As a woman with PCOS, one of the most daunting issues you deal with is regulating your menstrual cycle and hormonal balance. Women with PCOS are known to suffer from either irregular periods, absent periods, extremely painful periods, or excessively heavy periods. Prior to being diagnosed with PCOS, I suffered from a variation of all of the above. However, I had been on birth control the entire time I experienced all of the varying symptoms of irregular menses. For years I thought it was me, doctors told me it was my weight and that was why the birth control wasn’t “fixing” the issue. As a result, I tried several fad diets, workout videos, personal trainers, and nothing seemed to help.
Then I decided, maybe it was the brands…..so in my 14 years of being on oral contraceptives…I’ve tried; Yasmine (which was eventually recalled and then became Yaz, and I became a hairy beast), Cyclessa (gained 70lbs, went through mild depression, and then had cysts rupture and bled for 4 months nonstop), Loestrin Fe (which was actually the only pill I felt semi normal taking but then it randomly was discontinued, but I experienced constant hair loss on my scalp), Minastrin (started losing excessive scalp hair, headaches, gained excessive weight, and ended up going to the emergency room for sharp chest pains, and finally Apri (which made my weight constantly fluctuate, everything made me cry, everything made me angry, excessive migraines, insomnia, and irregular everything). Every time I complained to my obgyn, He said me being over weight was the “cause” of my symptoms. So I decided to do more research.
As I began digging deeper, I realized that birth control wasn’t helping my PCOS symptoms, it was merely masking them or worsening them. I discovered that with PCOS, the main focus is to manage the testosterone/androgen levels in the blood, which is what birth control is supposed to aid in along with regulating a women’s cycle. Well after I looked at my blood work, I realized that my type of PCOS isn’t the overproduction of androgens…I’m insulin resistant (which can’t be helped by taking birth control at all). In adddition to many other issues listed above…below are the top reasons I gave up birth control for my PCOS:
1. Birth control may exacerbate insulin resistance instead of help control it. Once I was on the pill, everything worsened for me. I felt tingles in my feet and hands. I tested and of course my glucose levels were Sky High. I didn’t want to be on any medication that could trigger further insulin issues.
2. The pill can disrupt digestion. For years I had terrible IBS related symptoms that I blamed on metformin (which causes mild diarrhea at times), however, since coming off the pill this year….my bowel movements and bloating have subsided greatly.
3. Excessively irregular, painful, heavy periods, and uterine lining growth. The pill is normally known to help reduce all of these symptoms but for myself, it worsened every period. The amount of pain I was in was excessive. My stomach stayed stiff and hard all the time.
4. It was impossible for me to wear contact lenses. Odd right? Birth control can impact the shape of your cornea…who knew? I thought I was going crazy until I started researching vision issues and birth control pills. Some days, my eyes were so sensitive to light that I had to call out of work and sit in the dark. Since giving up birth control, it has been much easier to sustain my contact lenses and I haven’t had any issues with light sensitivity.
5. Studies have shown that birth control actually increases the risk for blood clots in women with PCOS two times more than women without it. I remember back in college when my calf muscle in my right leg kept hurting and growing, and doctors kept checking for blood clots. I didn’t make any connection until recently.
6. Excessive weight gain in my midsection. Since coming off the pill, my mid section and waistline (along with exercise and nuitrition) have significantly decreased. I’m actually pretty amazed.
7. Non-existent Sex Drive and intense mood swings. I can’t tell you how many relationships I’ve been in where I couldn’t even imagine having sex if I tried. This was completely unfair to my boyfriends at the time but there wasn’t anything I could physically do to get excited….which caused a huge strain on my relationships. On top of that, the level or rage I would get over small non-essential issues was intense. Similar issues have happened this year and my ability to cope has been so different. I don’t even feel like the same person I was 6 months ago, even a year ago emotionally.
8. Lastly, I wanted to learn how to manage my hormones on my own, as that’s the best treatment for PCOS. For years I felt crazy, going through extreme emotional highs and lows…only to find out that now off the pill I feel more balanced than ever. I’m not perfect with my eating regimen but the process I have started works for my body and I see greater results than being on birth control ever provided.
Now I am not a doctor, so please don’t choose to quit based off my findings solely, but if you’re feeling off while on birth control, definitely look into it for yourself. Every woman is different, and some are able to manage birth control. After 14 years of torture, I can successfully say I feel at peace with my decision.