Birth Control: Yes or No?

I talk about a lot of personal things here, and I feel like discussing birth control today.  I don’t currently take birth control pills (or any other pills,) but I’m considering it again.

The concerns I have about this stem from the last time I took it…almost two years ago.  Shortly after I began taking the pill I found myself feeling incredibly weepy and lethargic – both characteristics that don’t typically describe me.  I stopped taking it after realizing that the pills were altering my moods, and I haven’t taken it since.

I realized that I could have tried other forms of birth control, but I just wanted to feel like myself again so I didn’t bother.  I didn’t have to take it so it wasn’t a big deal, but taking the pill does have obvious perks.

The idea of taking a pill everyday (for any reason) freaks me out. Getting a shot that will significantly alter or eliminate my regular cycle doesn’t seem like a good idea either, but it might make things easier in some ways.  I’m also nervous about taking something that could lead to weight gain.  I gained a bit without taking meds, and I’d like to refrain from gaining more for any reason.

I haven’t decided whether or not I want to go down this road, but it has been weighing on my mind lately.

Will you share your thoughts on this?  Is it too personal to ask whether or not you (well, if you’re a woman) reading this whether or not you take it?


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  • Reply
    July 23, 2013 at 12:47 am

    I was on Depo for 9 years. Gained about 50 pounds. Seriously. Loved it though because I stopped having periods altogether. (Hell yeah!)

    Then a few years after that I went on the pill. Have been on it for I can’t even think how many years now and have had no problems. My periods are kind of regular now (as in I have one every 3 to 6 weeks whereas before I might have two in a month or none for 3 or 4 months) and they are light. I am more than satisfied with the pill, and this is coming from a girl who has to force pills down her throat with her finger- I panic and can’t swallow any pills like a normal person.

    • Reply
      July 23, 2013 at 1:09 am

      I’ll also note that I am on a daily dose of antipsychotics and antidepressants and without them I am an extreme danger to myself, so I’m used to taking pills every day even though I hate them.

    • Reply
      July 23, 2013 at 12:48 pm

      I’m definitely not comfortable with doing something that eliminates regular cycles, but I know a lot of people who love it.

  • Reply
    Heather B
    July 23, 2013 at 12:48 am

    I have never taken the pills! After my 2nd child was born I had the Mirena for a bit but it was very uncomfortable & altered my cycles so I had it taken out! I know some people are all for taking the pill but it’s just not for me! Maybe being in the medical profession I know too much of the side effects or what not. But I’m not a pill taker by nature anyway! It really is such a personal preference for each woman but make sure you are taking them for the right reasons & not just because!!!

    • Reply
      July 23, 2013 at 12:49 pm

      That’s the problem…there are sooooooo many side effects.

  • Reply
    July 23, 2013 at 1:14 am

    I take birth control pills. I have PCOS and have been taking them since I was 17 in order to regulate my menstrual cycle. I went a year without one before being diagnosed. It was a very strange thing to be taking that medication while not sexually active. I felt very vulnerable getting the prescription filled.

    It took me a few tries to find the one that worked best for me. The first kind given to me literally made me tear my hair out. So, if you get overly emotional and tired, it’s something your doctor can help you with. There are a ton of options, and there’s one that will work for you.

    Even though I take the pill for family planning and medical reasons, one thing I really think is great about it is the ability to slightly modify your cycle. I didn’t really want to have to worry about my period at my high school graduation where we were all required to wear white, you know?

    A friend of mine uses Nuvaring because she doesn’t want to bother taking a pill every day. Because of PCOS, I’m just used to taking daily medication.

    • Reply
      July 23, 2013 at 12:52 pm

      A lot of women seem to take it to regulate their cycles. It’s something I’m thinking about for different reasons, but that would be a bonus. I just haven’t tried enough to know if *any* of them will work for me.

  • Reply
    July 23, 2013 at 1:39 am

    I really liked the Nuva Ring. Recently in the past 6 years or so I have been using and tracking my period and that has been working…No babies woo hoo! 🙂

    • Reply
      July 23, 2013 at 12:53 pm

      I’m not sure what that entails, but I’m curious…I’ll google.

  • Reply
    July 23, 2013 at 1:41 am

    Before I had kids, I was on the pill. I had to try a couple before I found one that worked well for me. Since having my children, I started with the Mirena and have been fairly pleased with it. It still has a hormonal component, but it is more localized, so the side effects are not as bad.

  • Reply
    Heather P.
    July 23, 2013 at 7:55 am

    I’ve been on the pill for years due to endometriosis. It was the only way we knew of to control the pain and keep it at bay but still allow me the possibility of having children. Now I’m dealing with a tumor on my liver that may have to be removed which was caused by the pill. This seems to be a common ailment these days. If you can get by without taking it, I would highly recommend passing it up. Not worth the long term side effects.

  • Reply
    July 23, 2013 at 8:50 am

    I have been taking YAZ for 5 years. I never gained weight taking these pills. They made my periods shorter (3 to 4 days) and lighter, I haven’t had cramps since I started taking the pill, and my skin has cleared up tremendously. Now my partner wants to have a baby, and I’m actually terrified to stop taking the pill! It has made my life so much better, easier. If you’re worried about taking a pill everyday, just set an alarm on your phone so you don’t forget. To me it’s not different than taking my daily multivitamin, which I also do at the same time every day. One thing I want to mention that my doctor passed along to me, the pill is not as effective at preventing pregnancy in overweight women. I have seen articles on the internet that say this is a myth, as well as articles backing my doctor up. I really trust my doctor and so I would say if you are planning to start using the pill as a form of birth control, use condoms as a back-up.

  • Reply
    July 23, 2013 at 8:58 am

    I’ve been on the pill for over a decade now. I have over the years had to change my hormone formula, so basically just switching the brand, for a few reasons. The first time, I would spot constantly and my moods were all over the place. The second time, I had been on a specific combination for a while when my sex drive just completely disappeared. I had no interest whatsoever and was breaking my now-husband’s heart. So I switched again (am currently on Zarah, a generic of Yasmin) and have been happily on this pill for years. Sometimes it just takes a while to find what you need.

    I have to say, out of all the birth control methods, I like the pill the most. It’s easy to take each day, it’s cost effective (most months mine is free but occasionally I have a $10 co-pay) plus, there is the added bonus of being able to “skip” your period, which was okay’ed by my gyno. Perfect example – I just got married 3 weeks ago and my period was due to happen RIGHT smack in the middle of my honeymoon. So, I skipped the white pills, got my next pack early, and just continued taking the active pills. It’s definitely an infrequent thing but it comes in handy when you need it!

  • Reply
    July 23, 2013 at 9:28 am

    I’ve been on Orthotricyclen for about 12 of the last 15 years. I stopped for a few years to have my daughters. I didn’t notice any significant weight gain. I’ve yo-yo’d around so much, who knows what’s due to the pills. I will say that I’ve been more sensitive to migraine headaches since I restarted the pills after having my kids. I only get one or two a year, but it makes me consider switching formulations whenever I get one.

  • Reply
    Carly T
    July 23, 2013 at 9:39 am

    While I no longer take any form of birth control (got my tubes tied after baby #3) I always took the pill before. I never tried any other form of birth control (well, except condoms I guess), but I DID try different pills. They have varying amounts of ingredients, so maybe you just needed a different pill. I would talk to your doctor and relay your past experience with the emotional side effects and maybe they can reccomend a better pill for you (IF that’s the route you choose). Of course, they can tell you all about the different options other than the pill too. I often toyed with the idea of doing the shot, but never ended up doing anything about it.

  • Reply
    Brooke: Not On A Diet
    July 23, 2013 at 9:46 am

    I HATE HATE HATE birth control! I’ve tired several pills and also the nuva ring. I dealt with crappy emotions and periods that would either never come, last for weeks, or last a week, go away a few days, and return again.

    I much rather track my body temperature and know when I’m ovulating. Pumping my body full of hormones I don’t need just seems silly to me.

  • Reply
    July 23, 2013 at 9:49 am

    If you don’t like taking pills, and you’re into being healthy and more natural (which you seem to be as I’ve followed your blog for a few years), have you thought of the IUD — the paragard. It is non-hormonal. You may have slightly heavier periods (sucks) but it’s better than the Mirena IMO. The Mirena has hormones that totally wrecked my system emotionally. It also caused weight gain. The paragard did nothing but the heavier periods. Oh and stopped babies from being born.

    • Reply
      July 24, 2013 at 6:10 pm

      Isn’t paragard copper? I think I considered it at one point but I have severe metal allergies to all metal except gold.

  • Reply
    July 23, 2013 at 10:23 am

    Hi Kenlie! (I’m new..and really enjoy your blog!)

    I have worked for two OBGYNs and have taken pills for almost 10 years now, so I’ve tried a few routes. I have hypothryoidism, so I’m on one of the lowest horomone doses because of that, and I have NEVER had any issues like weight gain (not that I’d REALLY know since I’ve always been fluffy) or depression. You can ask for lower doses!

  • Reply
    Sarah R
    July 23, 2013 at 10:48 am

    I don’t take any bc, but that’s because we’re trying to conceive (not very successfully, but we’re having fun trying!) . I do have a daughter who is going to be 18 next week, and I have not allowed her to take any bc pills because when I was her age back in the 90s, I did take bc pills, and ended up in the hospital with a blood clot which nearly killed me. I realize once she’s 18 next week, she can take whatever she wants, but she knows the risks and so far she’s not interested. I did gain weight while I took bc pills, but I was in college when I took them and the unlimited meal plan could have been my doing in, not the pills…I’ll never know.

  • Reply
    July 23, 2013 at 11:37 am

    I had been on some form of BC for over 15 years (mostly the pill, tried the nuva ring for a few months) and then a few months ago, made the ultimate decision to stop completely. Factors that led to my decision: (not necessarily in this order): hard to lose weight/gaining weight, potential for blood clots, i didn’t like the idea of it anymore, i had been on it for so long, i was an emotional mess, i wanted to see what if my body could handle my cycle without it (i went on for severely intense cramps)
    Since I’ve stopped, i have been fine. My cycle is normal (still very light) and cramps are tolerable. It was worth going off in my case.

    • Reply
      July 28, 2013 at 4:34 pm

      ^^^ Ditto!! Was on the pill for 18 yrs. I met with a gyno, discussed my concerns and he agreed that stopping might be best. Stopped for the same reasons above. It’s been 3 months and I feel great.

  • Reply
    Erin Miller Tosspon
    July 23, 2013 at 11:48 am

    I have the non-hormonal IUD. My periods are heavier, but I have no other side effects. I would gain 20 pounds every time I took the pill or got a shot. This is MUCH better.

  • Reply
    Liz @ The Shrinking Owl
    July 23, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    Besides other (personal, NON-RELIGIOUS) reasons, I do not take any birth control. I have taken the pill in the past, and I had a lot of breakthrough bleeding with it. My cycle is like clockwork, and I like knowing that my body is doing its thing naturally, so if I ever need to use some sort of BC in the future, it will most likely be an IUD or Nuvaring.

  • Reply
    July 23, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    In 2010, I got Implanon from Planned Parenthood. It is an implant that goes in your arm and lasts for 3 years. While I was on it, I did not have a period and spotted maybe once a year. It was fantastic. It is progesterin only so you don’t gain weight or have emotion changes (those are controlled by estrogin). They numb your arm both when they implant it and when they remove it, and the scar is relatively small. I would definitely recommend it.

    • Reply
      July 24, 2013 at 7:11 pm

      I second this, though now it is called Nexplanon. I just had my third one put in on Monday.

      • Reply
        July 24, 2013 at 11:18 pm

        Just a note here: After I gave birth to my second child, my OB and I talked extensively about birth control. I ended up with an IUD since I was postpartum and since the pill can make me nauseous. I was strongly considering the Implanon but she told me the failure rate for overweight and obese women was much higher. We talked about other birth control that also had higher failure rates for obese women. I didn’t look into it much since I trust her, but it may be worth a conversation with your doc.

  • Reply
    July 23, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    If it was altering your moods, it is probably the wrong kind. If I take a monophasic BCP, it makes me irritable and nasty. If I take a triphasic I’m fine, and happy.

    You have to look at whether the benefits outweigh the side effects, plus the risks (blood clots).

  • Reply
    July 23, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    I have been on the pill (various types over the years) since I was about 14 or 15 years old. Not because I was a whorebag (though now I do refer to them as my “no baby pills”), but because I have a raging case of PCOS (poly cystic ovarian syndrome) that did everything from weight gain to severe acne to mood swings to irregular periods to having horribly light and heavy periods. Once I got on the pill, and the type and dose was adjusted over the years, its a wonderful thing. I talk with my OB/GYN about my pill and the side effects, how I’m feeling with each visit. For example, when I went on metformin, I changed to a low-estrogen pill that would also assist with the insulin resistance that is brought on by the PCOS. As for skipping periods, its okay to skip a few. I have one every 3 months. I take the pills as my doctor told me to, not taking the placebo pills and going into the next pack, then taking the placebo pills in the 3rd pack. (I get a 90 day supply via my insurance, its cheaper!) But as for the side effects, the low estrogen has given me the least often side effects as far as mood, energy, etc. even though I only have those effects during “that time.”

  • Reply
    July 23, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    Yes. Before menopause I was on BC pills for many years. My only break was to have children. I did not smoke, have high blood pressure, or any other health problems. I had very heavy periods and this was my only relief. When I started I was not overweight (I am now). If you are healthy enough, watch for any side effects, and remember to always take your pill it can be very liberating. Regular periods and no pregnancy.
    What does your doctor recommend concerning your weight. That would be my main concern.

  • Reply
    July 23, 2013 at 6:13 pm

    I have Paragard (the non hormonal IUD) and I LOVE it. I’ve had it for about four years and my periods are actually lighter… They were SUPER heavy before. My cramps are a little worse but don’t last for as long. I never feel it, and my cycle is super predictable now. Insurance covered it and it “pays for itself” after about eighteen months. It can be left on for up to ten years, or removed at any point with no complications or issues. I would strongly recommend talking to your doc about it. My doc actually tried to warn me off of it because of the chance of a heavier period, but it was with the risk to me and (again) turned out to make them lighter!

  • Reply
    July 23, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    A question I have asked a few MDs I have worked with is why in Asia is the most common form of birth control the IUD (non hormonal) but in North America/Europe it is the hormonal birth control pill.
    I had issues with the bcp (releated to a blood disorder I have) and am considering an IUD…

  • Reply
    July 23, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    I took birth control for many years due to PCOS with no real issues. There are many brands and variants so it’s a good idea to ask your doctor and discuss what issues you are worried about like weight gain or mood alteration. As others have said there are IUDs among other things. Of course, condoms aren’t fun but they aren’t the worst thing in the world. My daughter is almost a year old and we opted to use condoms since I am breastfeeding her and I didn’t want any foreign objects or materials in my system.

  • Reply
    July 23, 2013 at 9:10 pm

    I’ve been on the pill on and off (mostly on) since I was in junior high. My periods are highly irregular – we’re talking 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off, repeat. And not to mention the serious cramping and heavy, heavy flows (way TMI, I know).

    I’m on a low dose pill, and frankly, it’s a life saver. I do continue to have a period, albeit a very light one. I have been known to skip a period (skip the sugar pills) on the rare occasion that I’m on vacation during that week. I don’t do that often because my body pays me back the next month for it!

    Honestly, I’ve been on them so long, I never noticed a weight gain because of them. I have stopped on occasion, but my periods are back to being wonky within a year or so, so back on I go.

    I take daily medication for my asthma, so taking this, along with my vitamins in the mornings isn’t that big of a deal.

    If you’re wanting to try them again, don’t be satisfied until you find one that works for you! Get the lightest dose possible, I really do think it makes a difference.

  • Reply
    July 24, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    I’ve been on the pill since I was about 15….according to someone above, I’m a “whorebag” I guess LOL. I did stop to have my daughters (both with the same man – guess I grew out of “whorebag” eh?) but I’ve been on them for 20 years consistently otherwise. Never had any issues.

    This past year I heard about a pill called “Seasonale” where you only get your period 4 times a year. I LOVE IT! Might be something to consider 🙂

  • Reply
    Shelley B
    July 24, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    I was on it for 10 years and did not have any recognizable side effects. I had no mood swings and my period was like clockwork. I only got off of it to get pregnant ( which I did, really quickly).
    I know one person, though, who can’t be on BC pills because the hormones really messed with her and put her in the hospital, and another who had a life-threatening stroke at 23, so they definitely aren’t for everyone. I’d talk to your doctor.

  • Reply
    July 24, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    Hi Kenlie,

    Which brand were you on? (sorry if this was mentioned in previous comments, I didn’t read all of them) I was originally (5+years ago) on LoEstrin 24, and that also made me weepy and lethargic (which made me gain weight- there is no peer reviewed proven research that birth control is a DIRECT cause of weight gain), and I came off of it after 5 months.

    After a while, I tried Ortho-trycyclin lo, and have been on it since. I have no side effects; no mood changes, no weight gain… my periods are more regular and my cramps are less intense. I would recommend trying a different brand.. maybe that first one just didn’t agree with you?


  • Reply
    July 24, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    I loved the Mirena when I had it! I don’t like the pill…have tried several and they made my face get dark spots. I no longer need pregnancy protection so now I’m BC free. But I definitely had a good experience with the Mirena…personal decision for sure. Do what feels right.

  • Reply
    July 24, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    I am on the Mirena and I LOVE it. I haven’t gained any weight, haven’t had any extra emotional issues, and my periods and super light and short. I never feel it and don’t even think about it. I am supposed to have it removed in December (it’s been 5 years) and I would totally get it again.

  • Reply
    July 25, 2013 at 9:31 am

    I absolutely do not recommend it. I had PCOS (although I dont anymore) and I was given the pill to “fix” it. It fixes nothing. It just masks the symptoms. You are putting hormones into your body and altering the delicate balance that it naturally has going on. The pill just hasnt been around long enough for people to start seeing the long term side effects but I know that both I and many of my friends made the decision to go off it after also suffering from bouts of crazy emotions. Since I’ve been off it I have gone to acupuncture for other things and one of the first things they ask is “have you ever been on the pill”. While they never say they are totally against it they have told me they see more and more women coming in with issues for fertility and the more time that goes on the clearer its getting that the pill is involved in this. You can not alter your reproductive hormones like this and not expect an impact. Please dont do it. Use a condom to protect yourself from STDs and pregnancy and learn to chart your cycle naturally to avoid pregnancy also

  • Reply
    July 26, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    I took depo for a year and gained 40 pounds. Will never do that again!

    I’ve tried a lot of BC pills over the years and by far my favorite was Yasmin. Little to no side effects, no moodiness, helped my acne, no weight gain. I took it for about 6 years and then my doc said there were concerns about the drug and switched to some generic something or other. I’m not as much of a fan….but if it was between being kind of weepy and getting blood clots and strokes…I took the tears.

  • Reply
    July 27, 2013 at 10:44 am

    I took BC pills when I was younger. I was lucky and they never seemed to affect me in a negative way. But before I could get my prescription refilled (I just hadn’t gotten around to getting back in to see the doctor) we had an oops baby #5. After he was born I lost all the weight I had gained over the years and was really worried about anything that would cause weight gain. I had the non-hormonal IUD put in and have liked it. It lasts for 10 years … which I’m actually coming to the end of, so I’ll have to be thinking of what to try next. I’m wondering when that ol’ menopause might hit and I won’t have to think about BC anymore …

  • Reply
    July 27, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    I took birth control pills for a while and I never had any problems with them. Then my gyn had to prescribe me a different kind due to increased risk for thrombosis of that kind of pill in combination with being overweight. With the new pill, I experienced the same symptoms you descriped (plus really bad skin), so I stopped taking them. I also didn’t like that I did not get my period on that pill – I know a lot of women take that kind exactly for that reason, but it’s not for me. Only good thin was that is was really cheap. Maybe 1/3 of the costs for the other one. I don’t know what I will do once birth control is an issue again.

  • Reply
    July 28, 2013 at 10:31 am

    I first started taking the pill when I was 15 years old. It was the same christmas I found out I had PCOS and that was the reason for the lack of periods. But I will be honest with you I gained weight and so decided after 6 months not to take it.

    But when I was 17 and in college my periods were playing up again, and they weren’t regular so I decided to go to the doctors and she put me back on a pill called microgynym (i think).

    Which I was on until earlier this year when I began having painful headaches everyday all of a sudden and so suggested changing the pill. Which I did and so now I am on another one and touch would the headaches have gone but I have now got other side affects. But it just goes to show you that one pill can work for you at one stage then not after that. I think they recommend taking a pill for six months to confirm whether your body has got used to it and is responding to it well.

    But I remember reading in one of my PCOS books last year about the different pills and how they differ. But I definitely feel like you need to have patience when finding the right one for you, and although I did it I would never recommend going cold turkey and taking yourself off a pill without consulting your doctor/GP.

    Sorry for the long comment, but I hope my pill story helps you decide what you are going to do 😀

  • Reply
    July 29, 2013 at 10:26 am

    I’ve probably been on the pill for 15 years or so. I didn’t like the first kind I tried and switched within about 3 months. I stayed on that one for many years until I felt like the “seasonale” kind had been on the market long enough that it was safe, then I switched to that one (it’s the kind where you only get your period every 3 months).

    My weight has changed a lot over the course of 15 years, but I don’t think I can blame any gain on the pill, esp since I stayed at my starting weight for years on the pill, made job/lifestyle changes and gained weight on the same pill, then made more job/lifestyle changes and lost all that weight on the same pill. I’m at a good weight now and my pill hasn’t changed in many years.

    I like the regularity of the pill (knowing exactly what day my period will start), I like having the lighter and shorter cycles, and since I’ve only been married for a few years, I really like that there’s only 4 weeks per year that sex creeps me out. I haven’t ever had mood issues from the pills, but obviously they affect people differently. I’d expect if there was one kind that bothered you emotionally, there would be others that wouldn’t, but it really just depends on what your own preferences are.

    And thanks to Obama-care, mine is usually free! Kind of nice since it’s still obviously paying a lot less than my health care plan would pay for me to be going to the doctor a bunch of times and then in the hospital to have a baby.

    Lots of options out there, talk to your doc.

  • Reply
    July 29, 2013 at 10:59 am

    I’ve taken about ten different pills and had issues with all of them. I’ve used the nuvaring for about five years and aside from the cost (not covered by my insurance) it’s wonderful!

  • Reply
    July 29, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    Hmmm…took them many years ago. Don’t remember much about them, other than that I didn’t have any babies while on them. The formulations are so different now than they were when I used them. Just make sure you do your homework before making a choice.

  • Reply
    July 29, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    I love the shot. LOVE. The pill fucked me up royally, but the shot was beautiful…no side effects for me other than positive ones. Like no period. And I lost like 20 pounds without trying, largely because I wasn’t binge-eating a week every month because of hormones, and my antidepressants actually worked all the time. I have read that, if you’re not reproducing….there’s no real reason you need to have a period. As for fertility later, I know several people who had no problems having babies after discontinuing it.

    PS-The pills I used were the Ortho Tricylcen ones.

  • Reply
    July 31, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    I use seasonal. But since you don’t want something that disrupts the normal monthly cycle, that wouldn’t be right for you. I take it b/c I really have no use for a period every month. I’m not trying to get pregnant and as far as much Dr. was concerned its the only reason you really need a period monthly. It helps regulate me and reduce cramps and etc. the 4x a year I have one. I also take it b/c it reduces uterine cancer , which runs on my mom’s side.

  • Reply
    July 31, 2013 at 11:26 pm

    I’m on the mini-pill and I love it for absolutely no side effects. The only downside is that you have to take it within an hour or so of the same time every day. My almost 5 month old is the product of an oops on a summer vacation to NYC last year:) It’s estrogen free so it doesn’t give me the crazies like other pills in the past did. I won’t take anything with estrogen and I refuse to get an iud until I’m absolutely certain I’m not having anymore children.

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