Nov 12th, 2013 - 00:51:59
I have been on the birth control pill for 10 years (went on as a 19 year old college student as a way to decrease intense cramps and to regulate an irregular cycle). I'd say the last 4-5 years I've been on Mircette, and before that I was on Levlite and Ortho-TriCyclen. Although I am single, unmarried and not sexually active, I recently decided that when I do get married I would like to pursue Natural Family Planning. As such, I went off the pill last month in an effort to start monitoring my cycles, etc. I have tried to do internet searches on the "side effects" of going off the pill, but don't seem to find much information. I never had many/any side effects when I first started going on the pill, but would like to know if certain things are normal, etc. I have been trying to chart, but I guess I need more practice. I had increased discharge and some very light spotting about a week after discontinuing the pill for about 4 days. Then just last week I had fairly intense pain/twinges in my lower right abdomen (so much so that I briefly wondered if I had appendicitis)--though perhaps I was ovulating? However, I didn't see any associated change in mucous. And, I'm now technically "late"...at least from the cyle I'd had when I was on the pill, but only by a day or two. Once you go off the pill, is it normal/expected to have delayed/sporadic ovulation? Is spotting normal? How long does it generally take for your cycle to return to "normal"? (though, I always had a fairly irregular cycle before I went on the pill). I expect it is premature to be concerned, but at what point should I be worried if I haven't had my period?
Hi Meghan! Congratulations on taking this step to improve your health and protect your future fertility!
Everything you describe is normal for coming off the pill. Unusual bleeding and mucus which comes and goes while your body “wakes up” and responds to the news it is free to function normally again is indeed normal. And in your case, you went on the pill at a young age, and with irregular cycles, and have been on it for quite a long time. Those may combine to making you more prone to a slow comeback.
The pain you describe may have been ovulation. In my experience teaching NFP, it is sometimes more pronounced the first cycle coming off the pill. It is also very normal for that first cycle to be longer, even 6 weeks. It may take several cycles to return to normal. Since you have been on it for 10 years, normal may not be what it was when you started the pill 10 years ago. Charting your cycles will be very insightful as you observe your body’s recovery from this medication.
The pill is often used to treat undiagnosed symptoms, such as the ones you describe, of intense cramping and irregular cycles. It does not however treat the problem, only the symptoms. It, in fact, delays treatment. Since the annoying symptoms are relieved, the motivation to investigate their cause is absent. If they were only due to your youth, the 10 years that have elapsed may mean that at 29 you will no longer experience them. But if they were signs of a health problem, such as endometriosis, they have only gone untreated for the last ten years, and may require an evaluation.
I strongly suggest you consult an NFP expert to learn a precise method of charting. Not only will it be a method you can be confident in when you are married, for family planning, but it also is a valuable tool in evaluating your procreative and gynecological health. There is no reason to struggle and guess all on your own about the correct way to observe the signs or interpret them. You will find an NFP teacher a valuable source of support and information.
You can consult our online directory at www.canfp.org for NFP Professionals in California, or call our office at 1-877-33-CANFP. You will also find much more information on coming off the pill and using Natural Family Planning on our Ask the Expert page at that website. Wish you well!!!
Sheila St. John
Sheila St. John, CFCP, is a Certified Fertility Care Practitioner, actively teaching in hospital, parish, and private settings in Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties since the early 1980’s.
She is the Executive Director of the California Association of Natural Family Planning.
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