mood issues. I only went off for 1 year while trying to get pregnant, and stayed off until I was done breastfeeding. We have one son and are “one and done” with kids! I went right back on the pill as quick as I could because I do not want anymore kids. Eventually, I’d like my husband to have a vasectomy once he gets over his big-baby self, but even then, I’d still stay on the pill as long as I can before menopause because it benefits me so much.

  12. I was on Depo (the shot) for 7 years and went off it as it was leeching calcium from my bones. I had Mirena (IUD) for 3 years but it was scary with heart palpitations and awful thoughts so I got off that. It took over a year for my period to come back and get back to normal.
    I’m in my 30’s and after 15 years together, my partner and I finally knew it was time for him to get a vasectomy since neither of us has ever wanted children. Three years later we are both happy with the choice even though I’m constantly asked why.
    I commend you on deciding that you know what is best for your body and mental health. 🙂

  13. Hello Lucy,
    I recently started taking hormonal contraceprive pills due to my hormonal problems (PCO). I am 23. Before the pills I had terrible mood swings, anxiety attacks, couldn’t even focus for more than 10 minutes (this is the main reason I haven’t finished my studies yet – it was THAT bad). I’m on my pills for like a few months now and I can tell, I feel like a miracle has happend. So hormons really ARE that important for us all, women mostly. I don’t know much about Your PMS history but I would recommend seeing a doctor because it might have a connection. Hope You’ll feel better after going off hormons!
    PS. I have two close friends who were on a pill once. None of them felt worse after going off; one of them just has a stable cycle 🙂
    I wish You all the best, Lucy!

    1. Ah I’m glad the pill is working so well for you! I can definitely see it’s vital to some women, and I’m really glad the option exists 🙂

  14. I started taking the pill the moment I became sexually active, so at 20 in my case, and I stopped when I was 23. My mood was bad and I was gaining weight (though I still struggle with my weight, I still think it was related). After I stopped, I had my period twice, and then stopped for a year. I did not have my period for a whole year. (I tell you, cheap! And convenient because I didn’t have pms as well). Before the pill I had my period every five weeks, now it is about four weeks. Still I feel better off than on the pill. I still have hope my body will give me the five week schedule again… oh, right now, I’m about to turn 25. As a contraceptive I use condoms and so far it has been effective.
    I hope you won’t have the hassle like I had, otherwise this project will take up more than just a couple of months.

    1. I heard it can take over a year for your cycle to normalise, we’ll see how long it takes for me 🙂 Glad to hear you’re feeling good!

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