Wondering about the side effects of birth control pills? I was too
6 Minute Read
I’ve been on birth control for a lonnnggg time . . .
13 years to be exact. And I’ve often wondered about the side effects of birth control pills and what pumping my body with hormones over that length of time has been covertly doing to my body. You hear those stories of women getting cancer and the correlation to long term use of birth control, and you have to wonder…
According to the National Cancer Institute, “studies have provided consistent evidence that the risks of breast and cervical cancers are increased in women who use oral contraceptives.” And while researchers haven’t been able to connect the use of oral contraceptives (aka “the pill”) exclusively to cancer, the results show a strong correlation.
I went on birth control at the age of 17 without questioning any of the potential effects it may have on my body. After all, I was barely an adult and, at the time, would do anything to alleviate my painful monthly periods. But today, as a woman who scrutinizes all of the products she buys and the foods she puts into her body, from a sustainable, ethical and health perspective, I just don’t feel comfortable putting chemical hormones into my body. I’ve also got several friends who’ve had a hell of a time getting pregnant after being on the pill. And I keep wondering if I’m doing more harm than good by continuing to put something foreign into my body each day.
So at the end of last year, I decided to come off the pill I’d been popping for almost half my life. Not because I’m ready to “pop one out”. But because I was worried about the side effects of birth control pills. And I’d simply rather not have external chemicals in my body. Plus, I do wanna start having kids in the next few years and I wanna do it in a way that’s natural for me.
It’s been about 5 months now. And I have to be honest, it’s been an adjustment.
The women in my family get extreme periods. I’m talking: crouched over in the fetal position while hugging the toilet and bawling your eyes out from pain and nausea. And I’ve had a few of those since getting off the pill. But the good news is: my body is adjusting. I’m also learning which kind of foods to eat before and during my period to make sure my body has what it needs to cope with aunt flo.
Natural forms of birth control
Knowing that I’m not quite ready to have kids, I still need to use some form of birth control. Since coming off the pill, I’ve been using an app called Natural Cycles. Crazy enough, it’s actually approved by the FDA as a form of birth control without putting anything into your body.
It works like this: using a basal thermometer, you take your temperature every morning before you get outta bed. You use a basal thermometer because its more accurate than your run-of-the-mill thermometer.
Simply plug your temp into the app and it tracks how your body temperature changes throughout your cycle. From that data, it predicts when you ovulate. And as a result, it tells you when you’re fertile and when you’re not. It’s basically a 21st century version of the Billings Method. Here are a few screenshots from the app, so you can get an idea for how it works:
The Natural Cycles App
There are other menstrual tracking apps like Flo, which I personally prefer in terms of the user interface. It feels like instagram stories for your period. But Natural Cycles is the only one that’s FDA approved as a form of birth control since it tracks your temperature, making it much more accurate.
It’s important to note that, like any birth control, it’s not 100% effective. According to their website, it’s “93% effective with typical use [and] 98% effective with perfect use.” And yes, you still have to use contraception (like a condom) if you wanna have sex during your fertile window. But I feel much more comfortable using this and taking my temp on the daily, compared to popping a pill everyday.
Other considerations when coming off birth control
Since coming off the pill, my flow is a lot heavier. I used to have no problem wearing a period panty for 24 hours without changing it, but I now have to be more aware of which day of my flow I’m on. And I have to switch out my period undies more often.
But unlike when I first went on birth control, I now know my body so much better. And also feel much comfier wearing period undies than I ever did pads. Plus, it’s a heck of a lot more sustainable. Period undies can use washed and reused for up to 2 years.
Full disclosure: mine have been going for a lot longer than that and they still work perfectly fine.
This is me. On my period. Comfortable. And confident.
If you wanna feel comfortable and supported while on your period, period undies are the way to go. But that’s just me. I’m a lifer when it comes to reusable period products. There are lots of other options, such as menstrual cups and reusable cotton pads. Choose whichever option works best for you and your body.
Since switching to reusable period products about 5 years ago, I haven’t bought a single pad, tampon or panty liner. It’s not only a great way to avoid unnecessary waste during your period since you’re washing and reusing everything, but you also save so much money by switching from single-use period products to reusable ones. Plus, it’s much comfier than putting something foreign in (or on) your body.
Which period undies should you get?
Depending on your flow, you can choose which period undie is best for you. For lighter days, I opt for a cheeky or sport undie that holds between 1-2 tampons (depending on the style). And for heavier days, I go with a hip-hugger or boy short that holds up to 3 tampons worth. Thinx, my go-to period company, also has super undies that absorb up to 5 tampons worth. So they keep you covered for as long as you need.
For me, my knowledge has changed a lot since I was 17. And while I didn’t question the idea of taking a pill everyday to manage my period, it’s not something I feel comfortable with anymore. So if you’re also concerned about the side of effects of birth control pills or other hormonal forms of birth control, it’s important to know your options and speak to your doctor. There are many ways to manage your period that are healthy for you, your body, and the planet.
Happy bleeding my fierce femxle! P.S. in case none of the above feel like a good fit for you, you can always get an emergency delivery of chocolate for when that time of the month comes around. This is my personal fave.