Quitters: Why I Quit Taking Hormonal Birth Control

We fought for the pill... but is it the be-all, end-all?

We fought for the pill... but is it the be-all, end-all?

Katie Lee is an author, lifestyle designer (<<< she's really good at this!), and bakes a mean cake. She's one of those people who makes everything look easy and effortless-- a happy marriage, fulfilling job, sun-drenched home, and awesome dog. Plus, the girl has legs for days. But the truth is, she's designed her life to be effortless, something that's taken her years of work, intention and research. She never settles for the status quo. She's a seeker and a doer. 

Two years ago, she quit hormonal birth control.

Initially, it was to cure her constant headaches. Unexpectedly, she set off a chain reaction that led to better skin, "realer" emotions, and an enhanced relationship with her husband. I'll let her explain. 

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When did you quit birth control? What were you taking and how long had you been on it?

Katie Lee: I quit October 2013. I was taking Ortho Tri-cyclen Lo which seemed to be what everyone was taking when I went on it 10 years prior.

Clearly, you must want to get pregnant immediately. Right? Why else would a woman quit birth control?

Katie: Haha. That’s a big N-O. I wanted to go off birth control because I suspected it was causing the migraines I had suffered from since before I could remember. Although once I thought about, it I didn’t remember having them before going on the pill.

I actually stumbled across this connection by accident. I was on Detoxinista getting a recipe for vegan mac-n-cheese that I heard was amazing (it is!) and I saw she had a tab for natural birth control. I thought it was weird, and I was intrigued enough to click on it.

She outlined her experience with going off the pill and listed the common side effects of hormonal birth control. Even though I had been on it for 10 years, I had never seen a list of side effects. Number three on that list was migraines.

My stomach dropped and in my gut I knew that this could be the reason why cleaning up my diet and my health hadn’t cured my migraines.

I immediately fell down the rabbit hole of research into the world where people are completely aware of the harmful side effects of birth control. Everywhere I looked, migraines were in the top three side effects. I read forums, blog posts and articles from all over the world and started to get really angry that this information seemed so hidden here in the U.S, or at least to me.

Those sources even mentioned how much the pill is pushed here versus other countries.

It didn’t take me long to turn my research away from the harmful effects of the pill and onto natural and effective alternatives.

That’s when I checked out Taking Charge of Your Fertility from the library. According to all the women on the internet, this was the bible. I read every word and then read it again. I was amazed at how little I knew about my own body and what is supposed to happen naturally. Having that knowledge really made the decision to go off the pill much easier.

Katie Lee makes things happen.... after loads of research. 

Katie Lee makes things happen.... after loads of research. 

What finally pushed you over the edge?

Katie: I had basically decided I would go off after reading that initial blog post. It was a matter of when and how. I am a research junkie, so I knew I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing it until I knew exactly how to prevent pregnancy and that I had found a sustainable alternative. I spent a lot of hours debating which methods and thinking about my lifestyle and preferences. I was beyond ready for a while, but ultimately decided to go off of it just before our wedding anniversary.

How did you approach the conversation with your hubby?

Katie: My husband is very open and understanding and a research junkie himself. After my initial discovery of the link between headaches and the pill, he was really supportive and also really angry as well. He’s seen me miss out on so much of life because of my migraines so he didn’t even hesitate in supporting me getting off the pill. Just like me he said he would be comfortable after we both did the full research and completely understood how to prevent pregnancy in a safe and sustainable way.

He joined me in researching and analyzing the different methods. We had plenty of discussions about different scenarios, our lifestyle and the science in Taking Charge of Your Fertility. I taught him about what my body is supposed to do naturally so he would completely understand as well.

Aside from getting pregnant, a lot of women are afraid of quitting birth control because it helps them manage cramps, PMS, acne or leads to more predictable periods. Did you have any of these anxieties? Did any come true once you quit?

Katie: Of course I was a little nervous. I had been on it so long I didn’t know what would happen when I went off. To calm my nerves I just kept reading stories of other women who had similar demographics and health as I do.

I didn’t suffer immensely from acne or PMS before hand so that wasn’t the reason I went on it in the first place. But I was used to 10 years of predictable “periods.” Something to note is that PMS is not a given and the pill is not necessarily a solution for it. It’s really a symptom of other issues that need to be explored. If you’re healthy, active and don’t suffer from other conditions then you may not have PMS at all. I don’t.

None of these concerns were enough to deter me from quitting it. After everything I’d read I knew I no longer wanted to subject my body to it’s effects. I’m a natural, organic person in every other area of my life so it seemed weird to be taking this pill.

After the fact none of those things came true, the opposite really. After the initial phase of balancing out, I have clearer skin than before, less cramps and PMS than when I was on the pill and my periods are just as predictable. Obviously everyone is different, but I think it helps to hear a positive outcome, too.

How did you feel in the weeks and months after you quit?

Katie: The first week was a trip. I was very hormonal as my body figured out what my natural hormone balance should be. I would laugh, cry, get angry just like a pregnant woman. We were prepared for this and just let it happen.

In about a week, I felt back to normal. From that point on, things have only gotten better.

I consider myself a very healthy person, but after quitting the pill I felt 10x healthier and more vibrant. It’s hard to explain, but there is a clearness to everything now. As if there was a fog over me before that I didn’t even realize.

My skin got very clear and vibrant and I started to feel very connected and in tune with my body. I know exactly what to expect and what’s happening all month long. It feels very freeing. Most importantly I haven’t had a migraine since. Not one. Which makes me happy and angry. I had no idea this was the cause and I feel robbed of so many life experiences over the last decade.

I feel the best I have ever felt in my life.

That fur baby in the window is the only baby Katie needs right now.

That fur baby in the window is the only baby Katie needs right now.

What was the biggest change, post-quitting? Any changes—psychical, emotional, relationship-wise—that surprised you?

Katie: My sex drive went through the roof, which my husband and I both appreciate. I was on the pill before I even formed a true sex drive, so this was new for me, too. I had never craved it before and thought all of the girls in movies and magazines were lying about their desire. It has completely reinvigorated our physical relationship.

Everything I feel physically and emotionally feels more real and I’m acutely aware of it. I recently learned that hormonal birth control can also dampen your emotions. It sort of lessens everything that’s going on. Now I have more emotions, real emotions, than ever before.

An indirect benefit is this experience has strengthened our relationship. Learning about sex and fertility and talking about it so much has brought us closer. We’re both involved in our fertility and sex life now versus me just taking the pill and navigating it by myself.

Overall, I feel like I’m present, alive and living a real life that is vibrant and clear.

So… how do you not get pregnant?

Katie: Yes, that is the ultimate question isn’t it? We use the Fertility Awareness Method. This is not the same as Natural Family Planning or the Calendar method. The biggest difference is that this is completely based on the individual. (PS It’s taught in Taking Charge of Your Fertility).

In short, it means a complete understand of your individual cycle and the days that you're fertile enough to even get pregnant, versus the days that it’s not possible. As young girls, we’re taught that if a boy even looks at you funny you’ll get pregnant. The truth is that for many days in each month, it’s not possible.

We invested in the Pearly, which is a small computer with a thermometer that monitors my fertility then gives us a red, green or yellow light. Green means go ahead and have sex without risk of pregnancy, yellow means consult your other measures (which we’re not doing so we count yellow as red) and red means your fertile and need to use a back up method of contraception.

We use condoms as our back up method and the people I’ve told that to think we’re crazy until I explain. Although no method is 100 percent effective, the biggest reasons condoms don’t work are user error and they are the wrong size. We did the research, ordered the right size and learned the right way to put them on, use them and take them off.

I also track all of my stats using an app on my iPhone, because I love data. It tells me when to expect my period and is always accurate.

We’re going on two years and have not gotten pregnant with this method. We’re both very confident in it and completely understand how to use it.

An added bonus is that if we do decide we want to have a baby, we would know exactly when to try.

Advice for someone thinking of quitting the pill?

Katie: Although I would recommend that anyone in a healthy, committed relationship consider getting off hormonal birth control, the biggest thing I would want is for every woman to understand how her body works.

There are a lot of misconceptions out there and getting educated is the first step.

Start by reading (it’s at the library) Taking Charge of Your Fertility. Then read blogs and forums of other women who have gone off the pill.

I also enjoyed the resources at natkringoudis.com.au

This podcast episode: jesslively.com/alisavitti/

This was the blog post that started it all: http://detoxinista.com/2013/04/natural-birth-control-methods/

Then take your time. Get all of the information you need to make an informed decision that is right for you, your lifestyle and your relationship.

Then do it! It’s hard to erase years of conditioning and myths, so it’s understandable to be nervous. But eventually you’ll have to trust the research and personal stories and do it. I wish I would have done it years ago, because I’ve never felt better, more connected to my husband and more present than I do now.

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Okay, ladies and guys who stuck it out allll the way to the end: let's talk BC. I quit taking hormonal birth control three years ago, and had a very similar experience to Katie's. I tried everything-- the pill, the ring, and an IUD. At this stage in my life, I can say tracking things ye olde fashioned way is really working for me. What's working for you? Thoughts on quitting birth control? Share in the comments!

Other posts you might like: What it's like to have a baby in a foreign country; plus, a midwife's approach to no BS postpartum care

PS Do you have an awesome Quitters story? Email me at heyeleanorproject [at] gmail.com.



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