My Hormones Story

Hi, guys!

I wanted to go into more detail about my “wacky hormones” since I received a few questions recently. I apologize for not giving more detail. Thursday’s post started as a “What I’m Loving Lately,” but then I just sort of rambled about the hormone stuff, leaving you guys in the dark about a lot of stuff. Sorry about that! Ok, so let’s rewind and give you a little background.

At 19 years old, I started to take oral contraceptives. I had always struggled with acne, and I had heard that the pill might help to regulate my hormones and clear it up. Plus, I had a long-term boyfriend, so… you know. I could get free oral contraceptives from my college’s health services department, so I figured why not? I was put on Ortho Tri-Cyclen and my skin cleared up within a few months. I don’t remember any major side effects, so I took that same pill for years.

When I moved to Boston after college, I didn’t have an OB/GYN, so I did some Googling and found my current doctor. When I was about 22/23 years old, she switched me to Alesse/Aviane. I don’t remember why she switched me to a new pill, but it worked just fine, so I stayed with it for, oh, a good 10 years.

In my early 30s, I got a little freaked out that I had been on the pill for so long. A friend of mine raved about her IUD, so I ended up stopping the pill and trying out the Mirena. I liked it just fine (I don’t remember any negative side effects) and used it until we decided to try to get pregnant.

After giving birth to Qman, I started a progestin-only oral contraceptive (recommended by my OB/GYN) because I was breastfeeding. I’m not sure if I had some postpartum depression going on, but taking that pill made me nuts. Holy mood swings! I joke that Mal kept me alive during those first few postpartum months (I was also bleeding and going to the bathroom 20 times a day), but he absolutely did. I was truly falling apart, both physically and mentally, so the progestin pill had to go. (I also started Remicade around this same time.) I knew the hormones were effecting me, so, this time, I went with the Paragard (non-hormonal/copper) IUD. (I also didn’t want to get surprise-pregnant on the Mirena – I know two people in real life who this happened to!) The Paragard was awful. For three months, I had bloating and swelling in my abdomen. My doctor said it should go away in a few weeks, but my abdomen was literally sore to the touch. I felt terrible, so I had it taken out.

After that, I decided to give my body a break and see if my hormones would balance themselves. Around this same time, Nicole contacted me about working together. I had just started Entyvio, but it was only kind of working. (It can take up to 6 months to work.) Our main goal was to address my GI issues, but it seemed liked a lot of them were tied to hormonal stuff. We tried natural progesterone and diet changes, but my hormones were still out of control. I had night sweats 2 weeks out of every month, heavy periods, and terrible cystic acne on my face and neck. I just couldn’t take it anymore, so I decided to go back to oral contraceptives.

That was a year ago, and, up until 10 days ago, I played the pill game, trying to find the right one. I started with a super low-dose pill (Lo Loestrin Fe), but I had breakthrough bleeding every month. After that, I tried Alesse/Aviane because it had worked for me in the past, but, again, I had breakthrough bleeding. Most recently, I tried Altavera, which was much higher in hormones (both estrogen and progestin), and I pretty much hated the whole experience. The side effects (hair loss, weight gain, dry skin, bloating, moodiness, fatigue) were just not fun, so I knew I needed to get off the pill.

So, that’s my story in a nutshell. I just stopped taking the pill a little over a week ago, so not much has happened with regard to my hormones, but I know I’m in for an adventure. I’ll be sure to keep you guys in the loop with how things go!

Question of the Day

How are your hormones? Any words of wisdom for making this transition easier? 

68 Comments

  1. That podcast really opened up my eyes/mind to how we women treat our bodies! I stopped taking BC a long time ago (I think when my husband got stationed in Korea…no real need for it with him gone). I didn’t notice any major changes, but always felt that overarching societal pressure to get back on it to control anything that seemed unusual. Turns out after 10 years of playing around with pills, my hormones were at a normal level (I don’t have any kids yet, so there’s that), so I honestly stopped taking it. I tried going back on it when my husband moved back to the states, but both pills I tried made me miserable. Bloating, HEAVY break-through bleeding, really bad mood swings, etc. I think as women today, we get this pressure or sense from outside sources that we SHOULD be taking BC for one reason or another. If we’re not, we’re almost looked down on (“But what if you get pregnant?”). It sucks and I hope we can change that conversation! Can’t wait to hear how the seed protocol works for you!

    1. @Minka: That’s kind of a personal question, don’t you think? Tina has given us WAY more personal information here than most people would want to put out to the blog world. Just because she’s trying to get her hormones balanced doesn’t meant that she’s trying to get pregnant – and frankly, I don’t think that’s any of our business.

  2. Hi Tina,
    I’m a 29 year old woman who has dealt with a lot of the same hormone issues, plus hypothyroidism and adrenal fatigue. I can’t take oral contraceptives because they mess with my head too much. After 2 months in a row of ER visits for ovarian cysts, and my OB telling me mirena was my only option, I finally decided to see a naturopathic doctor. She ordered me a saliva cortisol test, and when I got my results back it showed that my cortisol, dhea, estradiol and progesterone we’re all seriously low. She started me on bioidentical estrogen and progesterone creams that are made at a compounding pharmacy. I use the estrogen cream days 1-13 of my cycle and progesterone days 15-28. I have noticed in 3 months I’ve started to feel better, it might take me up to 6 months to notice a big difference because of how low my levels were. But it has been a much better experience for me than oral contraceptives. I also take a low dose of dhea daily to help my body naturally replenish the hormones and an adrenal support supplement to help my adrenals heal. I hope that you find something that works! Hormone issues are so frustrating!

    1. Thank you for sharing this – I’m debating seeing a naturopath if things get really crazy. I’m glad to hear things are working out for you!

  3. The progesterone only pill made me crazy too. I hated it! So now I’m completely off hormones and just doing natural family planning and watching my cycles. I feel so much better now.

  4. After I got off the pill it took my body a full year for my hormones to regulate themselves. I mean I went to different doctors because my periods were like 45 to almost 60 days apart and that freaked me out plus acne was terrible. To be honest I felt like my body was back in my teen years trying to figure out how to balance everything. I still deal with breakouts but now that it’s been five years of no pill it seems like everything has leveled out.

  5. Ive only ever been on the pill- except for a month when i tried the Mirena IUD and was a MESS. My god, never doing that again. I guess the pill works fine– typical mood swings occassionally, but nothing crazy.

  6. I’m not sure if you’re willing to go without BC, but I would possibly try to get your body back on track without any pills & see if your hormones can figure themselves out? I have also heard a LOT of success stories with the saliva test & finding out the levels of each hormone in your body & then once you have those results you can decide which hormones you need to support! Also, Robyn from Real life RD has some great posts about this topic! Maybe even work with her! 🙂

  7. I hate the pill! With a passion and the IUD I had so many side effects. I’ve been off everything for almost 3 years and my husband just got the snippy snip surgery.

  8. I have PCOS, which was masked by 10+ years of BC. I experienced hormonal roller coasters after BC due to PCOS, 3 pregnancies, infertility treatments and breastfeeding (6 years post BC and counting). I am not currently planning on any more kids, so I’m interested to see where my hormones/body end up when I am done breastfeeding my baby.

    I won’t go on BC again because I felt that it masked my PCOS and compounded some of my fertility issues.

  9. I’m completely off hormones too, and it’s so much better! In my case, my husband and I decided we don’t want kids so he had a vasectomy a while back. I’m really glad he took responsibility for the birth control, because I didn’t want to try to the IUD route or having my tubes tied or whatnot. I know this solution isn’t right for everyone, but it sure has worked out great for me!

  10. I’ve been on low dose BC since I was in my teens (now 29) and while I hate not knowing if my hormones are “normal”, I am not ready to risk pregnancy. Would love to hear that perspective. We hear a lot about dietary changes and naturally helping our bodies, and how birth control is “bad”. However, what about the population of women who are not ready for kids, and are most comfortable with oral contraceptives as a form of BC.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Here here Jenny I’m actually in my 30s with a kid (planned) but low dose BC was good for me because I had heavy 8 day periods and didn’t want to get pregnant. I’m not ready to take supplements either because those don’t seem to be safe. Curious to see both sides.

    2. @Jenny: I stopped my oral BC in my early 30s after taking it since my teens for the same reason. I didn’t think I had any issues but once I was off, I didn’t want to go back. I tried going back on a low dose pill and didn’t like it. So I got the Mirena IUD put in last November and highly recommend it. BUT everyone is different! I definitely think taking oral BC, if that works for you, is better than risking pregnancy.

  11. I went off hormonal birth control about a year ago. I had tried to go off before, but the return of acne made me go back on. This time I waited it out and eventually things got better. It took a few months though, and things still aren’t 100%.

  12. Omigosh I feel like I could have written this post. It’s almost exactly what I’ve gone through and still dealing with. I’m actually waiting on a call back from my doctor today regarding the results of an internal US (due to breakthrough bleeding that never ends) and the bloodwork I had done to see if my Progesterone and Estrogen are out of whack. I had to have a D&C a year ago for 3 uterine polyps and I have a feeling they came right back, with a vengeance. I KNOW it’s hormone related due to a variety of terrible contraceptives over the years, a miscarriage and a pregnancy. Not to mention all the toxins I’ve been exposing myself to with everyday household products, makeup, etc. UGH. I’m really curious to see what works for you! Good luck!! I so feel your pain!

  13. Thanks for sharing. Good luck with this — it’s a lot of trial and error. You’ll figure out what’s best for you!

  14. I was on the Paragard for a year. When I first had it put in, I was in pain and had heavy bleeding for a good 3 months. It was awful. Things balanced out and I felt the best I ever did after that. The scary thing was after about a year I started having really strange bleeding. They did an ultrasound and said it had slipped into the wrong place and was no longer effective. Holly scary! Since then I’ve gone back on Loestrin FE. I can tell the hormones aren’t great for me, but I have no other option.

    1. @Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious: I had something similar with Paragard… except they caught that my IUD had moved because of a “whoops” pregnancy. The thing had rotated itself and then expelled itself a few weeks later. I’m just glad it didn’t perforate my uterus. I hate hormonal BC. Right now I’m on the Nuvaring b/c it’s the only form where I don’t spot or bleed all month. I’m contemplating trying Mirena though because I hate the hormonal BC side effects…..

  15. Hi! Really impressed that you shared openly about such an intimate subject 🙂 I know some people shouldn’t be on hormonal BC and I can totally relate, but for what it’s worth I really love my low dose pill with 24 active days. It’s a LOT better during the few placebo days and it has eliminated all breakthrough bleeding and bloating that I had on the standard 21-day med. mine also uses one of the safer progestins, I think (norethindrone) and my blood pressure has actually improved (probably due to other factors)…it’s not as common so I wanted to mention, but you do you! Good luck!

  16. Although I’ve never taken the Pill, I’ve had hormonal issues my entire life (horrible cramps, mood swings, anxiety, acne, etc.) Alisa Vitti and her book Woman Code have been absolutely life changing and eye opening. I really recommend checking out her work! She has a ton of information on the Pill, transitioning off of it naturally, and helping to regulate your endocrine system to regain hormonal balance.

  17. Oh my gosh! Thank you for sharing your hormone struggles… I’ve been on loestrin for 3 years (I started on Aviane and orthocyclin in my college years for acne… but weight gain, bloating, crazy mood swings… you get it) and while I like this current pill the best, it definitley freaks me out to be taking fake hormones for years and years… but it freaks me out more to get pregnant at the moment!

    But really- thanks for sharing your story. I feel like a lot of women struggle with birth control of some sort and hormones and fertility worries but it is undershared and you can feel alone. I wish you the best on your hormone journey and hope you find the right solution for you!!!

    -Holley

  18. I’m really sorry to hear that you had a horrible time with the copper IUD. I’ve had it for almost 7 years, yes, the first 3 months or so were horrible. It did get much better in time, but it’s still not perfect. My mother is a 2 time breast cancer survivor so I have been recommended not to have hormones. I wish you the best and I hope things start to regulate again for you soon.

  19. Thanks for sharing. My story is different but the same in that my hormones are all messed up. I have no idea what to do anymore.

  20. My hormones are pretty wacky. I have a history of ovarian cysts and endometriosis and I’m currently on a higher dose 3-month cycle hormone but up until this most recent pack, I had breakthrough bleeding. My doctors always tell me “give it more time” blah blah blah, but it’s hard to know how much time is enough. I’m losing a TON of hair and have definitely had lower energy than normal, which is really frustrating. My periods get SO heavy and SO painful that I nearly faint so it’s hard for me to weigh which is better. The only good thing is that I have had less migraines, but who knows, that could also have to do with some other supplements I was taking? Health in general is so complicated and if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, women’s hormones are complicated and even some of the most well-meaning doctors don’t seem to understand them as much as they say/think they do. :-/

  21. I experienced CRAZY hormone swings when I was put on Ortho Tri-Cyclin a few years ago. I had always used the low-dose version of that in college but my insurance apparently stopped covering it. So I went off of it immediately- I was so angry and easily upset. To be honest, I haven’t taken any bills since then and I don’t plan to.

    I know there is a very small implant available now that goes in your arm (Nexplanon)- not sure if you have looked into that but just throwing it out there in case it’s an option that might work for you.

  22. You are in your upper 30’s, correct? You could be starting to go through perimenopause. I have had breast cancer, so to me the pill is a big NO, but everyone has their own preferences. If you are done with having children, maybe your husband should explore his surgical options.

    Good luck!

  23. It is SO good to hear that someone has struggled with BC as much as I have. I finally stopped ALL birth control last November after having been on it for 14 years – I swear it made me insane: crazy mood swings, weight gain, lack of intimacy, exhaustion, I thought I was pregnant it kept giving me all those symptoms, but I wasn’t. Then throw on top of that having a hypothyroid… It’s a good thing my husband loves me… It took about 6 months for everything to “regulate” as much as possible with a crappy thyroid. But I can’t tell you how much better and happier I am (and my husband is) after that decision. We aren’t trying for, and we won’t be having kids – so a vasectomy is in the very near future. I know that I still have work to do to help even things out a bit (hello eating habits), but it is a million times better than before. My body was not-so-subtly telling me that those hormones were horrible for me, and I’m so glad I listened.

  24. As always, thank you for your honesty and being so open to sharing your experiences. My youngest child will be 6 in December and I finally feel like my hormones may be starting to regulate naturally. After his birth my husband had “the surgery” so I wouldn’t have to go back on BC. I had so many bad experiences trying to find something that would work for me before and between having my kids.
    Well, it seemed like my cycle was never going to be normal again. I was starting to freak out and worry about early onset menopause. My OB/GYN was quick to suggest Mirena instead of trying to find a natural solution. I think that is a pretty typical experience with doctors though. I agreed and the misery began. It was terrible. I was moody, bloated, and had break through bleeding every month. I went from feeling like I never had my period to having a period 3 weeks out of every month. I ended up having it removed after about 6 months and haven’t looked back.
    In all honesty, I feel like I spent years damaging my body with poor eating, birth control, etc. It has taken years to come back around full circle. Hang in there!

  25. Wow! Thank you so much for sharing – I know a lot of women personally who have struggled with hormones and birth control and feeling like there is no solution. I have been on the pill for about 10 years now and I am planning to get off in a few months – I can not be more excited! I can’t think of any major side effects (thank you Lord!) but I definitely get moody, irritable, bloated, crampy, etc. I’m interested to see how/if those symptoms change once I stop taking birth control.
    Have a great day!

  26. I have no connections to this other than I have also had a lot of hormonal and stomach issues (PCOS, IBS, hair loss, infertility, weight gain and difficulties losing, not having periods for years, etc.). I recently found keto and have been eating this way for a few months now (low carb, high healthy fat, moderate protein). Eating this way has given me my periods back and healed my IBS. However, I haven’t been doing the all-out keto restrictive eating. And I’ve been focusing on real food. The place where I’ve found a lot of support & guidance is healthfulpursuit.com. Again, not selling and zero affiliation. Just something that I’ve had a lot of success with and thought I’d share as food for thought…

  27. Wondered if you ever tried the Nuvaring? Very low dose of hormones and I found it SO much better than any pill or other BC method!

  28. Even though my husband got a vasectomy for my 40th birthday, I still take Junel 1/20 and skip the placebos. I have no problems tolerating it….I like the convenience of never having a period and it helps keep my moods steady. My doctor says it is safe to continue – maybe a few more years??

  29. Can I just say that I’m really sorry you are having so much trouble? You are always so positive and upbeat—no one would have known how many challenges you were facing. I hope and pray you will find what works for you so you can feel your best again. Out of whack hormones impact everything. Unless you’ve lived with heavy/endless/crazy periods it’s hard to understand how miserable it is. I’m further along in life than you are and am trying to navigate menopause without hormones (can’t take them due to increased cancer risk) and it can be really hard some days—particularly when sleep is constantly disrupted with hot flashes or night sweats. I want to encourage you to keep doing what feels right to you. Hope you find your balance soon.

  30. what about the NuvaRing? I’ve tried everything and this is the only thing my body agrees with.. even if the bf hates it (cause he can feel it). It did give me intense rage when I first used it but now I seem to be all good.
    I literally googled “NuvaRing rage” when I had to leave a crossfit class due to me being so angry at my coach for coaching me properly.. hormones are something else.
    My bf wants me to go off birth control and do the condom/cycle watch thing but eeeek.

    1. @Cass: Nuvaring is the only thing that’s worked for me too! I just hate how it dries me out…. But I don’t bleed all month like I did with everything else.

  31. Hormones sure are interesting, aren’t they? It boggles my mind how our bodies adapt to certain stressors and life. I’m not on the pill anymore. Tried for 1-2 months in my early 20’s and my body and mind couldn’t handle it. I *know* it’s risky to not be on any birth control, but I feel so much better knowing I’m not putting hormones in my body that don’t agree with my body.

  32. Hey. I am an avid lover of your blog and recipes for a long time. I have struggled to get my hormones balanced for many many years. I have always had irregular periods and after being on the pill for a long time tried a natural route (with holistic doctors, creams, and lots of reading)
    About seven months ago, I was sick of taking so many different supplements and did not really see any great results (nothing with hormone balance). My friend had previously told about a WHOLE food product called juice plus that totally cured her husbands IBS (so severe he was facing surgery) and told me she really thought it would work for repairing hormone balance by just flooding your body with good nutrition so that it can heal itself… It is 30 different fruits/veggies juiced and dried at low temps, and put into a capsule. It has 20 years of independent research and 37 published medical studies. it is simply food. I was really hesitant…but I will say that after four months of taking it I have had three regular 28 day cycles…which has never happened. (I am 38). I really am so excited about this. I just wanted to share this info with you because it seems like it could really help…with no side effects or harm done if it doesnt
    Disclaimer…i did sign up to be a rep for them. BUT it is because I believe in the product. If you know someone else who distributes it great But if you want me info I would be glad to send it to u!

  33. I am so sorry for all of your troubles! I am on Mirena and it’s working very well on the no-pregnancy front (this is my second one and I’ll be replacing it this fall). I have also had TERRIBLE night sweats for the last several years. So much so I’ve had to throw away all of my pjs because they were constantly smelling sour. Well 15 days ago, I started a Whole 30 and I have not sweat at night since. I’m not sure what I was eating (my guess is sugar) but something was definitely causing the night sweats for me.

    Hope you are able to figure out a good solution for you soon!

  34. Hi, I’m a long time reader of your blog and I love it. I have UC and a two year old. But, I wanted to comment that after I went off the pill, acupuncture really helped me during the transition period while my hormones were getting back to normal. Be gentle to yourself during this time.

  35. I just delivered my second and I’m breastfeeding. There was mention of going on a progestin only pill but now I’m not so sure after reading your experience. I’ve been taking loestrin for years and I’d hate to try something new but with breastfeeding I need something (no more babies!). Maybe I can convince my husband to have a vasectomy!

  36. It took me 2 years to get my period back after coming off the pill. But coming off it was the best thing I ever did. I never realised how much it was affecting my health and hormones until I got it all out of my body.
    My only tips would be eat well, sleep well and be patient. It can be a long process getting your body to regulate itself again but when it does you realise it was 100% worth the wait. 🙂

  37. I just recently stopped taking the pill as well. I didn’t have any issues but I really just don’t want to be altering my hormones in any way anymore. I downloaded the Kindara app to track ovulation. You take you temperature every morning and track your cervical fluid. Fingers crossed that it works 🙂

  38. I have a similar story! Isn’t it nuts the things women have to go through? I had good experiences on the pill but I am the most forgetful person and just could never nail down a routine of taking it at the same time every day (I tried taking it around a meal time, setting my phone alarm, carrying around everywhere in my purse, etc etc but inevitably I would miss a dose or two each month and panic about getting pregnant). So then I tried Mirena which was SO AWFUL for me. I’ve heard mixed experiences with IUDs- I wanted to love it but damn, I got every single side effect possible and bad. I called it quits after 5 awful months (and had such bad cystic acne from Mirena it took another 12 months of prescription acne meds to get my face back to normal). I’m on the ring now and it’s going pretty well. I feel like the past decade of my life has been a battle to endure some form of birth control and not get pregnant.

  39. Long time reader/lurker i had the mirena IUD after my daughter was born and I was not a big fan. I had frequent spotting and awful cystic back acne. I had it in for about 2 years. Had it removed, and quickly was pregnant again. After I had my son I really wanted another IUD because to me it’s just easy, you don’t have to remember anything. So I opted for the skyla IUD it has less progesterone compared to the mirena and now 5 months later I have had zero issues! It might be worth a try.

  40. I’m so sorry to hear you’re going through this! I was on the generic version of Alesse (Levora) for like 7 years leading up to getting pregnant and due to the higher hormones, it took us 6 months for my system to rid itself of everything before we actually conceived. I’m now on Altavera and it’s been fine for me so far (I also have UC) so I’m sorry that combo isn’t working out either. Hoping you find the right solution for you soon!

  41. Hey Tina, I have been following your blog since your pregnancy. Our boys are 2 weeks apart!
    I have a very similar story with birth control and went off birth control right before my son turned 2 and tried the “natural family planning method” in order to avoid another pregnancy….
    My new baby is 5 months old… so, let me know if something works for you. Still trying to find something that might work besides trusty “rain coats”.

  42. Have you seen a naturopath? Or been tested for PCOS? I had terrible cystic acne until I started seeing a naturopath to get my hormones regulated for fertility reasons. It changed my life!

  43. Hi! I’m a reproductive endocrinology and infertility fellow — if you’re having problems with periods, etc – there are many REIs in Boston who are wonderful! I also recommend checking out my friends’ websites, Truly MD, http://truly-md.com/ that has information from board certified OB/GYNs and REIs on everything from periods to pregnancy to post menopause! There’s a lot of misinformation out there, especially with regards to hormones, so tread lightly! Hope you get answers soon! Best wishes!

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