health

"I went off the Pill after nine years, and the most bizarre thing happened."

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and am not soliciting health advice. The Pill has a myriad of health benefits – some of which I’ve experienced myself. This is simply my story. 

I was prescribed the Pill when I was 17.

It wasn’t (primarily) as a method of contraception. It was because I suffered awful period pain that inhibited my day-to-day life. I remember being curled up in a ball with stabbing pains for hours at a time, and as a result having time off school. I was also anaemic.  At the time, the Pill infinitely improved my quality of life.

Over the past nine years, I’ve been on a number of variations, from expensive brands like Yaz, to more generic options like Leila. I noticed subtle differences between them, but the side effects never really bothered me all that much.

About four months ago, I was having trouble sleeping. I was also getting lazy with my routine, and was skipping pills here and there.

I mentioned it at work one day, and a colleague suggested I “give my body a bit of a break”, and see what happens. For all I knew, period pain had been a passing feature of my adolescence.

pull out method success rate
I decided to give my body a break. Image via iStock.

The more I thought about it, the more I realised I didn't know who I was as an adult woman without the Pill.

So I decided to stop taking it.

After a few weeks, the consistency of my skin changed markedly. I needed to wash my hair more. Spots were popping up on my forehead and chin that I hadn't seen since high school.

Immediately, I wanted to just go back on it. I felt ugly. And out of control. This wasn't what I signed up for.

But friends assured me it would get better. After a few months, they said, your hormones will balance themselves out and it will all calm down. So I persevered.

ADVERTISEMENT

And then I began noticing some other changes.

I was sleeping better than I had in years. I felt... calmer. When I did get my period, there were cramps, but they weren't debilitating. I took Nurofen and was fine.

Should men pay for half their partners contraception? Kate de Brito, Mia Freedman and Monique Bowley discuss. Post continues below. 

But the most bizarre change - that I absolutely was not expecting - occurred a few months in.

I turned to my sister one day and said, "You know what's weird? I haven't bought a Diet Coke at lunchtime once this week... because I haven't felt like one."

For some context, I have had a can of Diet Coke or Pepsi Max just about everyday for ten years. And it's always been a part of my routine I've resented. Despite several attempts, I'd never been able to give it up. "It's just my vice", I'd reason. It was a way of curbing my uncontrollable afternoon sugar cravings, which I was sure most of us were hit with.

But suddenly, what had been a 10 year long addiction, just disappeared.

I'd find myself going to order one purely out of habit and then thinking, "I really don't feel like this right now". My sister bought me one when we ordered dinner a few weeks ago, and it's still sitting in the fridge. The prospect of drinking a can of soft drink could not be less appealing right now.

I've also always had a sweet tooth. I'd love some chocolate after dinner or the odd packet of M&Ms. And that, too, has vanished.

Post continues after gallery. 

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

In the last two months, I don't think I've had dessert once. And when I've reached for sweet foods in a social setting, I've realised pretty quickly I actually don't want it.

I did some research, and found countless forums where women describe an increase in "craving sweets and junk" after being prescribed the Pill, and subsequently lose those cravings when they stop taking it.

Doctors are reluctant to definitively identify a link between appetite, cravings and the contraceptive pill, but a research study published by the Endocrine Society posited, "If you are on birth control pills and having a hard time with sugar cravings, you are not crazy. The vulnerability you naturally have can be made worse by the Pill."

We know that hormones influence sugar cravings, and that the Pill is made up of two synthetic forms of female hormones; oestrogen and progestin. Despite extensive research, recent publications suggest there is a great deal we still do not know about the Pill including the effect on the adolescent body, and it's repercussions long term.

My experience is by no means universal, and I have read of women who have experienced the opposite. But I do think it's worth talking about.

I do understand the distinction between correlation and causation. It's possible it's a coincidence. But it does seem rather odd that at 26, I've rid myself of an almost decade long addiction, at the same time I've chosen to stop taking the contraceptive pill.

00:00 / ???