I first started having periods when I was eleven. I remember my first period clearly: I was on holiday in Wales with my family and best friend, I was wearing bright pink knickers, and although I vaguely knew what was going on I was too confused and embarrassed to tell anyone about it. It was only when I returned home a week later and my mother found my blood-stained underwear and spoke to me about it that I admitted that I’d started my period.
From then on, I started having regular periods. Once a month, every month like clockwork. Relatively heavy flow, severe mood swings in my teenage years, cramps that sometimes forced me to lie down in the middle of my drama class and breath deeply for a few minutes. Nothing out of the ordinary, just regular periods.
I went on the pill when I was 18 because I started having sex, and it was, quite frankly, the best decision I’ve ever made. Within a month, my moods totally stabilised and my suicidal thoughts disappeared, and my already-regular periods were now at my beck and call. If I wanted to skip a period, I could. Unlike many people who have awful experiences on the contraceptive pill, I had no negative side effects.
So why then did I decide to come off the pill back in July after four happy years of filling my bloodstream with artificial hormones?
Well, partly because no one’s really quite sure what the long-term side effects of the pill are. But mainly because I was intrigued to see what my body would do when I came off the pill. Although my periods were regular before I was on the pill, I’d never tracked my cycle before; and I was intrigued to see whether my mood would remain stable (read: not suicidal) without the pill.
So I stopped. On 12th July I took my last pill (Levest, if you’re interested), and then, exactly six weeks later (although it can take up to 3 months, according to Doctor Google), I got my first ‘natural’ period in about four years.
Although my period had never been especially painful or difficult, going on the pill did minimise the already minimal symptoms I had, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect from my first non-pill period. Turns out, I should have had more faith in my body because things were, if I’m honest, pretty uneventful.
There were, however, a few small changes that I found interesting. Because I never really paid much attention to my body or cycle before I went on the pill, I’m not sure if these symptoms were there before I started taking the pill, but they were definitely weren’t there while I was on the pill.
Hello discharge, my old friend
When I came off the pill, I started tracking my cycle on the period tracking app, Clue. One of the things it asks you to track is your discharge, and whooo boy turns out when you’re not on the pill all sorts of stuff comes out of your vagina.
When I was on the pill, nothing much went on down there. I had my withdrawal bleed three days after I took my last pill in a packet, but apart from that there was nada.
Since coming off the pill however, I’ve noticed that I a) have discharge again and that b) the consistency of it varies throughout the month.
I’m hoping that when I become attuned to my cycle, I’ll be able to predict when my period will be coming based on how thick my discharge is. Because apparently I’m that kind of person now.
The boob pain is real
Now this is definitely a new one. I’d never experienced any pain in my boobs before, either before I started taking the pill or when I was on it.
But about ten days before my first period I got agonising pain in my boobs for about two days. I’m not sure if it’s just because my boobs are bigger now than they were before I was on the pill, but I definitely never had this before.
0/10 would not recommend
Cramps are not your friend
While I was on the pill, my cramps were minimal. The day my ‘period’ (that is, withdrawal bleed) came I’d have mild cramps and sometimes need a hot water bottle, but other than that there was no pain whatsoever.
This time, I had mild cramps for about a week before my period came, and the morning before it arrived I found myself in the shower, doubled over in pain.
Thankfully, when my period arrived a few hours later, the cramps disappeared and I could carry on as normal.
My moods are stable
My main concern about coming off the pill was what the hell would happen to my moods. Before I went on the pill, I suffered from depression, and my moods were particularly bad leading up to my period. As soon as I went on the pill, this stopped.
Touch wood, so far my moods seem to be stable even now I’m off the pill. My pre-period lows don’t seem to have made a reappearance. In fact, I can’t tell the difference between my mood on the pill and my mood off the pill so far, thank god.
I’m aware that this is only my first cycle off the pill, and I have no idea whether what happened this month will happen every month, but so far life off the pill isn’t as bad as I was expecting. I’m not planning on staying off the pill forever, but I’m certainly going to keep this little experiment going a while longer.
If you’re thinking about coming off your method of contraception, please consult your Doctor first about any concerns you may have. For more information about coming off the pill, please visit the NHS website.