The Birth Control Detox
To be honest, I’ve been thinking about writing this post for months. I’ve been thinking about sharing it for months, too, but odds are good that by the time I do, it’ll be well past when I got this idea out on (virtual) paper. It’s been a trying year – in more ways than one, but something that I haven’t shared with you all is one of the big changes I’ve been going through. There’re a few reasons why I want to write about it, but mostly to create awareness, and a safe space for you to be able to ask the questions or relate to my journey or maybe even to just know that you’re not the only one out there. But I also hope that it raises the concept that this shouldn’t be such a foreign thing to talk about, or share – and that we, especially as women, need to be kind to how we ask each other questions regarding our own bodies.
I got off birth control in January of 2019, and yes, (to answer the big question) to have a baby. But also, because my body has been on birth control, essentially since I was 18 years old. With only a quick break in between before I started dating Frank did I ever go off it, so as far as I know, my normal body, was one on a pill. And boy, let me tell you, I had no idea what this year would be like getting off it.
If you don’t know me by know, you’d want to know that I’m a researcher – I do my homework, I investigate all possible options, I’m the one that when you give me a symptom or a need, I’ll find you 10 solutions within a few hours. I like to have viable options available to me, so the more I know, the better. So, when Frank and I first had the conversation shortly after getting married about when I’d get off the pill and we’d start trying, I knew I had to start searching to what may happen to my body and how best to prepare for it. We decided that come the new year, around when we’d be going away for our honeymoon, I’d stop, which gave me a few months of prep time.
As always, let’s remember, that I’m not a doctor, and these were the things that I started to incorporate before, and during my detox process to help me get through. After about 9 months, I’m just now starting to feel more like myself.
3 Months Before
Knowing that my hormones were going to be all over the place, the first thing I decided to incorporate into my regime was a prenatal – I knew plenty of women who were lacking in a ton of vitamins and minerals, so loading up with a prenatal was going to be a good idea. In addition to that, I wanted to make sure that if I were to get pregnant right away, that my body would be a little more ready for it. Because let’s be honest, I had no idea what would happen. I also started incorporating maca powder into my diet – which is best known to help regulate hormones. I used it in smoothies, baking, anywhere I could add a little in.
The initial benefits of taking the prenatals? I’ve never had nails this strong! Felt good going into the new year and stopping that pill.
The first few weeks were a cake walk. I’m not sure exactly what I expected, but it wasn’t as bad as I initially thought. I noticed my anxiety seemingly being less (a potential ‘side effect’ for some women), and no real changes seemed to happen right away. I must also point out, it was a very trying first two months of the new year – not only did Frank get the flu really bad, but we also celebrated our marriage on our honeymoon, to come home shortly thereafter to his father passing away. Maybe I didn’t feel any changes, or maybe I was so distracted by everything else around me, that I didn’t notice. Either way, I had no idea what shit storm was coming for me.
Let me just tell you, I have never in my life had acne like this before. Clearly the hormones were keeping something at bay as my skin, while I’d get the occasional breakout around my period, seriously flipped the script. At first, I didn’t attribute it to the lack of a pill. I tried changing my diet, eliminating sugar, no more grains, no more dairy, I bought all the products I could possibly find, was spending $$$ on facials, and to no avail, my skin just sucked. I’m talking deep, cystic, painful zits all over my chin. Ladies – in case you don’t know, any acne on that chin and jawline area is 100% related to your hormones, its why its most common for us to break out there during or leading up to our period. It was during this time that drinking celery juice daily helped with it slight, I changed my skincare routine and I also decided to stop getting facials, because, why spend the money on something that wasn’t working anyway.
To say I was devastated is an understatement – I have never felt more gross in my entire life. Couple that with spring travel season and an unscheduled routine, I felt like no one was looking at me, they were just looking at the mountains on my face. How could I possibly even be attractive to my own husband with skin like this? I am grateful for the man that I married to be so supportive and gracious and loving to me as the problems didn’t just end with my skin being bad, they were just starting to get worse.
Ya know what can also make having sucky skin worse? When your body odor also goes out of control. This was a side effect I hadn't heard much about, but when the pH levels in your body are all over the place, its no wonder that so many women smell. It didn't help that I was also trying to find the right natural deodorant for me, but for someone who doesn't really sweat and has never had bad BO, March and April were ROUGH months for me all around.
As if the skin was the worst of the problem, I also then started gaining weight in the weirdest of ways. I hadn’t changed anything about my routine – but there it was, a pooch. I was bloated almost all the time. I was uncomfortable. Cutting out things didn’t matter, changing my diet didn’t matter, and working out more didn’t matter. So, there I was, feeling puffy and with teenage skin, and then my body decided to add in just one more thing: I started to lose my hair.
I don’t mean I was losing my hair in small amounts – I mean that you could knit Izzy a new fur coat with the amount of hair I was losing daily. I don’t brush my hair – only comb it in the shower, and the drain would be so covered in hair, I’d have to throw it out mid-shower to clear the drain. I’m so incredibly lucky that I have naturally thick hair – and a lot of it, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned amount the amount of hair I was losing. There was a point this summer that Frank, who normally plays with my hair said to me “I was worried to tell you how much hair was coming out when I was pulling my fingers through it – I didn’t want to scare you, so I just didn’t tell you.” I thanked him for not telling me in the moment, because it probably would have scared me.
I know that this is all probably sounding terrible – but the reality is that some women will go through this, and some will not. I pray that you are in the later population. In a time in which I had hoped I would feel so in touch with myself as a woman, how could I possible feel myself with all of these changes? If this wasn’t enough, I was also exhausted all the time, losing motivation to work out at all (why bother if it wasn’t doing anything anyway, ya know?) and overall just pretty shitty. To say that this year has been easy would be an outright lie.
I feel like things are starting to even out. It’s hard to say how this phase of my life will feel once I’m out of it. My energy levels are way better, and my skin, is just now really starting to even out. I’ve stopped losing so much hair, and my body has its moments. But this is where I am right now, working every day to make it better, so that when the next change (a baby!) happens, I’ll be more ready for it. --- Funny part about this paragraph, when I wrote it back in October, I was pregnant and didn’t even know it yet.
First was diet – I had done a lot of research about this ‘detox’ and how I best could prepare for it. I made sure to incorporate hormone balancing foods, things like maca powder in smoothies and limiting sugar intake. For me personally, too much dairy is never a good thing (until now that I’m pregnant and all rules have gone out the window!) so I made sure to not consume much of it, or if I was, to make sure it was a quality product. And hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Water will become your best friend, it helps to flush your system. I did also cut back on caffeine, which may seem counterproductive when you’re incredibly tired all the time, but using green tea, matcha, and water helped me more than coffee.
As I mentioned, I also started taking a pre-natal multivitamin 3-4 months before I even thought about getting off the pill. I’ll write about which prenatal I’m taking in my first trimester blog post, because that was a huge thing in and of itself.
The biggest difference I found in helping my body adjust, and which I ultimately think helped me to get pregnant was acupuncture. I’ve had many friends and family members go, and I’ve gone myself over the years, so when things didn’t seem to be getting much better on my own after a few months, I opted to find a new acupuncturist and to start going as often as I could. Unfortunately, my insurance doesn’t cover it, and many don’t so bear in mind the cost of this. At the end of the day, both Frank and I approached the cost of going as something to that was helping me feel better, getting my body for pregnancy, and so it was worth it to go. She worked on a wide variety of things, but first and foremost was the hormonal balance. She did prescribe me various herbal remedies as well, most of which were in Chinese, so I couldn’t even tell you what they were, but I noticed a difference in the treatment of going to her. Since getting pregnant and I’ve only gone once (trying to save!) but I plan to go at least a few times throughout this pregnancy.
Another supplement that I personally took after conversations with her was DIM active and Dong Quai. Both helps to regulate specifically for women, and I personally found great success with both. Consult your doctor before doing so. DIM active cleared up my skin within about a week or two, and other than menstrual breakouts, it was honestly the only thing that really helped. I didn’t even find it until about 8 months into getting off the pill, and I wish I had found it sooner. Dong Quai is an ancient Chinese supplement, which helps to regulate periods. In the beginning, mine was incredibly unpredictable, and taking this for 2 months also aided in me getting back to a regular monthly flow.
What didn’t work
After starting work with my acupuncturist, she shared with me that while working out was healthy, and should be done, the way I was, wasn’t healthy. Because my body was under so much stress from getting off the pill, that doing five days a week, heavy weight lifting, I was only adding to the stress. I had to cut back. Mentally this was the hardest part for me, because working out helps me more than just physically. I aimed at doing more cardio, not intense ANYTHING, walking, more body weight, yoga at home. I had to cut back so that my body could rest.
The other thing I can’t stress enough: when your skin is flipping out – resist the urge to buy new face products. I was so desperate to have my face clear up, I bought a lot of products that I didn’t end up using. They also could have made it worse, who knows to be honest. Almost a year out from dropping the pill, my skin craves simple, clean products. The more ingredients, the more breakouts I have. Do yourself a favor and save the money.
The last thing I really want to stress - is don't suffer alone. I did for a long time this past spring, because I didn't want to acknowledge that I had gotten off the pill. Admittedly, I didn't want to even publish this post until I was pregnant and was ready to announce it because I didn't want to be bombarded with questions about pregnancy. More often than not, we as a society are asking women the question of "why aren't you pregnant?" without even acknowledging that there's a process that has to come before that. For some women its quick, but for more women than I can count on two hands, it takes months or even years to get their hormones balanced to even attempt a baby. I was incredibly open with my closest friends and husband, and am grateful I had people to bounce these thoughts off of.
If there's one other thing I can share, that I can write about now that I'm on the other side of the grass, is that I know, deep down, that that quiet stress that you don't feel on a regular basis had an affect on my inability to get pregnant for a year. After talking it out with my mom one day, I realized that 2019 was a really shitty year for Frank and I. Between us both being really sick at various points in the year, multiple and important deaths in our family, and adding in getting off the pill, its no wonder that I didn't get pregnant the minute I got off the pill. So while it may be frustrating in the moment, whether or not you're trying to get pregnant, just know, that those internal feelings of stress are going to affect how you balance out.
I feel like at the end of this post that I should have some monumental suggestion, but for most of us out there, it'll be trial and error. I hope that by sharing how my body changed over the course of 10 months, you'll find some remedies or peace in being able to do the same. Please reach out to me.