Today we share Julia's story. Julia tells about when, aged 27, she stopped using birth control pills and was faced with bad skin and irregular periods, and was diagnosed with PCOS . She came to grips with her diagnosis all by herself and made several lifestyle changes that have resulted in her now having a good complexion and regular periods.
How my journey to PCOS began
When I was 15 years old, I decided to start taking birth control pills . I had no major problems with my menstrual cycle, weight or skin. Periods could be heavy at times and I had a few pimples every now and then, just like most teenagers do.
I had heard that birth control pills could cause side effects such as bad skin, mood swings and weight gain - and was nervous about it. Being very physically active and wanting to focus on handball, I also worried that the pill would have a negative impact on my performance. I raised my concerns with my midwife and she recommended a variety that would specifically be good for avoiding the side effects I wanted to avoid. I took these birth control pills for 12 years and as promised I experienced no negative side effects and felt good both physically and mentally.
At 27 years old, I decided to go off the pill to find out how my body felt without them. After only a few weeks without the pill, my skin started to get bad. When I looked at myself in the mirror, I felt like a teenager who had just entered puberty. Both my self-esteem and confidence suddenly sank to rock bottom. Days came when I didn't want to show myself to anyone and chose to stay at home instead of seeing friends and family. When the pandemic came, I was even a little grateful to be able to work at home and not have to meet my colleagues.
That's how I realized I had PCOS
A few months later, I asked for tips in a Facebook group with the theme of skin care . One of the members of the group advised me to read a post by Vulverinekoos where she wrote about what can happen when you stop taking exactly the type of pill I had been on. From that post I learned that birth control pills contain anti-androgens, which "suppress" the body's own testosterone. Since an overproduction of testosterone causes acne, these kept me (just like many other women) from having bad skin for the years I ate them.
I know today that many women take these to hide symptoms like acne and facial hair. The only problem is that the symptoms come back when you stop. In my case I didn't have any symptoms before I started the pill but once I stopped my hormones were out of balance which showed in bad skin and irregular periods. It was when I started gaining all this new understanding about the female body that I suspected I had PCOS.
Seeking help for PCOS
For me, it felt important for me to really find out what it was that had happened to my body. I turned to the healthcare system and really had to stand on my own to come up with an examination. My blood tests came back normal but the doctor could see follicles and diagnosed me with PCOS. She said it was something you were born with and that birth control pills couldn't be the cause.
For me it was strange as I didn't have these problems before I started the pill and the symptoms I had were just cysts and bad skin. I had previously read that in order to be diagnosed with PCOS, you had to tick off at least three of the symptoms such as weight gain, thicker and more facial hair, insulin resistance, acne, etc. I didn't do much with the doctor's information but started reading more myself.
So I got hold of my PCOS myself
It wasn't long after I found Wolverinekoos that I also found for Womensync. I felt that the information that Womensync spread was similar to Wolverine's but with a different way of communicating. For me, these two accounts gave me the best possible knowledge and understanding about my own body. When I later received the nice Womensync book as a birthday present, I delved even more into the facts about the female body.
My absolute biggest insight I gained during this time was that the female body is not made to experience so much stress. For me it was fascinating that ovulation is among the first things that are prioritized and sometimes shut down if the body lives with too much stress. If in the past we were hunted on the savannah, there was no point in being able to get pregnant anyway.
It was also completely new information for me that both exercise and caffeine secrete the stress hormone cortisol. Too much of these can therefore cause the brain to perceive that we live under pressure and pressure. As with everything else I had learned, it felt very reasonable and natural.
Changes I Made to Get Rid of PCOS
With a lot of research and new information, I started making big changes in my lifestyle to reduce my symptoms of PCOS. Above all, I started to exclude things that I learned could have a negative impact on our hormones.
Things I cut out to get rid of my PCOS
– High-intensity training
When I started cutting out milk, gluten and sugar, I noticed some improvement in my complexion. I had a hard time cutting out milk completely so I allowed myself to keep it in my diet and then just cut out gluten and sugar.
I stopped high intensity exercise and caffeine and slowly but surely my period started to become regular again. After almost 2 years, I chose to cautiously start high-intensity training again but avoided it before and during ovulation. This suited me and my body well and did not affect my menstrual cycle.
Three years after I went off the pill
Today, it has been almost exactly three years since I stopped taking birth control pills. During the first period, my skin got worse and worse, and then it was good for periods. It was clearly noticeable on my skin if I had been "sloppy" with my diet.
Since about six months ago (ie 2.5 years after I stopped using birth control pills) I would like to say that my skin is good. A pimple may appear here and there if I eat extra sweets at the weekend or ovulate, but it's nothing that affects my well-being. The menstrual cycle has basically been completely regular since a year ago, my last cycle was slightly longer, but then I was also sick just when I was supposed to ovulate. I notice my body is a little extra sensitive but I doubt a doctor would diagnose me with PCOS if I sought care today.
I still adjust my high intensity training according to my menstrual cycle, avoid coffee (can have a cup sometimes) and avoid gluten (do eat it sometimes though). Other than that, I live as usual and it works for me. Instead of hormonal contraceptives, today I track my cycle through Natural Cycles and Oura instead, which works very well for me.
I am so grateful to Womensync and Vulverinekoos who have given me an incredible amount of knowledge and information about my own body that I had no idea about before. Today, three years after I stopped taking birth control pills, I can say that I feel well and have a well-functioning body.
This is a personal story from a person in the Womensync community. The same results and experience cannot be guaranteed, but depend on the person's state of health, background, lifestyle in general and genetics. Womensync does not intend to diagnose or treat medical conditions. Always consult a doctor in case of suspected illness.