Disclaimer: I am NOT an OBGYN or any type of medical professional specializing in hormones. This all stems from personal experience with medical advice I have received from my OBGYN.
Quite recently this year, I stopped taking birth control pills and have solely relied on Paragard as my main method. Reason being, I didn’t want to rely on hormones from an external source, constantly speculating if my cycles were naturally induced or medicinally initiated. In the very beginning of seeing my OBGYN during early university, they informed me that I was qualified to receive the Paragard, but advised me on pills because my hormones were pretty disordered due to stress and over-exercising. I stuck with the pills for several years until I decided to revisit the idea of receiving the Paragard because one procedure seemed a LOT easier than needing to ingest medication every day.
It’s been three months since I’ve got off the pills and life has been pretty nice thus far! Granted, the transition did not come without its peculiar symptoms–many of which were unpleasant, others were more tolerable.
Let’s start with the good, shall we?
- More convenience in my nightly schedule. Having to take my birth control pills was kind of cumbersome on busy nights in university. I could ACTUALLY sleep right away without an extra step (thank GOODNESS), which does impact my routine positively!
- My periods stayed mostly regular afterwards. While on the pill, I would suffer with cramps from H-E-L-L and needed to wait out the red dot for weeks. For some reason, the Paragard did not lengthen my cycles despite this being one of the most common side effects of the device. Yes, the insertion was painful, but I hardly felt anything about an hour afterwards. Once again though, please see an OBGYN for more information.
- Less emotional outbursts and crankiness. Synthetic hormones just do not agree with me on a mood and emotional level; the pill exacerbated my stress, sadness, anger, and every intense emotion I would undergo.
Now for the dumpster fire that I WISH I researched more on…
- Thinning hair and hair loss. Good GOD, I felt insanely insecure about this. I’ve always had relatively thin-ish hair volume, but it got exponentially worse since not ingesting birth control, though my stress levels were very high at the beginning of my internship around the same time as well. I’m hoping to cut my hair ASAP so that the ends of my hair appear less brittle. It sucks balls that there’s no viable vegan or plant-based collagen supplement, so I’ve been trying to find other ways to boost as many hair-growth promoting nutrients into my diet known to humankind. Weirdly enough, I already consume more than plenty of foods with all these nutrients like flaxseed for Omega-3’s, spinach for iron, mixed nuts for zinc and copper, kale for calcium, and tofu for protein, ON TOP of this liquid vegan supplement (tastes awful IMO, but it gets the job done). Luckily, after the second week of August, my hair started thickening again, which is absolutely relieving. Of course, I still supplement and consume a healthy and well-balanced vegan diet.
- Stomach issues. Just as the circumstances of my mane, my stomach wasn’t doing so hot either. My appetite was extremely irregular where I could wake up and not eat all day or I’d basically be able to live in the kitchen rummaging for snacks or cooking more and more food. No matter what the issue, my stomach seemed to operate at the same pace as a snail crossing the street. The good news is that the efficiency has been picking up ever since I stopped consuming bran cereal every day, started drinking warm lemon tea, and sleeping more soundly.
- Worse sleep. Maybe this could account for the fact that I consumed two teaspoons of matcha every morning, but I felt extra jittery and sleep-deprived. Ironically, I could feel my mind falling more sleepy and ready to slumber for the night, but I’d wake up multiple times in the night just struggling to rest. With more research, the possibility lies in copper toxicity, but again, I cannot be so sure.
- More temperamental skin. The whole “maskne” situation is definitely the main culprit, but removing birth control pills from my routine did little to alleviate the skin issues. My skin was simply not as immune to developing small pimples as it was with the pills, which makes sense since the synthetic hormones can help with acne reduction (though some have experienced more acne with synthetic hormone supplementation).
- Even MORE temperamental weight fluctuations. By far, this was one of the most annoying side effects–I knew it was due to hormone fluctuations and my hormone levels adjusting without the synthetic ingestion (most likely estrogen dominance). My weight just started creeping, creeeeeeeping up and I weighed nearly as much as I did when I only lost the first twenty pounds in my weight loss experience. It felt pretty discouraging to look bigger in posted pictures and sense my clothes tightening up in different areas.
AFTER THREE MONTHS…
As I mentioned before, it took from June 13th-August 13th for the unpleasant side effects to subside. My once thinning strands of hair finally started to thicken and feel less brittle around the August date, as well as the skin and stomach issues. The excess weight (most likely fluid retention) took a little longer to normalize. It wasn’t until just the beginning of September when I finally have seen weight loss results without changing my diet and workout routine significantly. It’s interesting to figure out why this may be, but nonetheless, my body is close to normal since pre-quarantine (if I really wanted to be nit-picky, two pounds away from my pre-quarantine weight). But for a while, I really despised how I felt and how I looked–sleep deprived, exhausted, energetically inconsistent, and puffy. All I wanted to wear were black leggings, sweatpants, and large sweaters and shirts with fashionable outfits being occasional indulgences. Taking pictures was the last thing I wanted to do. Insecurity at its highest. There were days where I believed this would be the rest of my life, but the least I could do was alleviate some of the symptoms with present implementations.
WHAT I DID (AND CONTINUE TO DO)…
- Warmth setting on ALL electronic screens. Need to block out the blue light, basically every minute and second of my day. It has helped with my sleep immensely!
- Eating more Omega-3 fatty acids. Even though I already had been consuming lots of healthy fats, I started keeping myself more accountable of integrating rich sources of Omega-3 fatty acids every single day, specifically chia seeds and flax seeds. I’d consume up to 1/4 cup of these seeds a day (sometimes more!) to ensure these fatty acids were attained for a host of benefits and functionality. I felt much more satiated, grounded, and nourished as my skin and hair gradually began restoring to their original states.
- Digging into more fats in general. While I’ve prioritized Omega-3 fatty acids, I absolutely do not skimp on other types of fats, mainly unsaturated fats. My favorites have been mixed nuts with cashews, almonds, and Brazil nuts, avocado, as well as almond butter!
- Consuming lots of leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables. Many cruciferous vegetables possess compounds that aid in estrogen metabolism. Now, I did not want to completely eliminate the estrogen from my body, so I balanced out the portions of my flax seeds and chia seeds with 1/2 cup of the seeds with 3 cups of cooked cauliflower or broccoli (or 1 cup of cooked kale).
- Walking as opposed to HIIT training or cardio. I cannot live without at least an hour of low-intensity steady state walking every day. Walking is SUCH an amazing substitute for higher intensity cardio such as running or spinning (though you can lower the intensity of biking/cycling as well) because it does not prompt cortisol elevation nearly as much. P.S. ANY excuse to stay active outside without needing to wear a super tight sports bra is a plus for me.
- Lights out by 10:30 P.M. at night. Definitely NOT a non-negotiable, but I try my best to sleep in at this time or earlier to ensure I get in a solid eight hours if I end up waking up past 6:30 A.M. in the morning!
- Hot beverages. Herbal tea is such an amazing drink for reducing stress levels and elevating antioxidant intake. It’s fantastic with lemon juice!
Thanks so much for reading! Again, please consult with your OBGYN before switching to any birth control methods.