Why Going Off the Pill is the Way to Go

Learn why going off the pill and managing your own fertility to prevent pregnancy the natural way is the way to go. Why hormonal birth control is wreaking havoc on your mind. What doctor’s don’t tell you. The effects of going off the pill. How to prevent pregnancy and manage your own fertility.

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Reasons to Stop Taking the Pill

For as long as I can remember, the birth control pill has been most OB’s answer to many female problems. Have acne? Try oral contraceptives. Are cramps bothering you? Try birth control. Heavy bleeding? Let’s try the pill. Anxiety or depression? Maybe birth control is the answer? Basically, if your hormones are causing you any issues, the medical world’s solution has been birth control.

Personally, I ended up on birth control pills after I ended up in the ER for accidentally overdosing on Aceteminaphine just to get through the day with cramps. My OB assured me that birth control pills came with no side effects, after I posed numerous concerns, and would “do no harm.”

After month after month of switching pills, my hormones being all over the place, and having breakthrough bleeding with all but one, I decided I’d rather deal with the painful periods.

BUT…soon after, I got married and needed birth control. I went back to the one pill that seemed to work best with my body, even though I wasn’t a fan of the way it made me feel.

After being on it for about 6 months, I started to realize that I wasn’t sleeping well and was feeling overly emotional and anxious. I also started to have breakthrough bleeding, again! One morning, I realized I’d missed a pill and read that I should take two pills to make up for it.

Within about 30 minutes, I had so much anxiety that I could barely function at work. That night I couldn’t sleep at all.

I ended up sleeping a total of about 6 hours that entire week and that was it for me. I refused to take another pill after that.

Benefits of Getting Off Birth Control

It took some time, but my anxiety gradually went away and I was able to sleep again. I also no longer had extreme mood swings, bouts of anger, and crying for minor issues.

At this point, I started to wonder why my doctor would readily recommend birth control pills, while continuously assuring me that there were no side effects when there obviously were. Was it all in my head?

I began to research and found confirmation that it wasn’t.

If you search “hormonal birth control effects on the brain,” you will quickly find that some data suggest that hormonal birth control alters your brain, permanently.

In 2014, Frontiers in Neuroscience published an article titled, “50 years of hormonal contraception–time to find out, what it does to our brain.” The study found implications that oral contraceptives may alter the brain but concluded that more research was needed.

Additional Findings

In 2020, other articles were published and there was a review of neuroimaging studies, which begins by noting that: “Convergent evidence from animal research indicates that contraceptive substances can alter both structure and function of the brain, yet such effects are not part of the public discourse or clinical decision-making concerning these drugs.”

They concluded that: “The included studies identified structural and functional changes in areas involved in affective and cognitive processing, such as the amygdala, hippocampus, prefrontal cortex and cingulate gyrus.” But, again, more research is needed.

Another article by Neuroscience News in July of 2020, found that: “Early adulthood exposure to oral contraceptives was linked to significant structural changes in brain areas associated with memory and emotional processing.”

Amen Clinics’ posted an article on their blog in June of 2020, which states that “…in some women, taking the Pill is associated with a wide range of mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, fatigue, compulsive behavior, anger, and neurotic symptoms.” They also note that these symptoms often do not subside after discontinued use, depending on how long the woman has been on the pill.

So it turns out I wasn’t wrong about the effects the pill was having on me. I don’t know why doctors still claim that the pill has no side effects and does no harm when it’s clearly causing something to happen to our brains.

The benefits of going off the pill include regaining control of your mind and your emotions. Dr. Sara Hill (2019), even indicates in her book, This Is Your Brain on Birth Control: The Surprising Science of Women, Hormones, and the Law of Unintended Consequences that birth control can have an effect on a multitude of areas in your life.

How to Stop Taking Birth Control Pills Without Getting Pregnant

So you should get off the pill, but what do you do about birth control? I started by reading the book: Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health and implementing the process outlined, which is called the FAM method of birth control (FAM).

Basically, you take your temperature before getting out of bed every morning and record it. You also look for other signs of fertility that are outlined in the book. You learn about your body and cycle to determine when you can and can’t get pregnant.

Essentially, your cycle is broken up into two phases–pre and post-ovulation (called the follicular and luteal phases). Your period comes at the beginning of a new cycle. After ovulation, your body temperature shifts up .5 to 1 degree (which is why you have to use a basal body thermometer).

The tricky thing about this method is that you don’t know you’ve ovulated until it’s too late. You can get pregnant from having unprotected sex up to 5 days before you ovulate. This is why, according to WebMD and the CDC about 1 in 4 women who use this method, get pregnant.

I can personally attest to this since I got pregnant only a few months after going off the pill and then again when my son was a year old.

If you don’t want to get pregnant and you are coming off birth control, I would suggest being very careful and using either the app or condoms or abstinence for the first 6 months while your cycle regulates.

Try Using Natural Cycles

I have found that using an app to manage this information for me is much more helpful than just following the book. Since having my second baby, I’ve used Natural Cycles.

This took a lot of the guesswork out of tracking my cycle. It gives you green days (no protection needed) and red days (abstain or use protection). All I have to do is take my temperature when I wake up every morning and enter it into the app. It gives me a green or red day based on the data I enter.

Natural Cycles is 93% effective with typical use and 98% effective with perfect use. You can read more about its features and what people are saying about it from Healthline.

If you don’t want to create a graph every month or risk making a mistake on your chart, the app is the way to go. It does cost money (around $90 a year), but you can use your HSA (Health Savings Account) if you have one and the company is supposed to be working on insurance coverage. You can also use my referral code, to get 20% off and a free thermometer.

Planning Pregnancy

If you do decide that you want to get pregnant, this method can help you achieve that as well. Instead of avoiding your fertility window, you would plan to try to conceive during that time.

Learning about your cycle can also help you determine and address the reason that you may not be getting pregnant if you are struggling with infertility.

The Natural Cycles app also has a mode for trying to conceive and pregnancy.

Using FAM After Pregnancy

If you are coming off a pregnancy and are breastfeeding especially, this can be a great method of birth control since it’s safe while breastfeeding. However, breastfeeding is also a tricky time when many women have unexpected pregnancies.

Many breastfeeding moms have a delay in the return of their cycle, which causes them to believe they can’t get pregnant. This is true, but the tricky thing is that your cycle might return at any time and you will ovulate before that happens. Meaning you could end up pregnant again before you ever have another period!

If you do use this method, I would suggest using protection until your cycle has returned and regulated. From my experience, It can take 3-6 cycles before things return to their normal rhythm.

If you are breastfeeding, any change in breastfeeding, such as going back to work or beginning to wean your baby, can cause a change in your cycle (this is how I got pregnant with my second baby).

Be very diligent about tracking and/or use backup protection until your cycle regulates and use backup protection whenever you have a change in breastfeeding frequency, or just be extra careful. (If you need help with pumping, see my post on tips for pumping while at work.)


If you’re worried about the effects the pill has been having on you or you just don’t like the way it makes you feel, maybe it’s time to try going off the pill. Read Taking Charge of Your Fertility and try Natural Cycles for birth control the natural way. Save or share this post to help other women learn about the negative effects of birth control.

woman getting facial with text why you should quit birth control: how the pill could be affecting your mental health

References

Brønnick, M. K., Økland, I., Graugaard, C., & Brønnick, K. K. (2020). The effects of hormonal contraceptives on the brain: A systematic review of Neuroimaging Studies. Frontiers in Psychology, 11. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.556577

DiLonardo, M. J. (n.d.). Natural family planning: Methods to control pregnancy. WebMD. Retrieved August 22, 2022, from https://www.webmd.com/sex/birth-control/natural-family-planning-methods

FeaturedNeuroscience·July 28, 2020, also, S., & FeaturedNeuroscience·May 22, 2022·5 min read. (2020, July 28). Your brain on birth control. Neuroscience News. Retrieved July 28, 2022, from https://neurosciencenews.com/birth-control-brain-16718/

Hill, S. E. (2019). This is your brain on birth control: The surprising science of women, hormones, and the law of unintended consequences. Avery.

Mona, B. (2022, August 5). What to know about the natural cycles birth control app. Healthline. Retrieved August 22, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/health/natural-cycles-review#how-to-use

The Pill’s surprising (and scary) effects on the brain. Amen Clinics The Pills Surprising and Scary Effects on the Brain Comments. (2020, June 29). Retrieved July 28, 2022, from https://www.amenclinics.com/blog/the-pills-surprising-and-scary-effects-on-the-brain/

Sharma, R., Smith, S. A., Boukina, N., Dordari, A., Mistry, A., Taylor, B. C., Felix, N., Cameron, A., Fang, Z., Smith, A., & Ismail, N. (2020). Use of the birth control pill affects stress reactivity and brain structure and function. Hormones and Behavior, 124, 104783. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yhbeh.2020.104783

Weschler, T. (2015). Taking charge of your fertility: The definitive guide to natural birth control, pregnancy achievement, and Reproductive Health; 20th Anniversary edition. William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers.

Suggested Reading

Hill, S. E. Ph.D. (2019). This is your brain on birth control: The surprising science of women, hormones, and the law of unintended consequences. Avery.

Weschler, T. (2015). Taking charge of your fertility: The definitive guide to natural birth control, pregnancy achievement, and Reproductive Health; 20th Anniversary edition. William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers.

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