The Ups, Downs and Surprises of Going Off Birth Control

I am grateful to be a woman today. There are so many options available for women’s health, and we’re continuing to learn more.


I was on the Nuvaring (hormonal birth control) since college. The benefits: peace of mind, clear(ish) skin and lighter periods. The cons: crankiness, moodiness and unnaturally affecting my body. Did I mention that I would get cranky?



Birth Control and Skin Care


If you have struggled with acne, then you will understand that keeping my skin under control trumped all the cons. It wasn’t until I started developing dark spots (melasma) on my forehead that I thought about getting off birth control. The artificial hormones resulted in a ‘pregnancy mask’ that couldn’t be treated with lightening creams or external treatments. Even though I was terrified of severely breaking out, I knew that stopping birth control was the only way to get rid of the pigmentation on my face.


I mentally prepared for the road ahead… and the oiliness and many zits in my future. I was so preoccupied with my skin that I didn’t even consider the other implications and side effects of my decision. And there were many that surprised me!



Positive and Negative Side Effects of Going off Birth Control


For one, my hair began to fall out after a month or so. At the time I attributed it to stress and traveling, but finally realized that my body was experiencing post-pregnancy effects (similar to what women experience after delivering a baby). Thankfully I stopped drastically shedding after a few weeks and my hair eventually started to grow back.


If that wasn’t bad enough, my scalp became extremely oily. I had to wash my hair daily, avoid conditioner and use tons of dry shampoo. And as I feared and predicted, my also skin got oily—I mean really oily, and broken out. I clay masked as much as I could, but had to wait a few months for my skin and hair to return to their ‘normal oily’ state.


One positive change is that I became more emotional—not too emotional, but a healthy, appropriate amount. I had always assumed that I just never got sad or cried. I am now more affected by movies, books, people and experiences. Plus, I am (a little) less moody and irritable!


Ironically, I was so busy figuring out my new hair and skin care routines that I didn’t even notice the dark spots on my forehead fading. I am guessing that the melasma went away after about 6 months—almost completely! If you really look, you can see some pigmentation, but wearing powder mostly conceals my uneven skin tone. Overall, going off birth control was a success… the dark spots are gone and I definitely feel healthier and more like myself.



Taking Control of Your Health


It’s been about a year since I stopped taking birth control and am happy with my decision—especially with what I’ve learned about how much our bodies are affected by medication and hormonal birth control. Make sure to talk to your health care professional and do your research so you're informed of the options available to you. I definitely get frustrated as I break out more now, but am learning to manage my expectations.


*In my personal experience, and what I’ve heard from others, birth control is prescribed without much explanation or consideration of potential side effects (e.g., women’s dietary, thyroid, and adrenal health). Sure, there’s the disclaimer message (as there is with any medication), but the ramifications seem understated at best, and negligent at worst. Please consult with your doctor or health care provider for more information and/or before making any changes related to your health.