As a former high school student-athlete, Tatiana Battle started birth control at 16 years old with the desire to suppress her intense period symptoms.

Battle endured excessive nausea, loss of appetite, headaches and heavy bleeding. Those symptoms made playing sports and daily living more challenging. Needing a “quick fix” to solve the inconveniences of her period, she visited her gynecologist for answers.

With an array of birth control options at her disposal, there was one that caught her attention for its drastic changes in reducing period symptoms.

Nexplanon, a small birth control implant, is inserted into the upper arm and releases doses of progestin to help prevent pregnancy. In addition to preventing pregnancy, the contraceptive also affects regular menstrual patterns. Battle noticed these changes shortly after getting the implant inserted. She found relief and and as time passed, she went from having heavy to light bleeding. By the third year, Battle recalled her bleeding, stopping completely. However, she also began to experience side effects, such as a low sex drive and emotional outbursts. They took her by surprise.

“One minute I would be extremely sad, crying and depressed,” Battle told 21Ninety. “The next minute, I would be giggly and goofy. Then, sometimes, I would be silent and quiet.”

It bothered Battle not knowing the long-term impact of using birth control. Unlike other contraceptive options, Nexplanon lasts up to 5 years in the body. As she approached the end of her implant’s lifespan in 2020, Battle had to decide whether to replace it or not.

“I thought the positives of birth control outweighed the negative side effects, but that was not the case,” Battle said. “A lot of what happened after getting off of birth control is what no one told me.”

Battle assumed that her period would return after removing the implant. But six months later, she still did not have a period. She says she still experienced period symptoms like cramping but was uneasy knowing her period had not fully returned.

In 2021, Battle decided to get back on birth control as a preventative measure. Without the contraceptive, it was harder for her to control her period and its symptoms. Also, she wanted one less thing to worry about during some pretty big life transitions such as moving and returning to college. This time, she opted for a birth control shot instead of an implant.

The now 24-year-old no longer uses birth control and says she notices improvements in her eating habits, emotional well-being, and period symptoms.

Battle’s experience is one of many examples of how the body may adjust after stopping birth control. While each person’s bodily response is different, there are common encounters birth control users can expect after stopping the contraceptive. 21Ninety spoke with OB-GYN Dr. Kerry-Anne Perkins about how the body changes post birth control.

What are the main reasons why people decide to stop taking birth control?

There are several instances for people to use birth control that don’t involve preventing pregnancy. However, Dr. Perkins found one of the primary reasons people stop birth control is because they are trying to conceive. Another reason is that some patients are testing out other birth control methods available to find the best match. In addition to the pill, there are implants, IUDs, shots, vaginal rings, patches and rings. Perkins says some people also decide bith control is no longer needed due to menopause, celibacy or because they are unhappy with their symptoms.

What changes can a person expect as the body readjusts to being off the medication?

The type of birth control determines the time frame it takes your body to adjust after removal, according to Dr. Perkins. For pills, it takes a couple of days for the active ingredients to clear out of the body since it is a medication taken daily. The patch and ring also don’t remain in the body too long after use. Long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) stay in the body longer than 24 hours. The birth control shot can remain in the body for up to two years. On the other hand, Perkins noted that the implant and IUD take about 2-3 months to leave.

Irregular cycles, mood swings, skin changes and fertility issues are common symptoms a person can expect while the body resets.

How can a person prepare their body when they decide they want to stop taking the medication?

Perkins suggests those who are stopping birth control to conceive have a plan. She also suggests making the transition from the medication when no other life-changing factors are happening.

“Pick a time where you can give yourself more self-care if you need it,” Dr. Perkins said. “If you start having more cramping than you usually do, you’re able to comfort yourself and use things that naturally help to ease those symptoms for you.”

Dr. Perkins’ last piece of advice is to be open and attentive to your body.

“Listen to how your body is changing and don’t necessarily accept those changes as normal,” she said. “…Take notes of all your symptoms and discuss them with your provider so they can guide you with what is normal and what’s not. You want to be prepared to give yourself the love, gentleness, kindness and support your body needs as it transitions.”