I must’ve Googled the above sentence 467 times in the past year or so, and my own experience hasn’t matched any of the internet’s offerings. Even Mumsnet failed me – albeit mainly because I couldn’t stomach another detailed description of DH’s reproductive technique.
Now 19 months in to my own Pill detox, I thought I’d do the sisterly thing and share my journey. Giving up the Pill seems to be having a bit of a moment right now, kinda like oat milk. It’s the millennial thing to do – I can’t comment on behalf of Gen Z, who don’t seem to drink or shag or do anything fun anymore anyway. One thing they do do is apps, and there’s been a huge rise in those that track periods/fertility. The reliability of these when acting as a form of contraception has been called into question recently – so definitely do some research if you go down this route. I downloaded Clue purely to track my periods and symptoms, and really like it – it also estimates when you’re at your most fertile.
So here’s my verdict, which I’ve handily broken down into three sections – The Blood, The Sweat and The Tears.
For reference, I was on Femodene.Embed from Getty Images
PART I: THE BLOOD
After over 10 years of swallowing that little tablet every night, I decided I should probably check if my ovaries still worked. Starting a family was a hazy plan in the back of my mind, but not something I wanted to do immediately. Which was lucky because I stopped taking the Pill in January 2018 and didn’t get a period for six months. I wasn’t particularly worried, just impatient – and after being used to knowing exactly when I’d bleed while using the Pill, I hated the thought that it could happen at any moment. How inconvenient! Fortunately for me and the rest of society, I was safely at home when The Period To End All Periods arrived, announcing itself via cramps akin to childbirth. No, I have not birthed a child, but I’m pretty fucking certain this was on par. I was properly writhing around like some sort of possessed animal that could only be tamed by codeine and hot water bottles.
Then commenced a full seven days of blood pouring out of me. My handbag became better stocked than the tampon aisle in Boots – every morning, I’d chuck in another 73 just in case.
The periods that followed weren’t quite as extreme, but still heavy, painful, and showed up every 35 days-ish. Clue turned out to be pretty spot-on at guessing when they’d arrive, even though my cycle has been longer than typically deemed normal.
18 months on, I would say my periods are now of medium flow, so more manageable in that sense. They still arrive with pretty severe cramps, but over-the-counter Boots co-codemol is enough to help.
My cycles have been varied – they hit the normal length of 28 days once and then went back to being longer.
PART TWO: THE SWEAT
When I came up with my oh-so-clever Blood/Sweat/Tears concept, I didn’t really think it through. So let’s use ‘sweat’ as a metaphor for stress/unease. Well, apart from the initial six months when my period went MIA, I haven’t found the experience especially worrisome. If anything, I’ve found it pretty fascinating to be more aware of my cycle and how it affects me mentally and physically. It did take a while to shake the FUCKI’MPREGNANT every time I had sex, but then I remember I’m 32, not 17, and am quite up for having a baby.
I am a bit concerned about my long cycles and now that I’m reaching two years (wait WHAT) since coming off the pill, I plan to speak to my GP about it. From what I’ve gathered from Dr Google, it’s not a huge deal as long as you’re still ovulating, which I seem to be. I bought some cheap tests on Amazon to check (Femometer), which also have an app to record results. It’s definitely worth doing this, even if you’re not trying to get pregnant, as you can then record when you ovulate on Clue, which will make its predictions far more accurate.
For me, ovulation also arrived bearing gifts – giant under-the-skin cystic chin spots and bloating that resembled a 6-month pregnancy. I generally have good skin and look after it, so the fact I could nothing about the spots was so frustrating. This has now settled down a bit, but I have had to change my skincare accordingly. I also take a good-quality Evening Primose Oil, which has definitely helped. Now that I think about it, the bloating has also eased, so perhaps this is another sign that my body is readjusting.
PART THREE: THE TEARS
It’s tricky to be sure, but I don’t think there’s been a huge change in my emotions. They are easier to track though – I definitely feel more tearful in the lead up to my period. I also remember feeling like I had more energy in the first few months too. I am currently dealing with depression (that’s a whole other post), but I don’t feel this is linked to coming off the pill. It just makes it difficult for me to pinpoint cause and effect, so I’m not the most reliable judge here. I certainly don’t have any horror stories about becoming a completely different person.
So there you have it. All-in-all, I’d say I’m glad to be off it. Periods are shit, but I find reassurance in their monthly arrival. I do feel the lack of information around long-term use of the pill/how to come off it/what to expect is shocking, and much of what is available is conflicting. Ultimately, we’re left to make our own choice based on shared experiences of friends and helpful internet strangers.
If you would like to have children, or at least know that everything’s in working order should you change your mind, I would recommend coming of the pill at least a year or so before you hope to conceive/check in with your cycle. I’ve had friends who had no issues here, but you just won’t know until you actually do it.
Good luck and Godspeed to those about to embark on their own pill-free journey – I’ll be there in spirit, raising my hot water bottle to the sky in salute to your endeavours.