Coming off the pill. Benefits of coming off the pill.

Why are women coming off the pill?

There have been 1,688 posts using the hashtag ‘#comingoffthepill’. The google searches ‘coming off the pill’, ‘symptoms of coming off the pill’ and ‘benefits of coming off the pill’ have dramatically increased. A significant number of women have decided to ditch hormonal birth control and turn to non-hormonal and non-invasive methods of birth control. In this blog, we wanted to look into why so many women are coming off the pill and other forms of hormonal birth control and discover if there are benefits to coming off the pill. 

In 2001, a clinical trial by S A Sanders, C A Graham, J L Bass and J Bancroft was conducted on the subject: A prospective study of the effects of oral contraceptives on sexuality and well-being and their relationship to discontinuation. The study used women aged 18+ that were in committed and sexually-active relationships. These women had never been on hormonal contraception, and the trial required them to start using the contraceptive pill. They were allowed to discontinue use at any point. 47% of the women in the trial stopped using any form of contraceptive pill, and 14% switched to a different contraceptive pill. The trial found that when using a contraceptive pill side effects included being more emotional, having worse PMS, having fewer sexual thoughts and decreased feelings of sexual arousal. The woman who stopped using the pill said it was due to the effects on their emotional state and sex drive [1]. 

In 2013, a randomised control trial by Malin Gingnell, Jonas Engman, Andreas Frick, Lena Moby, Johan Wikström, Mats Fredrikson and Inger Sundström-Poromaa tested to see if women who were using combined oral contraceptives and reporting adverse mood effects were experiencing these effects because of the contraceptives. The study was titled Oral contraceptive use changes brain activity and mood in women with previous negative affect on the pill--a double-blinded, placebo-controlled randomised trial of a levonorgestrel-containing combined oral contraceptive. They conducted this trial because 4-10% of women on combined contraceptive pills were reporting adverse mood effects. The trial involved 34 women who had previously cited negative emotional side effects from contraception. The women were either given a combined contraceptive pill or a placebo pill. The results (tested via functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and by the women’s personal records) showed that women using a combined contraceptive pill were experiencing high levels of depressed moods, mood swings and fatigue than the women using a placebo [2]. 

In 2016, a study by Charlotte Wessel Skovlund, Lina Steinrud Mørch, Lars Vedel Kessing and Øjvind Lidegaard was conducted on the subject Association of Hormonal Contraception With Depression. Data of women aged 15 to 34 was compared from the National Prescription Register and the Psychiatric Central Research Register in Denmark to see if there was a positive association between the use of hormonal contraception and subsequent use of anti-depressants and/or a diagnosis of depression. They found that there was an association and that depression was a potential side-effect of hormonal contraception use. Adolescents were found to be most at risk and increasing age decreased the risk of depression associated with hormonal contraception use [3].

If you’ve been experiencing negative side effects from hormonal contraception you’re not alone. Birth control shouldn’t be at the cost of your mental and physical health. Around 33-44% of women change their birth control within 12 months of use [4]. The birth control methods with the least side effects are barrier methods like the diaphragm, cervical cap, spermicides and male and female condoms [5]. As demonstrated in this blog, there are benefits to coming off the pill if you’re experiencing negative side effects. We advise speaking to a doctor and finding out which birth control method is right for you. 



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