Hormonal contraception has been an effective tool for helping women gain more control over family planning and reproductive health. However, changing the way your hor-mones function is not a trifling matter. There may come a moment when a woman wants to take a break from hormonal contraception or stop using it altogether.
Hormonal contraception isn’t used only for birth control. It may be prescribed to com-bat issues such as acne, heavy bleeding, or painful cramping. Finding the right hormonal contraceptive can be challenging, as every woman is differently affected—sometimes, side-effects outweigh the benefits. Some women also choose to stop using hormonal birth control for a while to see how they feel without it.
There are two main hormonal birth control types—short-acting reversible contraceptives (SARCs) and long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs).
All hormonal birth control contains progestin (the synthetic version of progesterone). There is pro-gestin-only birth control and combination birth control, which also contains a form of oestrogen. By suppressing your natural hormone production, birth control prevents pregnancy and can help with other issues related to hormone imbalance, such as acne anxiety, irritability and general moodiness, long and heavy periods, severe cramps, sore breasts, and more.
Read up on the contraceptive you have chosen and be mindful of your body and emotions when start-ing hormonal birth control. We recommend speaking to a doctor beforehand to be certain it is right for you. Combination birth control is unsuitable for people with certain pre-existing conditions or habits that react to oestrogen in dangerous ways.
A woman might stop taking birth control for any number of personal reasons. Maybe she is ready to try for a baby. Maybe she doesn’t like the way she feels on birth control or is experiencing side-effects. Maybe she just wants to try what it’s like to live without it for a while. When it comes to your body, you should do whatever you feel is right.
It takes time for a woman’s body to re-establish a regular cycle after she stops using hormonal birth control. You can stop at any time of your cycle—although it is worth paying attention to the timing. If you are on the pill, for example, it’s better to finish your current packet and not start a new one, rather than stopping at a random point. This will help avoid unnecessary hormone fluctuations.
If you are also using your hormonal contraceptive to treat a hormone imbalance, remember: it is not a cure. Once you stop taking your birth control pills, the symptoms you were experiencing before are likely to return. It is not uncommon for symptoms to return heavier at first due to the influx of hor-mone production in your body.
Make sure you are taking good care of your body during this time. Eat a balanced diet, exercise regu-larly, manage stress, be kind to yourself. You can ease the transition by taking supplements that help regulate ovulation and manage androgen or oestrogen dominance (if you are affected by either). Please consult your doctor beforehand to determine which supplements are best suited for your particular cir-cumstances.
It usually takes a few months for a woman’s hormone levels to stabilise after she stops taking hormo-nal birth control pills. It depends on your body’s sensitivity to the type of contraception you have been using and how long you were using it, and on any pre-existing health conditions you might have. If your period is still irregular after 3 to 4 months, consult your doctor.
Hormonal birth control can affect you in many different ways, and it’s not always pretty. Many wom-en report feelings of depression and anxiety when taking hormonal birth control. You might feel light-er and happier once you stop. Some women experience headaches before or during the withdrawal bleeding (caused by a dip in hormone levels)—these should disappear, as well as any extra weight you gained on hormonal birth control. Sexual desire tends to decrease on hormonal birth control—if this was true for you, you might welcome an increased libido.
Some women experience harsh side effects after they stop using hormonal contraception; this is known as post-birth control syndrome. While unlikely, discontinuing the use of synthetic hormones can exacerbate pre-existing issues.
Post-birth control amenorrhea. Amenorrhea is the absence of a period. Post-pill amenorrhea is when the body fails to resume a natural cycle within six months of coming off synthetic hormones. The artificial hormones in birth control suppress natural progesterone production. As previously men-tioned, it takes time for the body to recover its natural rhythm. If more than six months have passed after you stop using hormonal contraception and you still haven't had a period, consult your doctor to find out why.
Post-pill PCOS. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common reproductive system disorder that affects one in ten women of reproductive age, regardless of their choice of contraceptive. However, hormonal contraception can cause temporary PCOS while the body is re-establishing natural hormone production. Symptoms vary widely and can include irregular, heavy, and painful periods, ovarian cysts, acne, excessive hair growth (hirsutism), insulin resistance, and high blood pressure. If you ex-perience three or more of these symptoms, you may have PCOS. Post-pill PCOS usually disappears once your hormones levels have restabilised.
As the symptoms of PCOS aren’t consistent, it often goes undiagnosed. Hormonal birth control can further mask the condition, especially if begun at an early age because the symptoms of PCOS overlap with those typically caused by adolescent hormonal fluctuations.
Read more about how PCOS affects your health and fertility.
Anovulatory Cycles. It is possible to have a menstrual cycle without ovulating. This isn't easy to no-tice, as it’s common to believe that if there’s blood, all is well—but this is not always the case. The eas-iest way to find out if you are ovulating is to buy a home ovulation test or consult your doctor. Some women track their basal body temperature to see when ovulation starts.
Ovulation is important to menstrual cycle regulation and a woman’s overall health. In addition to mak-ing pregnancy possible, ovulation has other benefits, such as heightened senses, increased sex drive, glowing skin, and confidence.
Depression and anxiety. Research has shown that using hormonal birth control is linked to an in-creased risk of depression and anxiety. Depression and anxiety are often the reasons why women stop taking hormonal contraception, but mental health takes time to recover even after discontinuing syn-thetic hormones. Although the link between depression and hormonal contraception remains unclear, experts believe that suppressing ovulation and the body’s natural production of progesterone can in-fluence emotions. Progesterone has positive effects on the brain and nervous system, allowing it to recover faster.
Hormonal birth control helps millions of women to manage their fertility and menstrual cycles. While it works well for some women, it causes problems for others. Pay attention to your body to find the best way to manage your fertility. If you decide to stop using hormonal birth control, tracking your cycle with WomanLog can help you understand the changes your body is going through. Your men-strual cycle is the mirror of your overall health.
You can track your period using WomanLog. Download WomanLog now: