I’ve waited a couple of months to write about this, and I’ll probably write more about it as time goes on. But yeah…I stopped taking birth control.
Before I explain why I stopped, I’ll briefly talk about my experience with birth control.
I began taking a birth control pill at age 16 after experiencing a traumatic menstrual cycle. I remember my period as always being horrendous, which is typical of young cycles that are still regulating, but one day it was truly, without a doubt, a bad period.
I was in high school and had bled through a tampon and a pad and onto my pants. Fortunately, I was wearing dark jean shorts so it wasn’t terribly noticeable, nevertheless, I went home early and went to the doctor to figure out what was happening. At that point, I was bleeding through super plus tampons and pads (worn at the same time) and through my pants in about an hour because I was having clots way larger than the size of a quarter.
After bleeding all over the seat at the doctor’s office while getting blood work, my doctor recommended I take birth control. She also informed me that I have PCOS, but my OBGYN did not get those same results.
Then I took birth control regularly until I was 19. My skin had cleared up a bit and I was pleased with having a regulated cycle. But one day, in a Gender Studies class, we were talking about birth control and I realized nearly everyone was on one form or another. This upset me because I thought it was fucked up (because it is but I didn’t realize why at the time), so I abruptly stopped.
On my 20th birthday, my menstrual clots returned, although not as severely, but I decided I needed to get back on the pill.
I did not bleed at all until the last few months before I finally quit. During the last few months, I was spotting for months because I couldn’t take my birth control at the same time every day. I felt oral birth control was such a hassle because of this, and I was suffering from breakouts which in my opinion, had gotten worse, too.
Then, in early 2018, I broke up with my birth control again, but this time it’s for good. Unlike the last time though, I have been reading quite a bit about menstruation and doing my best to have a happy period. So far, I’ve been successful.
How have I been successful?
My Yoga journey introduced me to a book by Lara Biden called Period Repair Manual: Natural Treatment for Better Hormones and Better Periods. This book has been the ultimate guide for me toward having a healthy period, in addition to other articles I’ve read online.
I haven’t finished the book yet, but I’m more than halfway through. What I’ve learned thus far is that your digestive system and your menstrual cycle are related. If you eat poorly, your period, which is a reflection of your diet from about three months prior, will be affected. Thus, diet is essential for having a healthy period!
There are five inflammatory foods that will hurt your menstrual cycle, and they are: sugar, alcohol, wheat, dairy, and vegetable oil.
Even if you don’t have sensitivities to these ingredients, they are still inflammatory to your body. So, I decided to play around with reducing or avoiding some of these food groups entirely.
I started by limiting, and then completely cutting out dairy. I thought it was going to be difficult to avoid dairy, but for me, it hasn’t been a challenge. The only time I’ve struggled is when people around me want to get pizza or if I’m at an Italian restaurant that has a limited menu of mostly cheesy items.
Otherwise, I’ve easily swapped out regular milk for almond or rice milk, and I haven’t missed eating cheese because I can still eat cheese! It just can’t be from a cow. For example, I enjoy goat cheese spread on toast for breakfast and I can eat parmesan because it’s such a dry cheese that any dairy in it doesn’t affect my skin.
My skin seemed to improve when I cut out dairy, and my menstrual cycle was relatively smooth with less PMS every month that passed, and shorter cramps. While I was satisfied with the changes I made in my diet, I had developed acne on my neck, which I never had before. It took me a couple of months to realize it wasn’t my hair or my hair products, but that it must be my diet again.
Thus, I decided to try limiting my sugar intake. This has been the most difficult obstacle for me because I love sweets! I eat copious amounts of chocolate daily, I love cookies, dairy-free ice cream, sweetened beverages, cocktails (which have lots of sugar), etc. Once I switched from eating desserts to eating mostly fruit and chocolate when I want something sweet, the acne on my neck disappeared, as well as any lingering acne on my face that kept cropping up. I also use honey instead of white sugar because while they’re both considered added sugar, I think my body responds better to honey.
While my skin and my menstrual cycle isn’t perfect yet, I have noticed how these dietary changes have changed my body. I’m still at the beginning of this journey but I’m pleased with the progress I have made so far.
For the record, I’m not recommending that you stop taking birth control and mess with your diet without consulting a doctor first. I am not a doctor and I am not offering medical advice. Please consult a doctor before stopping birth control.