Coming Off The Pill: Fire Nipples & Mental Clarity

June 17, 2020
Coming Off The Pill: Fire Nipples & Mental Clarity

This all started as a fashion blog and almost 10 years down the line I’m baring it all and talking contraceptives, fire nipples and my experience of coming off the pill. This is not a post for the masses but it’s exactly what I needed when I decided to go off the pill. Just a normal women talking about my experience, side effects and weird things that happened when I came off the hormonal contraceptive pill. 

Before we jump, head first into the deep end of my personal life and all things, sex, contraceptives & nipples let me say that we are not trying to have babies, for the next few years. So I didn’t come off the pill with the hopes of falling pregnant, in fact, I’m still very much in the stage where I would cry (A LOT) if I found out I was pregnant now! 

We’re about to become very close & you’ll learn a lot more about me so lets leave our prejudice and negativity here shall we? Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start – if you understood my Sound of Music reference & sung the rest of that, just know, I’m very proud of you!

The Start Of It All

Being the somewhat rebellious teenager, still going to church regularly and having a mother that blushed at the thought that we (my sister and I) were even thinking about being sexually active (I feel like a proper adult writing that). I just went to a regular GP with a friend one day after school at the ripe age of 17. We were both ‘ready’ (read: stupid & definitely not ready) so we went to a doctor neither one of us knew and got prescribed the pill for ‘skin issues’ with not a zit in sight. It worked well for it’s intended purpose (me not becoming a teen mom) until I was about 20/21 when I decided to come off it.

There’s quite a bit more backstory to this but Sean & I decided to stop sleeping together before we got married (for about 3ish years) so there wasn’t really a need for any contraceptive. I was also notoriously bad at taking it so was happy to chuck it out!

Fast forward to 2017, a couple months before we got married and I had to decide on a contraceptive method once again. I sat down with one of my best friends (who happens to be a doctor) and we chatted about all the different contraceptive options. The chat included hand drawn sketches of the female reproductive system and me taking notes – let’s just say it wasn’t  basic chat! I didn’t feel like I knew my cycle or body enough to go the period tracking route, the IUD just wasn’t a good fit (quite literally) and I’ve had a couple friends that said the injection didn’t work for them. So I went with the devil I knew – the pill. 

The plan was always to reevaluate once I’d done more research and felt comfortable with making an informed decision – needless to say, it didn’t work out that way! While I was on the pill I wouldn’t have said that I had any serious side effects, besides weight gain but that could be down to my love for carbs so I didn’t take that too seriously. Since coming off however, I really have noticed a shift in my mood, attitude, work ethic, etc.

Coming Off The Pill

I really thought I’d planned everything perfectly for our trip to the US but it turns out my calculations were off by about 4 days for my pill so instead of fighting it I just decided to come off. No big moment backed by months of planning, just a calculation oversight was enough to get me here. I’d had a few conversations here and there with friends or read the occasional Instagram post about alternative contraceptives but it definitely wasn’t enough to feel prepared.

Returning from my trip I had a little under a week at home and then flew to New York for 3 days so there wasn’t much time to think or research. Life carried on as usual sans the pill and I hadn’t notice any differences besides having one down day while in NYC which I didn’t think related to coming off the pill, but more on that later.

I was two weeks into being back home, somewhat back to normal life and thinking “maybe I’m one of the lucky few that experience no heightened emotions, mood swings and crazy side effects”. It was then that I was hit with the fire nipples (aptly named by Anna). That wasn’t a typo! I had FIRE NIPPLES which had me feeling like a pubescent teenage boy! I’ve never experienced anything like it before so I had no idea what to do. I would regularly be seen cupping my boobs in the hopes that it would protect them from the air, which felt more like tiny shards of glass flying around me but only targeting my nipples! Something as simple as turning over in bed or a slight graze would have me wincing in pain.

Being a smart, resourceful 2020 independent woman, I decide to google, because surely Google knows what’s happening to me! Nope! Learn from me – don’t do it! Every single article told me that I was probably pregnant and the sensitive nipples should subside after about 2 weeks. By the time I started googling, I’d already had painful (not sensitive) nipples for over 2 weeks, so thankfully pregnancy was crossed off the list of possible suspects!

The fire nipples continued for about 2 months and just as I was preparing for a life of pain, they started to feel normal again. I can’t tell you how happy I was to shove them in any old bra until their next big moment – breastfeeding. Which I don’t see in my near future so we’re good!

Current Feelings

Going into month six of being off the pill and it feels like a dark cloud has been lifted. Sounds cheesy but it’s the only way I can describe it. Since before but definitely heightened by finding out about my dads death last year (2019) I’ve had this low hanging grey cloud that follows me around, encouraging me to stay in bed and skirt-by doing the bare minimum. But in the last month or so I’ve experienced a mental clarity that I completely forgot was possible – I’ve been productive, creative, had a clear headspace, feeling genuinely happy and just generally lighter. Sean, friends, family & even people on Instagram have noticed a change in me and the only thing I can peg it on is stopping the pill.

If I’m being honest, this is the change I was hoping for but it comes along with a side of pregnancy paranoia every now and then. Aside from the fire nipples, my period cramps are back but thankfully only on the first day (we all know, it’s always the worst). TMI, even for me – I’ve noticed that my periods are heavier (this makes sense because on the pill you’re only having a withdrawal bleed) & I get one or two hormonal spots before, after, during or throughout my period. I don’t know if any of you have experienced the same but over the last two months I can actually feel when I’m ovulating – it’s nothing hectic, it just feels like slight period cramps. Has anyone else experienced that?

Now let’s talk about our current contraceptive method since Sean & I are not ready for mini Aldridge’s just yet. We’re doing a combination of cycle tracking and condoms. Now is when I really hope my mom isn’t reading this! Mom, if you’re reading, skip this section! Using condoms can be such an annoying faff and let’s all be honest in saying it’s just not the best but just like everything in life, it takes some getting used to.

Overall, I’m a happy camper! It hasn’t been the most pleasant experience (thanks to the fire nipples) but even if just for the mental clarity I’d say it’s worthwhile. So if you’re considering coming off the pill, the best thing you can do is just go for it. But also, do some research so you feel a bit more prepared than I was!

This isn’t a bash the pill blog post because I know there are many women that don’t have any side effects and love being on the pill. I read this blog post & listened to this podcast episode which really helped me understand that literally everyone responds differently to hormonal contraceptives so this isn’t a one size fits all situation. If you’re looking for more diverse opinions check out the comments in this Instagram post. Everyone was honest about their experiences and I feel like there are positives and negatives listed for almost every contraceptive method.

I would love to hear your thoughts whether you’re currently on hormonal contraception, you’ve come off or you’re thinking of coming off – what has your experience been like?

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24 comments

Robyn Savage June 17, 2020 - 8:23 PM

This is brilliant! The pill, for me personally, is literally the Bain of my existence. Constant mood swings, heightened emotions and frustrations, anxiety and and and… I really don’t think people, men and women alike, give enough sympathy or rather, empathy, to you when you describe your experience with the pill. It quite literally alters your whole being, physical, mental and emotional.

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Jenita June 17, 2020 - 8:24 PM

I love the rawness and honesty of this post! Anddddd you’ve answered questions I have about coming off the pill! Thank you ☺️

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Jamie June 17, 2020 - 8:34 PM

You write so beautifully. Genuinely enjoyed reading your blog post today and particularly enjoyed the flow of your writing. Thanks for sharing and for the effort you put into it!

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Kayla June 17, 2020 - 8:41 PM

Lechelle, thank you for writing such a brilliant blog! I think it’s necessary more than you realise , also because so many of us are at that stage of our lives where we not sure what we can do to feel like ourselves again. A lot of what you said is what I can resonate with. I’m still currently on the pill, and it was so easy to just have something that would be a safety net, until I started noticing my moods after 2 years, I would respond with so much anger and frustration that I normally wouldn’t do, a lot has changed and I realised it had to be the pill. Thank you for sharing your experience & being so open about it. It’s not easy to be open , because you’re on a social platform but you help so many people who read your blog. ♥️🙏 I appreciate this post. You’re an absolute beautiful woman !!!

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Latara June 17, 2020 - 10:02 PM

I Haven’t been on the pill for 7 years and this was the best decision I could have made with the most support from my husband.

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Tracy Adams June 17, 2020 - 8:56 PM

Great post! I went off the pill for three years and life was good, until we had a baby and I hit my late thirties. After having a baby, especially if a bit older your hormones change and for some it changes significantly. And of course it changes as we are hitting menopausal age too. So going back on the pill has been a lifesaver for me, as I started getting anxiety and depression and VERY forgetful too which is not helpful in my role as a mother, wife and senior full time employee. So back on the pill and hormones are well balanced again. It is different for all as we are all born with different hormonal balance, age differently, have different bodies, etc. so there is no one size fits all, but lovely to read about different experiences!

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Shabaana June 17, 2020 - 8:57 PM

This is such a great read. I started the pill in a similar fashion without any check ups beforehand. Just prescribed by my GP. When I did come off it in 2018 I had the worst experience and was then finally diagnosed with PCOS. It’s been an emotional ride coming off the pill and adapting to my PCOS lifestyle but I am so much happier off it. In no way will I bash the pill, but taking into consideration my PCOS I wont be going back on anytime soon. The discovery was that the pill just masked all my PCOS symptoms. Thank you for sharing your experience and allowing me to share mine ❤

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Carlin June 17, 2020 - 9:05 PM

Thank you for sharing something so personal. I’m so happy that we are able to speak about this more openly these days! 💛

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Tameryn June 17, 2020 - 9:30 PM

The contraceptive pill was horrible for me as well so reading this is comforting. I had a combination of scabs+flakes on my nipples and scaring in my face I think it caused serve dryness to my skin. Not to mention 7kgs in a month. My doctor telling me to give it chance my body needs to adjust and with my family telling me the doctor knows best. I finally decided to accept my irregular and extremely painful period the pills side effects just wasn’t worth it. I honestly love this post its so real and cautious simultaneously thanks for opening yourself up to us❤️ I pray that God shields your heart with more boldness and guards you.

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Luce June 17, 2020 - 10:17 PM

I liked this article, reminds me of the chats you have with your girlfriends but never with your doctor, gynae or spouse lol but it’s always more enlightening and meaningful when you have “from my experience” conversation, we are after all creatures who love to relate! Let’s also not start on the mentality that seems to exist that the female generally is responsible for contraceptives….. I remember my doctor making me feel that the idea of suggesting my husband have a vasectomy was entirely ludicrous! Lol but as you have said, everyone responds differently, what works for one might not for the other but it’s always great to share experiences-thanks for yours!

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Lindz June 17, 2020 - 10:36 PM

Enjoyed this read, welcome to the “no pill world”! 🙂 It sure is an adventure coming off the pill. I had a horrible experience on it. Daily migraines, gained 10kgs, depression so bad (some extremely dark thoughts went through my brain) and period pain worse than ever before. I don’t miss it and will never go near it again. </3 Still struggle every month with lady pains, im basically knocked out for 3 days every month, but I can't deal with the darkness I felt when taking the pill. It's unbelievable how it just works for some😄!!!

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Stace June 17, 2020 - 11:42 PM

Such a great read and is something that we should all be talking about more openly and honest about. I’ve been on the combined pill now since September and like someone said above it’s the bane of my life. I can’t come off it though cause I’m on it for endometriosis. It’s caused me to bleed pretty much non stop for 8 months, all the joys of the foggy brain, mood swings the works. I just wish someone would figure out a better way 😂😂 Anyways it is how it is for now. Thank you for this blog and your honesty Xx

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Bia June 18, 2020 - 4:08 AM

Thank you for the open and amazing blogpost Le’Chelle.I was on the pill for 1year and it messed with my moodswings way too many times! I went off BUT…I got the worst breakouts ever. It gave my self confidence a crazy knock and I had to eat my hormones in balance again (dermatologist advise). 2 years later we had a planned baby, he turns 2 years old in October. We have now plans on having a baby again soon, but we do the calendar method and it has worked for us for 5 years.

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Jess June 18, 2020 - 5:48 AM

I was on the pill for around 6 years between the ages of 17 and 23. I went through so much change during that time, physically and mentally that I thought that that was just the person I was becoming – Extreme emotional lows. Stress. Weight gain.
It took me a few month to decide to come off of the pill once I realised that that might be the problem. My partner supported the decision as he could see how unhappy I was. I felt bad for asking for something that would also affect him in our relationship too, but we both knew that this was worth trying to see if it helped me.
I’ve been off for over 2 years now and I don’t plan on going back on any time soon. If I did I would want to know all of the different options and their potential side effects before making a decision.
I have experienced some new symptoms now that I’m off – sore boobs about a week before my period! Exactly like the fire nipples in that google told me I was pregnant. However I can assure everyone that it happens consistently each month, and has done so for 2 years now so definitely not pregnant! I can also feel myself ovulate some months, like a slight pinch in my ovary, but I don’t suffer from any severe period pain or heavy flows now that I’m off. I also lost weight – partially I think from the hormonal changes but also because I found I had the energy and desire to get out and exercise again. I wasn’t feeling so drained and lethargic all the time.

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Roxz June 18, 2020 - 6:32 AM

This is truly so inspiring. Im having a “omg same!” moment. I’ve been off contraceptive for a month now, and I truly feel so much better; mentally, physically and emotionally. I will accept the irregular, heavy and painful menstrual cycle for all the benefits I am currently experiencing.

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Nush June 18, 2020 - 7:16 AM

Thank you for Lechelle for sharing …
The most uncomfortable topic to speak about with anybody even your closest …

I’ve been off the pill for just over 3 years now, and that was due to an ectopic pregnancy.

The pill worked well while being on it, even helped me with weight loss. However, that one moment or period changed my whole perception about it.

It was a difficult time, getting my period back to normal, regulating my cycle, it was all messed up.

Up until now, 3 years later, with a miscarriage down too, finally, my period is back to normal.

Life gets tricky with the pill, I too sometimes still get fiery nipples when it’s cold, I can feel when I’m ovulating and my flow is heavier too.

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alicha June 18, 2020 - 7:34 AM

My experience with the pill is one of the worst things that I have gone through. I got my first pill at 17/18. It was 8 hours in the emergency room and lots of tests that we saw i had a cyst that bursts on my ovaries. So the doctor said i must go to a gynea. Long story short,, i got the pill(it was a strong one, because my period lasts 10 days). Used the pill for about 1 year because I had a boyfriend and my parents felt better with me on it. But the pill made me throw up every morning at 3am for that whole year. One day I woke up, had no pills left, and decided im done. I wasnt on the pill for 4-5 months. One morning I woke up for work with this awful pain( i thought it was another cyst or a bladder infection) went to my local gp and she said i am ovulating thats why im in so much pain. So back on the pill(this was the lowest dosage on the market) First month was emotional, I had a breakdown everyday at stupid things for example my friend put a glass down to hard on the table and I was sobbing. Anyways got through that month,barely. Second month i woke up with sandpaper skin but we got through that as well. Third month i woke up at 4am threw up, and threw my prescription in the bin, havnt been on the pill since, ovulating is my worst enemy because thats my painfullest day of my cycle. It only lasts a couple of hours but i cant live for those hours. Its been 4 years and i havnt been on the pill. However im still doing research on what would be the best for me.

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Amanda June 18, 2020 - 9:07 AM

I was on the pill for a few months in matric and first year of varsity (coz I thought I was a grown woman 😂) it was absolute HELL! Mood swings weeping at the smallest of things, extreme annoyance. I didn’t notice it was the pill I thought I was just going through some changes. Then similar to most I forgot to refill my prescription, I got lazy to do it and skipped a month all of a sudden my moods were so mellow, decided to quit for good

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Charne June 18, 2020 - 10:35 AM

I was put on the pill very early on…. I was diagnosed with pcos fairly early… Before i was 10 years old and dr advised a specific pill would help with the pcos. I had a love hate relationship with it and took it for 8 years straight before stopping. What a Rollercoaster when you come off it. I consulted dr after dr worried that being on the pill for such a long period of time would affect my fertility with all saying the same thing. Id struggle anyway. I sat my husband to be down and told him that i would most likely struggle to give him a kid if wed have one at all. I went back on the pull last year before we got married because its the most convenient method of contraception. When lockdown started i skipped a few pills and just never got around to getting more so i just stopped. Now 3 months later ive found out im pregnant. The news was a miracle after being told from a young age id struggle. I cant be happier. But i can say that i am so much better not taking the pill. All that hormones and the withdrawal when you go off is just terrible. Thanks for this article. Im so glad other women feel the same way i do and did!

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Sarah June 18, 2020 - 2:56 PM

This was very helpful to read. Thank you for aharing your experience.
I think as women we just have to accept that even with all the progress in the world, contraception is still not without its issues and side effects and unfortunately the burden of it still lies heavily with women.

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Casey June 18, 2020 - 4:50 PM

Hi Lechelle. I thought I was a weird one who could feel when I’m ovulating🙈… I love this blog post, it was beautifully open and honest

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Nicole June 18, 2020 - 5:28 PM

I love this article!
Thanks for being so open and vulnerable and sharing all you did!!
I could totally relate to the lift in mood, but i really did hate what coming off the pill did to my skin… hormonal acne is a real bitch… From chats to my girlfriends, it seems like it is super common but not nearly enough spoken about!

(That and how my boobs are now mozzie bites). In saying all of this, it’s still so much better off it.

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Robyn June 18, 2020 - 5:34 PM

This is a good read! I recently went off, due to no reason being on it and it affected my skin (weird right?)
Thanks for being open and honest ❤️

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Cara Schickerling June 19, 2020 - 10:02 AM

Love this! I had to stop the pill about 8 years ago and I fully believe it gave me my anxiety ( or at least surfaced it) that still pops it’s ugly head regularly.
HELLS YES to the ovulation, I feel it every month and actually feel more moody/iffy/ not myself around the couple of days compared to my actual period….. ahhhhh the joys of being a women!!

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