Why I stopped taking the contraceptive pill
I’m writing this blog because I used to take the pill without any idea of what it was actually doing to my body…
After a health scare at the age of 26, I started seriously researching and learning more about the pill and how it worked. That’s when I decided to stop taking it, and I’ve never been so happy with a decision about my health - ever! I haven’t looked back since.
Now I’m certainly not saying that no one should ever take it - I believe there are certain circumstances where it might be the best choice for you, and I also strongly believe you have a right to make that decision for yourself.
But I have come to realise, over many years of coaching women in the areas of health and wellbeing, that most women don’t understand how the contraceptive pill actually works! That’s why I’m writing this - so you can make an educated decision on what’s right for you based on the facts.
What is scary to me is when a pharmaceutical product, like the pill, is used as a bandaid fix to mask something problematic occurring in the body, solely because the person feels like the problem can (or should) be corrected. This can cause short-term issues in the body, but most scarily, have long-term consequences.
In order to tell you the full story about why I stopped taking the pill, I first have to tell you how I came to start taking it in the first place.
Why I started taking the pill
I was never the type to love “that time of the month”, in fact I hated it! I was annoyed with my body every time I got my period, and I would be angry at being put out every month… I felt like it ruined my plans and only served to make me feel like crap for 5-7 days.
I was never educated around our cycles or how and why our body works the way it does. I was completely unaware of the beauty of our female reproductive system, and had no in-depth understanding of why we had to menstruate at all.
I remember briefly being warned that “it” would come at some point in middle school, which was both a terrifying and exciting thought at that young age… Until it actually did arrive and it was no longer exciting - just terrifying.
The day I first got my period, at age 13, I also began my period-hating journey. Along with this came the body hate and shame that has really only stopped for me this year at the age of 31... That’s a hell of a lot of built-up body hate to deal with (and I know for a fact that most women have similar experiences.)
All I remember thinking back when I was in school was “PHEW, I’M NOT PREGNANT!” every single month, even though I wasn’t sexually active anyway (lol... Did any else worry they’d accidently fall pregnant some weird way when they were in early high school?)
Every month my period came, I felt ashamed, embarrassed, annoyed and pissed off that I couldn’t live my life without worrying, and I couldn’t swim. I’d avoid water like the plague because I was mortified at the thought of sharks eating me in the ocean, or an accident happening in the school lap pool.
When I was 18, I was told by a girlfriend she was skipping her period because she was on the pill. I felt like I had been living under a rock - how did I not know about this magical pill!? So I immediately booked an appointment with my GP, stormed in there, and demanded I be allowed to take the pill immediately so I could finally banish my period from my life.
Looking back, I’m actually shocked at how easy it was for me to get it. My doctor asked me a couple of questions, then wrote me a script and I was out of there! Less than 5 minutes later I was skipping into the pharmacy next door, cheering like I had just won a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.
That’s where my contraceptive journey started and I WISH I knew then what I know now.
As I mentioned earlier, my intention for this blog isn’t to stop you from taking the pill. I know this can be a touchy subject and I’ve been privy to pro-contraceptive keyboard warriors many times before... so before you rage, take a breath, chill out and just hear my experience and what I’ve got to say - this blog is intended purely to share my personal journey and empower women around the world to do their research so they can make an informed choice on contraception.
Maybe this can even open your heart to the possibility of falling head over heels in love with your natural cycle (although I feel like I need to write a separate blog on that one!)
Let’s start off by looking at how the oral contraceptive pill really works.
How the contraceptive pill works
The oral contraceptive pill is the most used pharmaceutical in the world. Your GP will whip up a script, usually for women with acne, endometriosis, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), heavy and painful period bleeding, and of course, as a way to stop you from falling pregnant.
The pill’s main job is to prevent ovulation - you can’t get pregnant if you don’t ovulate.
It does this by supplying the body with a synthetic form of the hormone progesterone, as well as estrogen.
Hormones from the pituitary gland in our brain control ovulation when a woman is not on the pill. But when a woman IS on the pill, the levels of sex hormones from the pill in the blood tell the pituitary gland that ovulation has already taken place. The pituitary gland then gets confused and doesn’t send the necessary signals to the ovaries to tell them to ovulate.
In simple terms, the pituitary gland stops all communication with the ovaries, and the ovaries no longer do much at all since ovulation is suppressed.
The book that was pivotal for me and my education around this was “Rushing Women’s Syndrome” by Dr. Libby Weaver (my ultimate girl crush). This was the best book I have ever read in regards to my health and I implemented some awesome things after reading it!
Years (or sometimes decades) after being on the pill, there might come a time when you want to come off it. Maybe, like myself, you decide you want to come off contraception to take a break for your health, or maybe you want to fall pregnant.
For some women the communication pathways can be re-established immediately, but for others it can take months, or even years.
That thought scared me. The idea that a pharmaceutical could have such a huge effect on my body for years to come made me wonder if I was making the right decision for my health. That’s when I decided to look into what would happen if I came off the pill and allowed my body to function like it was designed to. I became seriously curious, but I hadn’t actually made a decision to stop taking it yet.
Then I had a health scare.
I was working one morning and I lost vision in my right eye while I was looking after a patient in theatre. It was the scariest thing I have ever experienced.
It was the lower left quadrant of my right eye and I was sent home in a cab (because I couldn’t drive) and went straight to a specialist. My vision returned after 24 hours, but after crazy tests and a few thousand dollars, my specialist suggested I try coming off the pill.
The risk of an embolism (a blood clot), which can be fatal, is 10 times higher in women who take the pill compared to those who aren’t taking it. An embolism can cause a heart attack, a stroke, and… loss of vision. It wasn’t confirmed if I had a stroke or an embolism, but it was enough for me to say “enough’s enough.”
Another fact you may not know about the oral contraceptive pill is that it can majorly mess with your gut bacteria! It can affect nutrient absorption and digestion, so although some women take the pill for acne, if it’s causing havoc in your gut the pill won’t do anything for your skin!
The pill also depletes your body of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, such as magnesium, B vitamins and vitamin C, causing major disruption to an abundance of systems in our body which cover energy, sleep, recovery, immune function, and so much more.
What happens when you go off the pill
My skin, hormones and gut health went a little crazy for some time after going off the pill. If you’re worried that your skin might break out or you might gain weight by going off the pill, my suggestion is to do some work on the systems that support good hormonal balance for at least three months before coming off the pill.
For at least three months your body won’t be able to restore your natural levels of estrogen, progesterone, and the hormones made by the pituitary gland - luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). This is because the pill will continue to run the show when it comes to your hormones.
So yes, coming off the pill can be a tough few months - but in my opinion that’s nothing compared to a life of health, vitality and naturally balanced hormones. The good news it you can still support your body through this time and make the transition easier.
How to support your body coming off the pill
One thing you can do is to support your adrenals. Adrenal support is necessary because the adrenals are the only place you make natural progesterone while you are on the pill.
Things like actively decreasing stress, anxiety and overwhelm are so important, minimising the pressure you put on yourself (is clearing your inbox and crossing off the to-do list really going to change your life today?), deep diaphragmatic breathing practices, meditation, movement practices like yoga / tai chi / pilates and other things that soothe your soul will 100% help.
Also, upping your intake of phytonutrients (think bucket-loads of veggies, fruit and berries) will be insanely important for you at this time.
This is a big reason why I began taking my whole food nutraceuticals in the first place, and why I 100% advocate the partner product I use in my program. Our nutraceuticals are a beautiful combination of all the right things that help my clients, particularly women, balance their hormones and get their bodies back to normal!
Another thing you will need to do is to support your liver so that the synthetic estrogen build up in your body from the pill can be efficiently eliminated from the body - this happens via the urine and faeces.
This elimination is really important, otherwise you run the risk of this build up not being recycled and potentially being stored in your body as fat.
Cruciferous greens, eating in a way that focuses on whole, real foods and minimising substances that add to the liver’s toxic load (alcohol, caffeine, refined sugars, synthetic substances, and trans fats) will go a long way for your health.
So the biggest things that are going to help you transition easier to pill-free life are things that balance your hormones and cleanse your body!
Once again, I’ll remind you that I’m not writing this to scare you into going off the pill… I just want you to understand how it works, plus the risks (that doctors hardly ever tell us about!) so you can make an informed decision on what is right for you.
To be honest, the health tips above are important to consider for all of us, whether you’re currently on the pill with no intention to go off anytime soon, or whether you’ve never taken it at all! You can always spend more time looking after yourself, maximising your energy and nurturing your health and hormones in the best way possible for you.
That’s what we’re all about in my 16-week online holistic health program, the Healthstyle Emporium. It’s full to the brim of resources and programs you can use to nourish your mind, body and soul. We often talk about important health topics like this one, and we’re always open and supportive of everyone’s individual choices.
Inside the HSE, we’ve got meal planners, meditations, exercise routines, recipes, challenges and so much more to help you transform and feel empowered as you take complete control of your health and wellness journey!
When you join, you’ll also receive our whole food nutraceuticals so that you can support your health with the goodness of phytonutrients and the hormone balancing properties of fruits, vegetables, berries and omegas.
To see if the HSE program can help you reach your health and wellness goals, just click here to book a free 15 min discovery call with me.
I hope this blog on my personal experience with the contraceptive pill has served you today.