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post-pill syndrome & menstruation

April 22, 2024
A image of the birth control pill packet on a pink background.

a personal account

For about eight years I was on a combined mini pill with the single purpose of avoiding pregnancy. I knew that some people were prescribed the pill to handle hormonal imbalances, acne, heavy period pains, and a whole plethora of different symptoms that the body can experience but, in my innocence, I was not aware of the pill’s ability to dictate these factors. Until I stopped taking it.

why I stopped

When my period went missing for several months, an endocrinologist (the Doctor who looks after my hormones) recommended that I stop birth control as its continuation could perpetuate amenorrhea. I took the chance to give my body a break as I thought the pill could be causing some mood fluctuations, but having been on it for so long, it was hard to tell. 

what happened then?

The first month was glorious. I felt energised and cheerful. I went back to old hobbies with renewed energy and booked some summer holidays. I remember telling my friend over dinner after a dance class, ‘I should have done this years ago’.

My period came back that very first month and lasted five to six days – heavy but not too heavy. I wasn’t moody and there was no pain, just a slight discomfort.

 

The second cycle came after a mere 23-day gap. I spoke with other women who had come off the pill, and they’d had a similar experience. Therefore, on my next cycle, I didn’t find that interval strange, but I did notice a little extra bloating. I blamed it on the weather in Portugal, with over 40 degrees in the countryside where I was attending a wedding. 

 That period lasted longer than 6 days. I was sluggish, tired; not that cheery anymore. I cried a little.

fourth month off

By then I couldn’t remember how to smile; I thought it was mostly due to my return to England and its gloominess. The bloating had lodged in and by the end of that month, all the symptoms had exploded into a perfect symphony of hormonal chaos and disruption. My periods had regulated to 28-day intervals, but they were still lasting one week, and the pain had doubled. Acne burst out overnight. I woke up in Puglia with the face of my fifteen-year-old self, and a body that I couldn’t recognise. Thankfully, many of the places I visited had regular spots to rest and use the restroom – you can find them all detailed here.

 

after 6 months

I called the GP. They ran some tests on my hormones and asked me to do an ultrasound. The results showed low iron and something in my uterus. Starting on iron helped with my energy and my temper – except if I looked at my body or my face or the growing pile of jeans that didn’t fit me.

At this point, I decided my experiment was done and over! I gave it an extra month so the doctors could investigate that something a little further, and to check if my face would start clearing off by sheer miracle. But when the something turned out to be nothing and my face stayed the same, I got a prescription and went back on the pill.

month 7 -back on!

It was the most painful period of my life. I lived with a hot water bottle permanently attached to my back. I slept and napped like I had raved for two weeks. I cried, a lot. 

And then, the swelling started fading. 

one year later

I’ve been speaking to a lot of women about this experience, in awe of their stories. I didn’t know the post-pill syndrome was a thing. I didn’t know coming off birth control could cause such an epic disruption. I didn’t know the pill could be masking potential conditions in the reproductive system. I was far from imagining any of this and I’m constantly bewildered at how little we talk about these issues even amongst our group of friends, as if they’re normal and we’re meant to be going through it.

Cliché as it sounds, listen to your body. Do you want to stop taking the pill? Stop. Do odd symptoms start arising and changing your body and your skin? Speak to a doctor and ask them to test your hormones. Try alternatives and if nothing works, discuss with yourself if you want to go back on the pill. Look at different options with and without hormones. Speak to more doctors, and to your friends (only about their experiences, as they don’t know your body). Or wait it out; if you don’t mind the symptoms and you’re willing to take them on board until your hormones find their balance, do it. 

***All views and opinions expressed in this article are of the writer’s only, and do not constitute official medical advice by The M Scale. We strongly recommend you consult your medical practitioners before making any medical decisions. ***

Download the M Scale app to find out about toilets nearby where you can safely handle your menstruation and be a part of a global community aimed at ending period anxiety.


To learn more about PPS you can find information here.

Maria Hasse

Maria works in the creative industries and loves to hop around from country to country in search of an ever-ending Summer. She's passionate about demystifying taboos and shedding light on underrated topics through different mediums.

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