By: Alison Marras
October 9, 2018
(updated October 23, 2020)
What’s Inside: After taking birth control for almost a decade, in 2018 I decided to stop taking the pill. I experienced a lot of side effects from going off of the pill that sent me searching for answers. Here, I document my experience going off the pill and discovering, using, and getting pregnant with the AVA fertility bracelet and other helpful tools.
In 2014, I decided to quit the Birth Control pill I had been taking for nearly a decade. I was put on the pill after having “Dysmenorrhea”, AKA extremely painful periods that kept me out of school for days each month and after I exhausted the pain meds I could take. I was told it was my only option to control my period. So, I was all for it, I was headed off to college and couldn’t be bothered to deal with this pain anymore. I LOVED being on the pill, I finally felt free from my period that I grew to hate. Nevermind that it was unnatural, I cared that I had a life again and that was the priority. Having no idea I could have explored supporting a healthier, less painful period through natural means, through some lifestyle changes, dietary tweaks, and Eastern medicine such as acupuncture… I later found this out when I got off the period and the pain returned with vengeance. Funny, all my doctors said it wouldn’t come back that way, that the pill would have “fixed” it… nice story, guys… but not true.
When I got off the pill, I like to say my body went bazurk. It was as if I lifted my hand from the mouth of my body and it had some real sh*t to say to me! Besides my period returning to be just as I remembered it… the heavy bleeding, excruciating pain (and thanks to this, I have a very high pain tolerance), fainting, vomiting, and all-around loss of control for 2 days. It was all there waiting for me like it was culminating for the past 9 years. I popped whatever pain relievers I could find just to help ease some of it and laid in bed with my heating pad until I had red marks all over my stomach.
I got off the pill not because I wanted to have kids yet, after all, I was a newlywed and still wanted to enjoy that. But because my husband begged me, he would read about weird side effects and didn’t see the point of me being on it. A part of me regretted getting off, now I had to deal with all this again… not to mention, I felt like my body was so PISSED at me. Here’s how: my skin was breaking out all over, not just in acne on my face, but with psoriasis on my scalp and hives on my neck and jaw. I was not exactly used to this. My hair was falling out in clumps, very visibly. I couldn’t touch it without pulling handfuls out. Needless to say, I felt helpless and unsure of what to do.
Cut to me running to every doctor’s office in New York City. I visited Gynecologists, Trichologists (Scalp doctors… that’s a thing), Dermatologists, Endocrinologists… all the “-ologists” multiple times. And heard the same thing over and over… “Oh yeah this can happen with birth control pills, it’ll even out, give it some time. You’re fine otherwise.”. After giving it a year, I went back for more check-ups, same news yet my symptoms were worsening. I had no energy and was feeling so down and depressed, all I could think about was going bald with nothing to stop it. I had wasted thousands of dollars in supplements, hair loss haircare, etc. (you can read more about my hair loss journey here).
The pill wasn’t just blanketing problems in my body like PCOS and other hormone imbalances, but I fully believe, and many doctors believe it’s what triggered my Autoimmune Disease. The trauma my body was going through led to a cascade of health issues, and though every Endocrinologist swore I was fine, they weren’t fully testing my thyroid which was under attack the entire time. By year 3 of this back and forth, I had completed my first year in nutrition training and decided to go to a Naturopath who diagnosed me with Hashimoto’s Autoimmune Disease. Once I started treatment for this which ironically, is a daily pill of T3 & T4 hormones my body could barely produce on its own… things slowly but surely started to get better along with a lot of dietary and lifestyle changes I ventured into making.
Now, throughout all of this… I couldn’t get pregnant. In the beginning, I just didn’t feel ready. Then, after years of my health declining, I didn’t feel I was healthy or confident enough to. However, now that I’ve gotten my health to be in a much better place, which I’m so thankful for… I would love to be able to try. Friends of mine recommended I read the book, Taking Charge of your Fertility which can be used for both wanting to get pregnant AND not wanting to get pregnant. I studied it and went to work on trying to “track” my cycle. Boy, was that a challenge with both PCOS and Hashimoto’s. For starters, our thyroid is our body’s thermometer, and mine is on the fritz! So, when you take your daily basal temperature… you can see trends. Not so much with my chart! It’s a bit up and down and all-around at times. There are other measures, like CV Fluid which you should be able to easily take notice of so that’s helpful, but everything else with slightly irregular cycles and healing a thyroid… it can get confusing.
I started researching tools that could help me and I came across AVA. What is it? It’s a bracelet tracker I wear every night and take off each morning. I don’t have to remember anything past that or worry about taking my temperature (which is also a challenge if you have to pee or wake up early to take thyroid meds and forget to take your temperature for a full minute under your tongue). I found wearing this bracelet to be a lot less stressful. When you remove the watch in the morning, you plug it in and sync it to a mobile app on your phone. Right away, you’ll get a read on if you’re fertile or not.
Quick disclaimer, Ava’s not tested for irregular cycles or PCOS, but I’m still loving all the data I’m getting from the bracelet! It’s helping me way more than just taking my temperature. PCOS and all. So, the fertile tracker *can* be a few days off for anyone with irregular periods and PCOS. So, what I look for to confirm it, is to see if there’s an increase in both my skin temperature + my resting pulse together. You have to play with it. So, I’m looking for 2 spikes at the same time in those measures. Along with that, I track the CV Fluid and make a note of it within the app (it has easy ways to track that amongst other things like if you had sex that day, or if any other symptoms are present). And that’s how I use AVA to track!
I’ve been doing this for nearly 3 months, and it’s the easiest thing I’ve ever tried. I finally feel like I have enough data points to show me where I’m at in my cycle with less confusion and stress. Tools like AVA help us make use of technology, while not having to use anything invasive or anything that will mess with our precious hormones and body. Since getting off the Birth Control Pill, I wouldn’t trade the messy… un-glamorous experience for anything. I’ve learned to listen to my body, and moreover, to trust it.
Current Thoughts in Oct’2020 after a successful pregnancy using this tool: Using the AVA fertility tracker gave me the data and confidence I needed for planning for a family and tracking my fertility which was formerly a massive stress (and that stress alone was a fertility challenge). I highly recommend trying it if you’re in need of support. The AVA bracelet was 100% right on my conception days regardless of my cycle length and health challenges, and I’m so happy I had it!
When I said I felt like my body was mad at me, I realized it wasn’t, it needed help and I had neglected my own body, it was self-communicating and I finally was forced to listen. This is how I treat any symptom in general now, it’s a sign that something is happening, good/bad or indifferent. And the more we can remove disruptions from that beautiful process, the more in tune with our bodies we can be. Instead of aiming to control our bodies as I attempted to with the pill, it was a much better experience to instead, learn about my body and support it.
Whether you’re looking to conceive now, later, or never… my advice to any woman is to learn about your body if you feel you need help… check out non-evasive options like an AVA watch for example to help you be smarter about your body instead of attempting to control it and possibly do harm to it if you can. You can absolutely prevent pregnancy or open yourself up to that option, in going about it this way. I highly recommend it if you’re curious!
For anyone like me with fertility challenges, PCOS, Hashimoto’s, and/or irregular menstrual cycles, you can read more here about using AVA in conjunction with that.
For anyone currently on BCP or using an IUD that’s considering quitting, don’t let my horror story, in the beginning, scare you. If I could go back, I would have looked for a holistic practitioner like a Nutritional Therapist (what I am) and/or a Functional Medicine Doctor or Naturopath to help me off it. My doctors assured me I could just stop… but I’ve since learned that supporting your body first so the transition can be milder, is totally possible.
That said, I’ve also had friends up and quit with zero symptoms after! It’s anyone’s guess what would happen, but you can always try to set yourself up for success first. My recommendations for that would be to implement stress management and self-care routine into your daily life like yoga and meditation for example. I’d also recommend reading and asking a professional about some helpful herbs that helped me early on, Vitex, Dong Quai, and Ashwagandha. If fertility or hormonal/cycle issues are present for you… I’d highly recommend getting your thyroid fully tested (again through an FMD or Naturopath) and you can ask for the following to be tested.
More References Here:
This post is in partnership with AVA Women. I was given the product in exchange for my honest opinion and experience, I was not compensated to vouch for the brand in any way. I’m grateful to partner up with such a fabulous brand and hope my honest opinion and experience has been helpful for you! Learn more at avawomen.com
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