Birth control (like Leonardo DiCaprio) is just one of those topics that come up. Be it over a glass of wine with friends or during a casual conversation with acquaintances, lots of women love to talk about birth control. The CDC’s most recent data on contraceptive use (2006 to 2010) states that 62% of women are using some form of birth control, with 10.6 million women in America using the pill. So, yes. There's plenty of shared experience to draw on. Whether we had the exact same experience or the complete opposite, the mention of birth control sparks an honest and open conversation—a lot of it. Throughout those many conversations, we’ve noticed a growing trend. More and more women are ditching hormonal birth control. (Fun fact: The photo on this page was created using pills Byrdie team members had stopping taking.) Perhaps it’s because since it was first approved in 1960, the pill has been the most visible form of birth control, next to condoms—which we’d just like to add are a good idea no matter what form of birth control you use (#safesex). But now more than ever, women are exploring their options, and they’re more than willing to talk about it.
Scroll through for tales of birth control trials and tribulations from real women in their 20s and 30s.
When we asked women to tell us why they stopped taking hormonal birth control, the responses that floored in ranged from sensational tales of hormones gone wild—we got a few “Oh, I have a story for you” emails in our inbox—to very normal, blasé anecdotes of women who just let their prescriptions run out and never refilled because they didn’t feel the need.
“I started taking the pill when I was in high school, like many our age. I never had any problems and always loved having the peace of mind/security of being on the pill. When I was 24 or 25, a few months went by where I didn’t get my period, only some spotting for a day or two, which was very scary in the moment because I started googling and seeing all the things that could be wrong with me. I went to my gyno, and she told me this was common for people who have been on the pill for so long and prescribed me another pill that I had to take in addition to birth control for a few weeks that would basically even out my hormones.
“I did what she said, but it didn’t sit well with me that this pill I had been taking for years had messed up my natural hormonal cycle to the point that I needed to take an additional pill just to ‘even everything out.’ So during that time, I started doing a lot of research and talking to friends and was surprised by how many had been through something similar or had never trusted what the pill does to your body. I decided to stop taking the pill after I finished out the round of the additional pill and have never looked back. Even with the additional pill, my period still wasn’t regular, and it wasn’t until a few months off the pill completely that everything went back to normal. I now track everything by the app Clue (which I highly recommend for any woman). It’s very well designed and easy to use and becomes smarter the longer you use it because it tracks your personal history.” — Genn, 27
“I’ve taken birth control (various brands) off and on over the past six years. I originally went on it to help my skin. Which I think it did, along with some other medications. Eventually, acne got to be and less of a concern for me, to the point I didn’t feel I needed to be taking any special medication to keep the problem under control. But I continued to take birth control because it was convenient—knowing exactly when to expect my period was great. But I didn’t really need birth control. So why pump my body with excess hormones? I stopped taking birth control last year and I have no designs on going back on it.” — Chrissy, 26
“I was on birth control from the time I was around 15—both to manage acne and also because it seemed to be ‘time,’ as I had just entered my first real relationship, so sex was around the corner for me. I firmly believed (and believe) that it genuinely made me crazy. Hypersensitive, heightened emotions, spontaneous little fits of rage where I felt as though I couldn’t control my mind—the works. I was self-aware enough to know (or at least I thought I knew) that it was just a result of being a teenage girl, hormones raging and all that. But those little emotional upheavals didn't ever really subside. I went on and off it a few times over the years that followed. Come my early mid-20s, I finally got super tapped into my health, my body, my hormones, my mind, all of that. And around 25, I decided it was poison and that I couldn't keep doing it to myself.
“My body didn’t change much once I got off of it. I broke out quite a bit at first, but that’s the only change I noticed. While I am an emotional creature by nature, those little out-of-body outbursts no longer take place. I love knowing that my body is in its completely natural state. I’ll admit I am just now considering the IUD because being in a relationship with zero protection can get a little scary sometimes as one can imagine!” — Lydia, 28
“I was on the pill for many years and stopped taking it a couple of years ago for no other reason than I thought injecting hormones into my body for an extended period of time could not be good for me long-term. One of the last pills I was on is the one that skips your period for three months at a time, and that only resulted in constant spotting and bouts of nausea throughout the day. It was horrible. Right before I stopped taking the pill, I had a couple of girlfriends that became really emotionally unstable, and/or depressed as a result of taking a particular brand of birth control. As soon as they realized the cause of their intense mood swings and got off the pill, they were back to normal. Scary!” — Kaley, 29
“I ditched the pill in 2010 after taking it for around 10 years. The first pill I got gave me migraines, so my doctor said I can’t take it anymore, because it might cause blood clots in my brain (so much fun to hear after taking it for a few years). After that, I switched to a different pill. That was great for a while because I didn’t have my period ever. But I eventually got a little scared when they found a tiny knot in my breast. It got examined, and they said it’s nothing bad but to keep an eye on it. At some point, I started feeling strange about pumping so many hormones into my body, so I just stopped taking the pill. My periods came back super normal right away (which I didn’t expect at all since I hadn’t had any for about seven years). And big surprise: After a few months, the knot in my breast was gone. Since then I’ve never considered going back on the pill (even though that knot disappearance might have been unrelated). But I have to say I didn’t experience any weight gain or bad skin issues after ditching the pill, so it was an easy process for me.” — Eva, 33
“My father had terminal cancer when I was 13. He’s been in remission for nearly 20 years, after being diagnosed with three months to live back in 1997. Even with treatment, the side effects of chemo and radiation have been far reaching. My family is hyper-sensitive about carcinogens. After watching holistic medicine save his life, I’m pretty adamant about pharmaceuticals as a last resort.” — Jane, 30
“I used to get my birth control from Planned Parenthood in college. I was on Ortho Tri-cyclen Lo, which seemed to work for me. After I found a gynecologist and asked for her to prescribe me the same birth control, so I could pick it up at my neighborhood Walgreens. I was shocked to find that would cost me $50 each month because OTC-Lo is a ‘name brand’ birth control and thus not covered by my insurance. I went back to my gynecologist and asked her if she could prescribe me something similar which was on the free list of birth controls covered by my insurance, but the one she prescribed me stopped me from getting my period altogether. She told me that it was normal and not a big deal, but I hated not getting my period each month. I went back to her again, she prescribed me another one, and I still didn’t get my period. I know everyone says it’s fine, but it just really didn’t feel natural. I kept taking it nonetheless but ended up visiting an ayurvedic practitioner a few months later who told me I had excess ‘heat’ in my body and told me to get off of birth control because my period is a way for my body to release toxins each month. I know it sounds crazy to listen to someone you just met over your licensed gynecologist, but I had already been contemplating it and it just seemed like a sign.
“I also used to get terrible migraines and mood swings when I was on my birth control—those have completely disappeared. I feel so much better now that I’m off birth control. Sure, there’s a nervousness each month around when I’m supposed to get my period and my cramps are a bit worse, but it's a small price to pay. I like being in tune with my body, and knowing that it’s following its natural cycle.” — Anastasia, 25
“I actually never started taking hormonal birth control. My period is weird to begin with, and even though I know that taking the pill can help with regularity, the prospect of messing with my natural rhythm and hormone balance always worried me, so I’ve used alternative methods of birth control instead with no issues thus far. It also just factors into my very natural lifestyle—though I respect and understand that it’s not for everyone. I might consider taking the pill if there was a more holistic option available, but unfortunately, there’s nothing really like that in the U.S. yet. But on that note, I have been really intrigued by the copper IUD (which uses no hormones*), and I’m seriously considering that route instead. There’s still a ton of progress to be made, but it’s great that there are more options beginning to emerge for women who don’t want to take hormones.” — Megan, 24
*Ed. note: While there are nonhormonal IUDs, some are low-hormone. Speak with your physician to learn more about each.
“I stopped taking hormonal birth control at the end of last year after the end of a long-term relationship. I made the decision because I had been on the pill since I was a teenager and I’d heard how it can negatively affect your body with long-term use. I’ve noticed that my anxiety has lessened and that my menstrual cycle has become lighter each month. If I were to get anything, it’d be an IUD so I wouldn’t have to subject myself to hormones again now that I notice how much better I feel being off of it.” — Camille, 22
The IUD is becoming a popular alternative to the pill, with many women exploring both the nonhormonal and low-hormone intrauterine device. The copper IUD is completely hormone-free. The hormonal versions of the IUD, Mirena and Skyla, contain 20 and 14 micrograms of hormones (that’s less than one milligram). One respondent switched from combined hormonal methods to another low-dose, progestin-only method: the implant.
“I’m using the nonhormonal IUD, and it changed my life. I tried the pill for a few months years back and really didn’t like the effects. It made me kind of numb physically and mentally. I couldn’t tell when I was full, and I generally was feeling really blasé. I didn’t try it for very long. When I got the IUD a few years ago, it was exactly what I needed. I didn’t feel any different. The only side effect was a heavier period, and that eventually goes back to normal. I know I sound like an IUD-evangelist, but I think every woman should get it.” — Reagan, 32
“I had a terrible reaction to the pill and stopped taking it five years ago. Then I got an IUD, which has completely changed my life. I am the unofficial sponsor of Mirena (I’ve convinced at least 10 friends to get it).
“I was getting really emotional from Yaz. Every day I felt like I needed a solid 10-minute sob, so I would put on the last five minutes of My Dog Skip and just cry to get it out (I wish I was kidding). I wanted to try something that had fewer hormones, so my doctor suggested Mirena. This was five years ago, and IUDs still felt pretty taboo (I didn’t know anyone my age who had them), but she told me they were all the rage in Israel, plus she pledged its safety and effectiveness, so I decided to give it a try. Even though Mirena has a little bit of hormones, it’s still much less than the pill. I am getting a new one in a few months and would recommend it to anyone and everyone that it works for.” — Chloe, 24
“I have been taking hormonal birth control since I was 16, just different forms of hormonal birth control. I stopped taking the pill specifically around July 2014. I stopped taking it because I was consistently missing doses and not compliant when taking a daily pill. Then, I switched to the patch and then NuvaRing after that. After having issues with the pill, the patch (fell off while showering, etc.), and NuvaRing (side effects), I am now happily on Nexplanon, also known as the implant. I love the fact that I never have to think about my birth control, and I don’t have to take any trips to the pharmacy for three whole years. I love that it is one of the more effective forms of birth control, and I have had no bad side effects. My periods are lighter and after trying many viable options it is by far the best choice to suit my busy lifestyle.” — Jessie, 22
Interested in ditching the pill and exploring alternative birth control methods? Talk to your doctor about the options to find the one that’s right for you, keeping in mind no method is without its flaws. And it goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: The only 100% effective form of birth control is abstinence. Also worth noting: None of these birth control methods, hormonal or not, protect against sexually transmitted diseases. So whatever you end up choosing, remember to be safe. Try downloading one of these top-rated (and free) cycle-monitoring apps to start getting in tune with your body: Clue, Eve, and Period Tracker.
Are you considering quitting hormonal birth control or have you stopped taking the pill? Share your experiences below.