I don't even remember what my periods were like in 2004, man.
May 22, 2012 7:58 PM   Subscribe

What was it like for you to quit hormonal birth control after using it for a long time - let's say 5 or more years?

I know it's different for everyone, but I'm about to quit using HBC after 8+ years without a month's break and I'm a little nervous about what it'll be like. I want to get some sense of the range of experiences people have had so it's at least a bit less likely my body will manage to really surprise me. Did you feel like your personality was different? Did you have spotting? How long did it take for your periods to get regular again, or to start ovulating?
posted by town of cats to Health & Fitness (40 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I lost ten pounds. Nothing else was noticeably different.
posted by sageleaf at 8:03 PM on May 22, 2012

I had forgotten about all the different goings on (discharge etc) down there during ovulation. Nothing else is different.
posted by saradarlin at 8:06 PM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

On for 11 years, off for six weeks, had one period, then pregnant.
posted by Oktober at 8:09 PM on May 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

I stopped taking birth control pills. The world suddenly seemed more colorful. Emotions seemed more intense. Sex was much more fun. Aaaaaaand then I got pregnant, like, five minutes later.
posted by daisystomper at 8:21 PM on May 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

I was on either the pill or the ring for....jeez, it must have been ten years? Then went off both of them for about six months, and now I have an IUD.

For me, going off the pill was mostly great -- better sex drive, lost some weight, the usual things people report. The only big downside, other than having to use condoms, was that I'd forgotten how heavy my periods used to be and suddenly it was like I was back in high school again.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 8:27 PM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had to stop taking it for about 2 months recently, after about 8 years with no break. I got super depressed -- crying all the time for no reason, no desire to do any sort of activity, that sort of thing -- and my sex drive went from "slightly lower than i would like" to "completely nonexistent don't you dare touch me." Thank god my wonderful husband realized what was happening (I didn't make the connection) and was great about it. My periods were never regular before I went on it, and weren't regular when I was on it (I get my period roughly every 4 months or so on it, under doctor's orders), so I don't know what regular is, exactly, but there was no spotting, and I did get a period during the time I was off it. I don't know about ovulation, as pregnancy was very much not a goal and I wasn't interested in sex anyway...

However, a little while before I was able to get back on it, maybe after about 6 weeks, it started to get better. The depression started easing, my sex drive returned a little, so I'm hopeful that my hormones would have gotten themselves back to normal given a little more time. I hope other people have better stories, because we're considering trying to get pregnant in about a year and right now the thought of stopping again terrifies me.
posted by brainmouse at 8:34 PM on May 22, 2012

My experience is almost identical to Oktober's. I didn't really have a period any more and it came back - that was the only difference I noticed.
posted by Wantok at 8:41 PM on May 22, 2012

I now have the skin of a 12-year-old, and my hair's gone curly.
posted by catesbie at 8:56 PM on May 22, 2012

I was on it for 8+ years. When I went off I felt like a new person. I felt like the world was bursting with opportunities and wonderful experiences. I wanted to get out and do all of it all at once. It's hard to describe but on the pill I had slowly turned into a zombie. I didn't care about anything really, I just went through the paces of life. Of course I only realized this when I went off it.

As far as my period goes, nothing really different, slightly heavier and my cramps came back.

Using condoms was a pain but you couldn't pay me enough to go back on HBC.
posted by sadtomato at 8:59 PM on May 22, 2012 [7 favorites]

I stopped taking it after six years. Didn't lose any weight--did feel miraculously happy. Hadn't even noticed I was depressed. Suddenly music meant something to me again! It was amazing. Sex was different. I'd never had sex while not on the pill before. Lubrication is way better. We use condoms now, something which would have been flat-out uncomfortable before. It feels fine. We haven't had any accidents.

In the first two months, my cycle was a little longer than normal, and I developed cysts in my breasts, which I never had before. They went away by the third cycle. My periods are longer and heavier than they were when I was on the pill. I'm also crampier and more prone to cyclical hormonal stuff. I get PMS now. More zits. My weight fluctuates significantly depending on what time of the month it is. Especially in the boobs. Breast tenderness is now a thing. Basically "suddenly it was like I was back in high school again" is a great descriptor.

If you're going off the pill, I'd recommend mymonthlycycles to track not only your period but also emotional symptoms. My husband and I have a fight on day 29 of my 33 day cycle like clockwork. Would have never figured that out if it weren't for tracking.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:01 PM on May 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

I was on the Pill for about 5 years and went off because I was tired of taking it and (at the time) in noooo danger of getting pregnant. I didn't notice much difference. I was taking a lower dose pill then (Ortho-Tri-Cyclen Lo) so I don't know if that has anything to do with it. I had gone on them for irregular periods but that seemed to have resolved itself, either with age or not being in school and being crazy stressed all the time.

My period showed up every month or so, just as it had on the pill. It was heavier and crampier but not horribly. When I was on the pill, I almost never broke out except for once every 3-6 months, I'd get a GIANT cyst-like zit. Off the pill, I had regular, cyclical breakouts, but nothing special and no more cyst-zits.
posted by Aquifer at 9:15 PM on May 22, 2012

On the pill for many years, typically without taking placebos so I could avoid periods. I switched to low-estrogen pills, and immediately got pregnant. Whoops! During the c-section I had my tubes tied. After that I tried really hard to get back on the pill, so I could stop the damn periods, and it failed utterly. I miss being on the pill terribly, but couldn't handle the 26-days a month of spotting. No change in my personality, other than now not feeling comfortable swimming a week a month, which is the first time in my adult life that's been a problem. Oh, and I've got a daughter too. That definitely is a significant change.
posted by Capri at 9:40 PM on May 22, 2012

I regained my lost sanity and libido!

I saw dramatic weight loss, too, but that may have been more a result of lifestyle & diet changes than of a change in medication.

Being on the Mirena IUD hasn't shown any of the side-effects I had on both the pill and the NuvaRing.
posted by kitarra at 10:49 PM on May 22, 2012

On for 7 years, off for 1 year, on for 2 years, then off again for good. I always took the placebos so I always had a period.

After coming off, my sex drive improved. Both times it took me 4 months to have a period. I originally went on it in my teens because I had very irregular periods (like 3 a year). Since coming off, after the periods restarted they have been very regular - pretty much bang on 28 days. I do get cramps now - I never had these when on BC.
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 10:56 PM on May 22, 2012

I didn't lose any weight, but I did get a higher sex drive back! Unfortunately it also came with a strange uptick in acne, which I still can't quite explain.
posted by corb at 10:58 PM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I stopped taking the pill after about six years because the government pulled the subsidy on the one I was taking (which they did a lot back then). My cycle went back to normal immediately, including noticeable ovulation as well as regular periods, and there were no other changes. We were using condoms anyway and kept doing so, so no changes there either. I didn't have side effects from taking the pill in the first place so there was nothing to change particularly.

People with boring stories like mine are a lot less likely to talk about or even think about them, so this really is more common than you'd think from threads like this one.
posted by shelleycat at 12:02 AM on May 23, 2012

My libido tanked, my acne flared up like a motherfucker, my thin hair got thinner, and I steadily sank into depression. There were other things going on in my life at the time that may be partially responsible for the first and the last items, but I do believe that I was all-in-all hormonally more "balanced" on the pill than off. Sadly, the reason I went off hormonal BC put a big red stamp on my medical records saying "Do not prescribe hormonal BC again, ever" so there's no going back.
posted by drlith at 3:36 AM on May 23, 2012

Total non-event.
posted by kmennie at 5:18 AM on May 23, 2012

Lubrication during sexytimes is WAY better. Cramps during monthly nonsexytimes are back to horrific, shaky, I-think-I'm-gonna-barf levels, but maybe once every four of five months instead of every month. Periods are back to three-day duration instead of five on the pill.
posted by SeedStitch at 5:23 AM on May 23, 2012

Was on the pill for just about 10 years. The main symptom after I went off the pill was occasionally saying to myself "Oh, shit, I forgot to take my pill to.... oh wait, never mind."
posted by tchemgrrl at 5:52 AM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Never had real problems. Used HBC for about 10 years. Now off it. It took a few months for periods to regularize. Until then, they were unpredictable, some months not happening at all, sometimes just a week or two after the end of the last cycle. They seem to have straightened themselves out now, and only last 3 days. I do notice a day or two of pain around ovulation time, but nothing unmanageable.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 6:01 AM on May 23, 2012

I went off BCP a few months ago at the request of my endocrinologist, and its been fucking FANTASTIC. For one, libido like crazy. Periods resumed after a month or so off and have been just like I remember, except for lotsa cramps on the first one. I feel I have slightly more energy and happiness.
posted by agregoli at 6:29 AM on May 23, 2012

(Oh and I was on BCP for 10 years prior, prob no periods while on for 3-4)
posted by agregoli at 6:31 AM on May 23, 2012

When I stopped taking it for several months, I was miserable and felt crazy. Seriously moody, unable to concentrate. I remember telling my doctor that I had yelled at my boss and some random woman on the bus. Then I burst into tears for no apparent reason. I also went from having nearly perfect skin to having constant breakouts. I remember buying a bunch of high-neck shirts because of the breakouts on my chest and back.

Then I went back on the pill, and all is well. Obviously, it's different for everyone.
posted by thejanna at 7:05 AM on May 23, 2012

I was on the same pill for 6 years and went off of it 6 months ago. I had a definite increase in acne (especially on my chest), moderate increase in libido, my cramps returned but were usually eased by some Aleve, and I lost 15 pounds. I also started getting acid reflux for the first time in my life, but I don't know if it's related.

My cycles became wildly irregular (26 to 36 days), but I started taking basal temps and using an app called OvuView track my cycles. I also read Taking Charge of Your Fertility. I quickly realized that while my cycles were irregular, they weren't unpredictable - I always knew the day before that my period would start. That was awesome, since I originally went on the pill because of the unpredictability.

I started ovulating after about 35 days, and the instant we stopped using condoms I got pregnant. Now I'm gaining the weight back :-).
posted by Maarika at 7:40 AM on May 23, 2012

After a thousand years on The Pill, just for birth control, not issues, I got an IUD. Now mind you I never had troubles like massive bleeding, or major cramps, or bad acne. Also I was regular as a clock with and without hormones, so I didn't really have any changes. However, the most interesting thing I noticed after going off The Pill, was that, in the middle of my cycle, men smelled really good, lol. I noticed every kind of cologne, body wash, and just over all man smell, every time a guy walked by a work. Still cracks me up. Guess its one of those primeval reproductive responses that gets masked by artificial hormones.
posted by PJMoore at 7:45 AM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Differences: easier to lose weight, less hungry, feel "lighter."

My period was all over the place for about three months and then became normal. Please note that I didn't stop taking the pill one day, I slooooowwwwly went off the pill (as in halved my medication slowly) and took lots of vitamin C, flaxseed, and a few other vitamins and minerals at the same time.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 7:54 AM on May 23, 2012

From everyone else's responses here it seems like there's a pretty wide variety of reactions to coming off the pill. I was on the pill for more than fifteen years, with a couple of breaks. I did ultra-long cycles on dr advice. I came off the pill a few months ago, so I don't have a lot of data as yet.

Personality/emotions: It's tricky for me to identify if some of the emotional stuff I'm going through now is no-pill related or current life situation related. So I'll call that a neutral.

Skin: Most definitely has been a resurgence in pimples (bastards). Constant breakouts.

Cycles: My cycles have been realllllllllyyyyy long, so i heartily join others in recommending a cycle tracker, and using it to be aware of emotional state and physical symptoms. I use iPeriod on the iphone (which syncs to desktop and ipad and whatnot if one is so inclined). This may also will help conversations with SO or with Doctors if needed. I had no spotting.

PMS: I had PMS for three weeks for my first cycle, it started the week prior to when I was expecting to get a period and went for a further fortnight till I actually got the darn thing, that totally sucked. It wasn't so bad this most recent cycle, but I was seriously considering digging up old wives tales (something about a hot bath and gin? or a bath of hot gin? I don't even like gin!) It was that frustrating to feel constantly on the verge of periodland and NOTHING HAPPENING.

I hope things go smoothly with you.
posted by pymsical at 8:08 AM on May 23, 2012

I was on ortho-tri-cyclen (and later ortho-tri-cyclen lo) for about 14 years straight. I've actually never had a single side effect from the pill, but just stopped just out of curiosity as to what normal would be. I had my period about 24 days after the last one, then it went to 28 days, like clockwork, after that. My cramps were worse, and my period overall lasted longer and was heavier. My skin also broke out way more. Lubrication was better, but I still hated using condoms. No change in sex drive or any emotional issues.

After about six months I decided to go back on the pill because I got tired of the worse periods, but felt comfortable knowing that my cycles seem to regulate pretty quickly post-hormonal birth control.
posted by bizzyb at 8:45 AM on May 23, 2012

I went off the pill after 9 years to get pregnant. There was a slight increase in libido, a non-slight increase in acne, and my hair thinned out (though I didn't actually connect that to possibly going off the pill until just now!). My second period after quitting was a week late, then my cycle shifted to 27 days instead of 28.
posted by Safiya at 8:56 AM on May 23, 2012

I was on oral contraceptives for at least 10 years, and went off at the beginning of this year after discussing risk factors and age (I'm 38). Thought I would try to go without and see how nature went. My biggest concern was getting more migraines; migraine prevention was one of the bonuses associated with oral contraceptives.

My experience: A regular period every 24 days or so from the very start, and while not heavy, heavier than I ever had while on the pill every month, when I was "giving" myself a period once a quarter on the pill.

Menstrual cramps... oh my, I'd forgotten all about cramps... and mid-cycle bloating, both really annoying, but not bad enough to need medication.

Being more tired around my period, but having bursts of energy during my cycle when before I was much more even throughout. Thankfully no additional migraines, although I do need a bit more consistent sleep than before. My appetite has been less overall, but that could also be related to other dietary and behavioral things, not just being off of oral contraceptives.

The most noticeable change was my libido. I didn't (or ever considered myself to) have decreased libido while on the pill, but boy howdy that changed being off of the pill. I'm single, have no plans to ever have children, but I started looking at every guy as potential mate. I have to actively have non-sexy thoughts on certain days mid-cycle. Sometimes I wonder if my ovaries want to have a party and invite everyone to join in. ;)
posted by southpaw at 9:26 AM on May 23, 2012

Also, what PJMoore said about the scent of guys? Oh yes. Oh my... yes. Downright distracting on certain days. ;)
posted by southpaw at 9:34 AM on May 23, 2012

Started taking oral contraceptives when I was 18; stayed on them steadily until I was 33 (with one switch in brands because I changed insurance and that didn't cover my original brand). Went off because my husband got a vasectomy. Since then, my periods have shifted from every four weeks with pill to every three weeks without pill, which is kind of a nuisance. They're heavier than they used to be, although certainly still manageable (I never had any menstrual issues, other than occasional light cramps and weepiness).

I'm also much more brain-fogged during PMS and much more tired when I have my period than I used to be, but I'm not sure how much of that is attributable to lack of hormonal BC and how much is attributable to perimenopause (I'm almost 40 so it's early for me but certainly not unheard of, since perimenopause can last 10 years, and my mother did have an early menopause).
posted by dlugoczaj at 11:27 AM on May 23, 2012

Migraines. It took about 3 months of killer migraines a few days before my period before I realized that they were cyclical, and probably related to going off the pill. The migraines went away about about a year or so of being off.
posted by sparklemotion at 12:38 PM on May 23, 2012

I stopped abruptly after about 10 years just recently. I was on Ortho-Tri-Cyclen Lo, and I noticed a few effects.

1. No spontaneous weight loss, bummer. No change in my breast size either.
2. I had forgotten how much cramps hurt, and how heavy a period could be.
3. My sex drive came back strongly, which was interesting because I didn't realize it had been dulled at all.
4. The mood roller-coaster is more roller-y.
posted by Miko at 1:16 PM on May 23, 2012

It made my cycle crazy. Didn't have a period for 3-4 months. That was the only change I noticed.
posted by manicure12 at 2:54 PM on May 23, 2012

I've been taking BC for about 10 years, and was taking a certain kind for 5ish years but recently went off b/c of not having insurance when I would make my yearly appt (didn't need it for the BC aspect anyway) but I was planning to go back on it asap and now I don't know.

I'm not sure if it was the BC but I've found that I have more energy and I think I am a bit more mentally alert and less depressed. I guess I feel a little more stable. I was worried about getting acne again b/c I originally went on the pills mostly because of acne but it's been a few months and my skin is mostly fine.

So I think it's mostly been positive for me.

I haven't had a period since, however. I did spot as soon as I went off the pills but nothing since then which makes me kind of paranoid b/c I'm used to knowing exactly when it will come.
posted by fromageball at 3:39 PM on May 23, 2012

Off recently after 5 years on a low-dose BCP. Hello, libido! My cycles were regular coming back but they were pretty regular pre-pill too; no spotting. It took me a few months to properly ovulate (I went on FAM, so I was taking my temperature daily, but I didn't have a proper temperature shift for three months). Otherwise, totally normal.
posted by pised at 4:28 PM on May 23, 2012

Skin slightly worse, with breakouts definitely cyclical, periods slightly heavier with cramps for about 24 hrs - all of those things were there in pre pill days but had been fixed by being on the pill. Having said that nothing that a careful skin care regime and some painkillers won't reduce to an acceptable level.
posted by koahiatamadl at 7:38 AM on May 24, 2012

Funny you should ask, I had been on BC for about 8 years and stopped it 6 weeks ago! So far I'm not noticing anything different, really, other than it took ~36 days before my next period (instead of 28). I had PMS-like symptoms very early, around day 20? and a bit again around my period. Apparently t's not unusual for your period to take a few months to start again (MayoClinic) and the schedule might vary for several months.

My period appears to be the same weight & length. A few weeks in my skin changed a little - a little dryer and oiler? (I have combination skin.) But that could also be due to the sun & humidity changes here, I'm not sure yet. No spotting, no change in weight or sex drive.
posted by SarahbytheSea at 2:32 PM on May 27, 2012

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