Birth Control Pill Rollercoaster

Question

I have looked at the question(s) regarding stopping BCP and the side effects, but I guess my worries aren’t about the ovulation, but rather the weight fluctuations, and acne that may occur.
Here is my story. Right before I got married, I was put on BCP’s, as that is the thing to do. I had horrible reactions — I bled for at LEAST 30 days straight, bled on my honeymoon, had horrible breast tenderness, (couldn’t even take off a shirt without pain), headaches, depression, mood swings and cramps like you wouldn’t believe. The doctors put me on a pill with higher estrogen, and I bled even MORE. I said “enough” and stopped. I had a two week-long HEAVY period with cramps so bad I couldn’t walk.

During the time I was off the pill, I gained 15-20 pounds without changing my diet and increasing my exercise. (I ran cross country in college.) Now I am back on birth control due to my periods being two weeks apart, (Yuck!) and have been on them for two years. Since then I have gained MORE weight despite the exercise and healthy eating, and cannot lose it. If I do lose any, it is maybe five pounds max.

Now I am being plagued with mood swings, more depression, cramps, heavy and long periods again, and I am tired of feeling like a monster a week before my period. My husband has even suggested going off of them because he sees how it affects me so badly! Yet, I am scared of even more weight gain and horrible acne, and heavier more painful periods. I am emotionally drained and just want my body to feel normal and to work normally again.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated — or at least what I can expect in those regards.

Thanks for your time.

Emily

Answer

Last Updated: May 2, 2022
Dear Emily,

What a horrible roller coaster you have been on.

It sounds like it began with that first round of birth control pills.

It is true that it can take some trial and error to find a birth control pill combination and strength that causes the least side effects for a woman, but what is even MORE true is that they are entirely unnecessary to start with, and no woman need go through what you have been through! As you said, it is just so common place to go on the pill before getting married that we do not question it, but there are many reasons TO question it, and you have experienced some of them. Thank you for sharing your experience—-my hope is other women who read your story will not have to go through what you have before finding out there is a better way.

It is not necessary to assault our bodies with these powerful medications which suppress and disrupt our normal reproductive function. We are only fertile for a short time in each cycle, and all we need to do is learn when that time is, to either achieve or avoid pregnancy.

Learning how to observe and chart the hormonal changes of your cycle now, from a professional who can guide you through the process, will give you the tool to make family planning decisions while you restore your body to normal function by cleansing it of these hormones. In the process, your list of symptoms leads me to believe you are going to find you have a health issue that has been masked, and thus unaddressed and unchecked—perhaps even exacerbated—by the use of the pill. The charting you compile as you learn NFP will also then serve as a diagnostic tool for a physician to evaluate just what is going on with you, and provide medical treatment that will help you achieve normal hormonal function. Unexplained weight gain, horrible acne, extremely painful periods, are a sign of a health problem that needs evaluation and treatment.

There are physicians who specialize in helping women achieve health, by restoring normal function. The process would be to contact an NFP teacher to help you chart your cycles. You would discontinue the oral contraceptives, chart for two to three months, and then take this detailed record of your cycle to one of these physicians for a consult. The chart, your history, and your presenting symptoms, would guide them in their evaluation, which would include a hormonal evaluation that is specifically timed according to your observations of your body. The treatment would then also be tailored for you, as your continued observation and charting of your cycle would allow you to be treated in a cooperative way that seeks to support and restore normal function. Like many women who have been in your shoes, it is a great relief to finally have someone really work with you on gaining hormonal balance and feel normal again.

If you are in California, these resources are listed on our website. If you are out of state, look at the links page on this site for NFP providers elsewhere. I am so sorry for all you have been through. There is a solution, and there are professionals who want to partner with you, and support you, in pursuing it.

Sheila St. John

Answered By:

Sheila St. John
Sheila St. John is the Executive Director of the California Association of Natural Family Planning, coordinating the non-profit’s education and advocacy efforts throughout the state. Initially attracted to NFP as a healthy, effective method for planning families, drug, device and surgery free, her passion for NFP has grown over the last 42 years as she has journeyed with the over 900 couples she has personally instructed in its use, and been privileged to witness its role in overcoming infertility, women’s health, and the transformation that occurs in lives of men, women, and families, when we embrace God’s design for love and life.

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