Last year, I stopped taking the contraceptive pill and it changed my life.
I started taking the pill when I was around 14 years old because I had heavy periods. Sometimes, my period would last for weeks, and not even a super tampon would save me from leakage.
I remember staying at a friend’s house when I was around 13 years old and I had my period, or as we used to say in high school, “my relatives were in town!”. I woke in the middle of the night to find my super tampon and ginormous pad had leaked all over her crispy white sheets.
I was absolutely beside myself with embarrassment, made even worse when her mum woke at 3am to find me cleaning the sheets in the bathroom.
She gave me a hug and whispered in my ear, “It happens to us all,” as she helped me clean and change the sheets. What an angel.
Before I started on the pill, I was changing a super tampon every half-hour and by the time I was 14, I’d ran completely out of underwear. I was constantly chucking them in the bin because I was too embarrassed to put them in the wash basket.
Mum finally cottoned on and took me straight to Big W for some new undies and then onto the doctor.
I told the doctor everything and without any questions, he put me straight onto a contraceptive pill. Not long after I started taking it, my period became light and only came once a month.
For a few years, everything was perfect.
At the age of 18, my hormones must’ve been playing up a little, as I started to get breakthrough bleeding. Sometimes my period would last almost 30 days. After this, I decided to go back to the doctor. Once again, he didn’t ask any questions and instead, just upped the dosage.
It did help to be honest, but only for a little while. For the next 10 years or so, I went on and off the pill and would almost always get breakthrough bleeding. I never once tried to understand what was actually happening to my body and instead, just stuck to the easy option of taking my pill.
At 28, I went off it. I didn’t notice any side-effects such as a difference in my moods or unusual periods, but I didn’t really track them either. I just went with the ‘flow,’ if you will. After around 12 months, I began a relationship with my current partner, James, so I decided to go back on the pill.
At the age of 31, two years after going back on the pill, I met Elise Carr, a women’s sexuality coach and absolute goddess, from Stellamuse.com. She enlightened me by educating me on my own body, which is something the doctors had never done.
For so long, I had just accepted that my period was irregular and heavy. I never once asked the question “why,” or tried to understand it, and convinced myself that my moodiness was just ‘me’. Some months passed after meeting Elise and, after paying more attention to my body, I noticed that I had started to lose my libido. This had never happened to me before.
I thought it might just be work stress, until I realised I had lost all feeling in my clitoris. Apologies if using that word was confronting for anyone, but it happened. Sex had even started to repulse me a bit, which was far from how I’d felt in the past. My partner and I had a great connection and for the first time, I was questioning it because sex had become ‘meh’ for me. I noticed that I was becoming really moody and my anxiety was getting a little out of hand.
I decided to phone Elise and explain all my sex woes to her. She listened to my cries for help and suggested going off the pill, just to see what happened. After convincing my partner that this was a good idea, I stopped taking the pill.
Almost instantly, the feeling ‘down there’ came back, and my moods started to lift.
We tried this for a few months and it was great. I started using a period tracker, which helped teach me to tune into my body and my lady bits. After a few months, my anxiety peaked again because I was so worried about falling pregnant. It was absolutely not the right time in my life and I wasn’t trusting the period tracker, or myself. I decided to go back to the doctors and he put me straight on the pill again, telling me that was the best option.
Over the next few months, I tried three or four different pills but with all of them came issues. I had continuous breakthrough bleeding, my moodiness returned and the feeling in my vagina, well it was gone, again. After another conversation with James, I decided to go off the pill again. However, this time, I was going to really put the effort into learning about myself and understanding my cycle.
It has taken some perseverance, but almost eight months later, it has been the best decision I have made.
For the first time in my life, I know when I am ovulating and I have synced up to the full moon, like tribal women have done in the past. Our sex life and my libido is back. We use protection only when I ovulate, and the rest of time we don’t use any contraception at all.
Stopping the pill isn’t for everyone but for me, it has truly worked. I have never felt better.
You may experience different symptoms. Please consult your doctor if you are experiencing any concerning symptoms while on the contraceptive pill, or visit www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au.
Heidi Anderson from hit92.9's Heidi, Will & Woody. To follow Heidi's adventures or get in touch, click visit her website.