If it seems like just about everyone’s been on the Pill at some point, that’s because the great majority of women indeed have. According to the most recent National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) released in October 2020 by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), 65% of women aged 15-49 were using some form of contraception between 2017-2019, and 14.% of those women were on the Pill. Perhaps most interestingly, according to older data released in 2013, 82% of women of reproductive age in 2006–2010 who had ever had sexual intercourse had used the Pill. That tells us that while a lot of women try the Pill at some point in their lives, fewer stick with it for an extended amount of time. In fact, the 2013 study found that “the median number of methods ever used by women was about three, but nearly 30% have used five or more methods. Side effects were the most common reason for discontinuing use of the pill, Depo-Provera, and the patch among women who had ever discontinued using these methods due to dissatisfaction.”
Especially for those who went on the Pill (or some other form of hormonal contraception) to manage symptoms of their periods, the prospect of getting off the Pill—even when they are ready to try to conceive—can be scary. What if the symptoms come back? What if they’re worse? What can one expect?
We asked women who have transitioned off the Pill three important questions about what they experienced when getting off the Pill. The overall message: it won’t be as bad as you think.
#1 What did you think would be the hardest thing about getting off the Pill?
“I thought the hardest part would be staying the course with my decision, but as it turns out, it wasn’t. As soon as I went off the Pill, I felt like a new woman. I was brighter, more alert, and more myself. It felt like a cloud had been lifted both literally and figuratively. It was as if I was missing something in myself for the previous 10 years while on the Pill, and now I had found it again.” – Yvonne
“I worried my periods might be terrible, but they weren’t so bad. PMS is always rough for me, but that doesn’t seem to be dependent on whether I’m on the Pill.” – Jody
#2 What was it like to make the switch from the Pill to fertility awareness?
“I did lose track of my next period at first but once I started tracking it, I got to know my body better.” – Ashley
“Going off the Pill had no ill effects on my body. Life was easier because I didn’t have to worry about taking it any longer. My body quickly found its own rhythm and it wasn’t much different than being on the Pill. I was able to track my temperature and ovulation easily.” – Aideen
“My acne was worse than it had been. But I felt better overall. I don’t think I realized (while I was on it) just how much those hormones were affecting my whole body—not just my reproductive system. I am really lucky in that my partner was hugely supportive of learning a [Fertility Awareness Method] FAM of family planning and was willing to play an important role in helping me get over my own fears of learning Creighton. I was scared to know the truth about what I had done to my body . . . But our Creighton instructor emphasized to us repeatedly that the sooner you’re off the Pill the better. . . . I am glad that I quit it when I did. And I only wish I had done it sooner.” – Emily
#3 What tips would you give a woman who’s about to go off the Pill or another hormonal contraceptive?
“Ask yourself why you’re taking it and what you know about it. Are you aware of the side effects? How do you feel on it? If you’re taking it to prevent pregnancy, have you tried natural methods?” – Ashley
“Talk to your doctor about what the right decision for you is. Every woman’s body chemistry is so different, and it’s important to take good care of your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. I find myself less prone to depression and mood swings now that I’m off the Pill . . . Any decision should be made with professional supervision!” – Jody
“Seek out the help of Natural Family Planning doctors who are well-trained in identifying the root cause of your issues and help you to resolve them naturally without masking your issues with the Pill. If you are using the Pill in your intimate relationship, talk to your partner about how you are feeling and the choice you are making. It is going to change your relationship and you need to make sure that your partner is with you and supportive in that decision. If they are not, it might be a good signal to take a hard look at each of your priorities. It might also be helpful to seek out therapy or find a trusted advisor. The Pill can cause depression, and you might have some unresolved things to address. Going off the Pill will make a big difference, but professional help can be there to help you navigate your new, clear-minded life. Finally, choose this for yourself. Learn about what the Pill is doing to your body and mind, and choose better for your own sake. It will be one of the most empowering decisions of your life.” – Yvonne
“Be positive, try to eat clean, and have foods that are good for hormone regulation. The more you do to help yourself the easier it’ll be.” – Aideen
“It’s okay to be nervous about going off it . . . Most women don’t realize the side effects or think that more natural methods of preventing pregnancy aren’t as effective. . . . The important thing is to have the courage to take that first step and quit it. The sooner the better! And I cannot emphasize enough how worth it that decision is.” – Emily
Taking the Plunge
In addition to knowing what to expect, if you’re considering getting off hormonal birth control, there are steps you can take to ease the process of taking the plunge. There are some key steps that will prepare you for a healthy transition, as well as some recommended nutrient-focused food choices that help your body bounce back from the hormonal suppression that birth control causes. Having a certified instructor in a Fertility Awareness Method will greatly help you along the journey. Don’t worry, it’s much cheaper than birth control. And remember: You got this!
This article was originally published as written by Lindsay Schlegel on August 4, 2018. It has since been updated by Natural Womanhood to offer more information.
Last updated March 28, 2022.