My relationship with my period and birth control has been somewhat tumultuous, to say the least. When I was younger, my periods were so bad I was kept out of school for two to three days a month. As I got older and more involved in high school, being out of school so often wasn’t really something I could do, so my mom and I made the decision to start me on birth control.
And at first, life was wonderful. My skin cleared up, my periods were “normal,” I didn’t have debilitating cramps, I could live my life in a way I hadn’t for at least five years.
Fast forward to college—I was about 21 and had been on birth control for about six years straight. I started noticing dramatic differences in my mood, and my skin had started to break out again. But the mood swings were the worst part. I would be fine one day, and the next a complete mess … you know, crying, lashing out at friends, then isolating and crying some more. After a trip to the doctor and a few therapy sessions, I decided that I would stop my birth control to see if that was the culprit.
At first, birth control was wonderful. My skin cleared up, I didn’t have cramps. Then in college, my skin started to break out again. But the mood swings were the worst part.
And it was. Once I stopped birth control, my anxiety and mood swings dissipated after a few months. I felt my normal self returning. I did have a few months of really terrible periods, but as I got older, my periods evened out and I was back to my old self again.
Why I Went Back on Birth Control
So let’s fast forward over a decade later. I started noticing that my periods were becoming more and more painful, this time with back aches that lasted all day and all night, a symptom I’d never had before but chalked up to getting older. My periods started getting progressively worse each month, but again, I thought it was just a weird thing happening as I was getting older. Went to the doctor, and BAM. I was diagnosed with a giant fibroid that had expanded my uterus to the size of a 18 to 20 week pregnancy and was pressing against the back of my uterus (which explained the constant backaches and increased back cramping during my period). By this point, my periods were so painful and unmanageable (on more than one occasion I almost went to the ER because the pain was so bad) I decided to start back on birth control to basically stop my periods until after my surgery.
And to tell you the truth, I was terrified. Starting birth control again in my 30s was uncharted territory. I knew what birth control previously did to my mental health, but at this point I couldn’t live with my period and I had another five months to go until my fibroid surgery, so I did what needed to be done.
How Birth Control Affected Me in My 30s
First things first—my skin did change. I never got acne or pimples, but I did develop tiny little red dots all over my face. It was barely noticeable to most people, but it gave my skin a super rough texture, almost like sandpaper. And speaking of sandpaper, my skin also got a LOT drier too. I had to focus on using lots of healing, anti-inflammatory, calming ingredients like mugwort and centella and heavy-duty moisturizers like the SkinCeuticals Emollience Cream. But the good news is, my pesky hormonal acne that liked to pop up during that time of the month was nonexistent. Like POOF, gone. And after that first month, that weird texture thing had cleared up too, and my skin was restored to its normal looking glory.
I was on continuous birth control, so I didn’t skip the placebo pills week, which means I didn’t get my period for the entire time I was on birth control. Instead, I had spotting nearly every day. And honestly, it was annoying AF. I became one with pantyliners and never went anywhere without them. At the suggestion of my doctor, I let myself have one period to try to stop the spotting, but it continued all the way up until the last month I was on birth control.
What Happened After I Got Off Birth Control … Again
Once my surgery was complete and I was cleared to resume normal activities, I decided to stop taking birth control once again. Like in my 20s, I noticed my mood and anxiety had taken a turn for the worse and I just didn’t feel like *Sheryll*—the sparkly, bubbly, (and frankly hilarious) essence had vanished once again. Initially, I blamed it on the pandemic (I think we can blame everything on it at this point), but this anxiety felt familiar—like déjà vu, like I’d done this before. After consulting with my doctor again, I made the decision to stop birth control.
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And just like when I first started the pill, my skin developed that prickly redness with texture that looked like old school popcorn ceilings. Again, I turned to my trusty centella products, adding in the CosRx Hydrium Centella Aqua Soothing Ampoule to my routine and focusing on keeping my skin nice and hydrated. I stopped using all chemical and physical exfoliants and upped my sheet masks. It took about six weeks for my skin to get back to normal this time, though. And just as I suspected, my hormonal acne has made a not-so-fun return now that my periods are back to normal.
Have you had to start birth control in your 30s? What was your experience like? Let me know in the comments!