It was December 2019 when I took the pill for the last time. I’d been thinking about it for a while. I was 27, in a long-term relationship and people were starting to ask: “When are you having kids? What are you waiting for? You don’t want to leave it too long!” Which is rude in itself, but anyway, I digress.
In the spirit of establishing a bit of background, I must confess that I never had any problems on the pill, which I know is not the case for many women. It was the classic story: I had a boyfriend at 17, was prescribed Mircogynon by the nurse at the clinic at Boots and I’d taken it ever since. Every single day I was popping that pill without really thinking about it. I even – and don’t judge me here, dearest reader – skipped the pill free weeks, probably for about two years straight (maybe more?). Because if you’re given the option of missing your period and not buying tampons, you’re gonna take it, right?!
It’s only really writing this now that I can reflect on how it affected me. Because at the time, EVERYONE was on it. And not even on any other type of pill either. We carried those little green packets almost like badges of honour. But we had issues. Anxiety and depression weaved its way
through all of my friends, myself included. Some of us seriously severe. But never, never did I put it down to the Pill – I just thought I was crazy.
Fast forward ten years and the conversations within my social group were beginning to change. I had a friend who had suspected Endometriosis following a completely natural vegan lifestyle to help tackle her crippling menstrual pains (she’s now pregnant). Another who was told she had a risk of blood clotting and was advised to switch from the pill to a hormone-free IUD. And two friends who both had Polycystic Ovary Syndrome – one of them hadn’t had periods for years and swore dairy made her symptoms worse, and the other was told she’d struggle to have children (and FYI, she’s just had a baby). In a group of five, what were the odds that everyone else had a problem but not me? What if the pill was masking an issue that I had no idea about?
I had originally planned to wait until Summer 2020 to stop taking the pill. I was in the middle of a PGCE and didn’t want to suddenly become a lunatic like all the forums I had read were suggesting. But then all of a sudden, my boyfriend got ill and I hadn’t made the doctors appointment to get my new prescription and so in December 2019, I thought “well you were going to do it anyway…”.
That first month was horrible. THE HEADACHES. Although, I was weaning myself off of coffee (a latte with vanilla syrup and an extra shot of espresso, since you were asking) at the same time so that might have played a part in it. Mariah Carey’s ‘Always Be My Baby’ came on the radio on the way to work and I started to cry. I wanted to eat salty foods all the time. But the real mind-fuck was my first period. It was dry, dark brown (almost crumbly?!) and lasted about two days. That was the moment that made me go “SHIT”.
The months that followed included more scant periods, obsessively logging info in the Clue app and Googling “does being on the pill for 10 years affect your fertility?”.
In fact, I noticed a lot of changes in that first pill-free year, so I noted them down and created a list…
- Trying to remember how your periods were before you were 17 is like trying to remember what your Year 7 teacher said about MRS GREN. I think mine were always quite short – we’re talking three days tops – and comparatively light compared to my peers. But nothing like those first ones post-pill were, I’ve never experienced anything like that before.
- Google will tell you anything you want to hear. After 2am Google searches I’ve diagnosed myself as infertile, with a luteal phase defect and progesterone deficiency. My actual doctor (who was so nice on the phone – big up to GPs) said she’d take some bloods to put my mind at rest but considered everything to be perfectly fine. Spoiler: my bloods were fine.
- I’ve had PMS symptoms I never had before. Sore, achy, heavy boobs, back ache radiating down my bottom when I come on and wanting to eat everything in sight for about two days straight. When I was 17, I used to secretly think girls who complained of period cramps were being dramatic. #iseeyounowsis
- Your cycle is a real ass thing. During that follicular phase I am the baddest bitch. Organisation on point, confidence for days, energy through the roof. The luteal phase? You’ll easily find me sobbing into a pillow about the fact I’ll never have children and will become a spinster who nobody loves. Which brings me on to…
- The mood swings. MATE. Who even am I sometimes. It’s like I can feel the hormones rise and fall in my bloodstream. Irritable, easily flying off the handle, low key bordering on depression NGL.
- Ovulation is a cute addition I never noticed before. I get shooting pains on one side, not every month but sometimes. My cervical mucus goes clear and stretchy and I know I ovulate on day 12/13 of every month without fail.
- Speaking of. Mother Nature knows what she’s doing because my sex drive during that time is like a rocket going off. And to be honest, it’s a lot higher compared to when I was on the pill in general, which really makes me think the pill was dampening that side of things without me knowing. Boyfriend is over the moon.
- I understand my body so much better now. I know how to handle her when she’s sore and sensitive and how to capitalise on that follicular phase energy spike. Tuning in to my needs at different points in my cycle has been a game changer.
So, one year one, would I go back on the pill? My honest answer is no.
It’s taken a year for my body to settle down; my periods are much redder and flow better, and although they’re still on the short and light side, they feel more “normal”, so that might just be how I am. Being off the pill has made me much more aware of my general health too. What I’m eating and how much exercise I’m doing has a huge impact on how I feel, so being more in tune with that is genuinely lovely. I also acknowledge how lucky I am – it hasn’t escaped me how much worse this journey could have been. Some women talk of real struggles when they stop taking contraceptives so I’m glad that I’ve come out this relatively okay. And now, I feel like I’m in a good position to start… Trying?
You can follow Kimberley at @kimberley_vassell.