The Sexual Response Cycle was developed by sex researchers Masters and Johnson in 1966 after observing patients during various sexual activities. Although this model was developed so long ago, it is still widely taught as the way our bodies respond to sexual activity. In general, this model can help us understand what’s happening in our bodies when we experience sexual arousal and desire, but human sexuality is nuanced and varies widely, so this model isn’t perfect. I do think it does a great job of helping us understand generally what’s happening in our bodies when we experience sexual arousal. It is important to note that people of all genders experience the cycle, but in different ways and at different times. You and your partner likely won’t experience the exact same phases at the exact same time, and that’s okay. 

Excitement Phase

The first phase of the cycle is excitement. The excitement phase can last anywhere from several minutes to several hours and includes experiencing muscle tension, a faster heart rate and faster breathing, blood starting to flow to the genitals. This cycle can start even before you physically see or touch your partner, which I think is so cool! 

For example, if you’re dating someone and every time you’ve seen one another so far you’ve had sex, simply seeing their name pop up on your phone on the day of a date together can start this cycle because your brain associates them with sex. How wild is that!? As I mentioned, this phase can last anywhere from a few minutes to hours, and of course, can vary in levels of intensity. Sometimes your mind can feel desire, but perhaps your body doesn’t yet, or vice versa. 

Plateau Phase

The second phase is plateau. During the plateau phase, all of the experiences from the excitement phase continue but slowly increase with intensity. Perhaps the feelings you initially feel thinking about seeing your partner later increase when you actually see them or when they kiss you hello. This phase could also occur when you and your partner(s) actually start being physically intimate with one another. 

All of the things in the excitement phase are continuing, and the genitals get more filled with blood. Your breathing and heart rate increase even more, as well as your muscle tension. Some people also experience muscle spasms during this phase in other parts of their body besides their genitals. Even though this phase is called “plateau,” the arousal and sensations in the body are still increasing here little by little. 

Orgasm Phase

The third phase is orgasm. A very important note to make here is that not everyone experiences orgasm every time or even most of the time they have sex with a partner. Orgasm shouldn’t be the only goal of sexual interaction, pleasure should be! Although this is included in the response cycle, I want to acknowledge that this is not accurate for a lot of people. 

During orgasm, people can reach the climax of their sexual experience. This climax can include orgasm or involuntary contraction of the muscles and genitals. Blood pressure heart rate and breathing are all at a high, and a great release of sexual tension can occur. The vagina and uterus involuntarily contract here, and the penis can ejaculate. Some people also experience a flush of color on their face or body in this phase. 

Resolution Phase

The final phase of the cycle is resolution. During resolution, the body slowly returns back to its natural resting state. The heart rate slows, the muscles relax, and the increased blood flow to the genitals returns to its resting state. During this phase, people may feel relaxed, more connected to their partner, or even snuggly and tired. This phase is a great opportunity for partners to discuss aftercare, or ways to feel safe and comfortable after sex. People with vaginas should always pee right after sex during this period. 

What if I experience the sexual response cycle differently?

Generally speaking, this is the cycle our bodies go through during a sexual encounter with someone else or ourselves. As I mentioned, this model isn’t totally accurate to how people experience sexual arousal, but generally speaking, it can give us an idea. This model presents the sexual response in a very straightforward, linear way, and that is not always accurate. For example, orgasm might not be part of everyone’s sexual response, and that is normal. 

Perhaps there are some encounters where you experience the excitement and then resolution, never experience a plateau or a climax. That is normal. It is also normal to not experience these phases at the same time, in the same way, or at the same level of intensity as your partner or partners. For example, it is not likely that everyone involved in a sexual encounter will experience orgasm at the same time. One partner might naturally spend more time in the excitement or plateau phase before reaching a climax. One partner might feel more energized during the resolution, while the other might feel sleepy. All experiences are normal!

My favorite thing I’ve learned in studying the sexual response cycle is learning more about the excitement phase. I love knowing that this phase can start by even just seeing your partner without physically touching yet. That is so cool! 

Are there other models of sexual response?

Since this cycle was first established in 1966, other researchers have written and observed more accurate ways to describe the sexual response that accounts for all of the variations in sexual experience and desire people have. These different models can be found with a little extra reading, but the Masters and Johnson model still remains the most widely taught, despite its shortcomings. Other models developed in the years after Masters and Johnson account for acknowledging desire, pleasure, and satisfaction as part of the sexual response and someone’s interest in seeking out sexual activity with a certain partner again. 

Next time you experience the sexual response cycle, it might be interesting to tune into your body and see how you’re really feeling. Notice if the excitement phase starts by simply knowing you’ll see your partner later that day, for example. Think about what makes you feel totally cared for a safe during the resolution phase. Once you reflect, share that information with your partner for a more connected sexual experience.

Cannabis products are becoming more and more popular as more states make medical and recreational marijuana legal. Even in the states where that hasn’t happened yet, CBD products, such as CBD lube, are widely available. Like even at the grocery store. 

What is CBD?

CBD, or cannabidiol, comes from the marijuana plant, but it comes from the part of the plant that does not produce psychoactive effects… so it won’t get you high. The marijuana plant contains THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD. When heat is applied to THC and put into the body it does create a high. CBD is the part of the plant that does not. CBD is extracted from the marijuana plant as a power or oil and can be taken a few different ways. There are creams and ointments for pain relief with CBD in them, as well as pills or capsules, vaporizers you can smoke, and the oil you can ingest directly or mix into a drink and consume that way. The most recent and spiciest CBD product I’ve encountered is CBD lubricant. 

How does CBD lube work?

Since CBD lube is a fairly new thing, not many official studies have been done, and most of the info we know about this lube is anecdotal. CBD oil, in general, can be used to treat inflammation, pain, and relax muscles. Using these properties in lube can help create greater arousal. CBD lube is also reported to decrease inflammation, relax muscles, and increase blood flow, all things that help prepare the body for sexual arousal, and could increase someone’s receptivity to touch. 

What are the different types of lube?

If you’re wanting to try out CBD lube, make sure you are getting lubricant and not just using regular CBD oil. The ingredients are different, and lube is generally made with ingredients that are less likely to irritate your genitals. Oil-based lubricants, which most CBD lubricants are, cannot be used with latex condoms, and there are very few condoms made of other materials that are oil-based lube friendly, so even if you get non-latex condoms, read the label! Skyn condoms, for example, are latex-free, but cannot be used with oil-based lube. Oil-based lubricants will break down latex condoms, which can cause them to break. There are some water-based CBD lubes, which would be compatible with all types of condoms and toys. Water-based lubricants are safe to use with all types of condoms.

If you do get your hands on some oil-based CBD lube, however, you can still have some fun. You could use this lubricant for some erotic massages or hand play. Just be sure to seek out water-based lube if you are using condoms or toys. 

Is CBD lube safe?

It’s also generally recommended to check with your doctor before using CBD products of any kind, as they could possibly interfere with certain medications. Also, be mindful of ingredients in the lube that could possibly irritate your vagina (or your partner’s). Alcohol can cause dryness after extended use, and sugars can cause irritation. Who knew?!

A popular brand of CBD sexual wellness products I came across is called Foria. They have capsules you can take, different oils, and lubes to try. Kush Queen (amazing name) is a popular water-based lube, so it can be used with condoms, and it is also great for sensitive skin because it has gentle ingredients.

I recently used CBD lube for some fun hand play, and it was definitely a different experience than using regular lube. I felt a slight cooling sensation when I was using it, and my partner felt the same thing. I felt a constant medium or strong level of sensations, but there wasn’t much ebb and flow to the intensity. I kept almost reaching climax, then it would dissipate and I’d go back to feeling the same extended pleasurable sensations. It definitely felt good the whole time, but it wasn’t exactly the experience I expected, so I’d definitely use CBD lube again. Next time, I’d seek out a water-based one, however, to experience a wider variety of sensations. If you’re interested or already are a fan of CBD products, I’d recommend trying it out. 

I recently saw a commercial that stopped me in my tracks! This doesn’t happen often, or ever, really. I heard the woman on my television say, “Flex Disc even empties itself out while you pee.” Excuse me?! Sure, I’ve heard of menstrual discs before. Even contemplated trying them. But a menstrual disc that empties itself out while I go to the bathroom? That was a novel concept to me! I had to learn more. And then of course share that knowledge with you all. [Photo Credit: Amazon/Hello Giggles]

What is the flex disc?

Flex Disc is a single-use menstrual disc meant to be worn for up to 12 hours. Flex Disc is made from a body-safe material, although the website doesn’t specify what that is. This disc is inserted into the vaginal canal and sits at the base of the cervix in the vaginal fornix. The disc collects your period blood here and leaves your vaginal canal open. 

The website mentions several times and even encourages Flex users to enjoy mess-free period sex while the disk is inserted. I love that! Since the disc sits at the opening of the cervix, the vaginal canal is wide open for business. Flex Disc users have also reported they’ve experienced less cramping since switching to the disc, and the disc produces 60% less waste than other disposable menstrual products. 

How does the flex disc work?

To insert, you pinch the disc between your fingers so it is as long and thin as possible. You insert the disc into the vagina, and when you can no longer keep pinching, release the pinch and push it into place using either a thumb or pointer finger. They also suggest doing some Kegels or squats once it’s in place to make sure the disc is situated. 

You can keep the disc in for up to 12 hours, and at the end of the day, or whenever you’re ready to change it, you insert a pointer finger to take it out. With clean hands, grab onto the edge of the disc, and pull it out of the vagina, keeping it as flat as possible to avoid spilling blood. You empty the blood into the toilet, then throw the disc away. Don’t reuse the disc once you take it out! If you have a particularly heavy period, Flex suggests emptying the disc out throughout the day, then inserting a new one. And here comes the good part! The disc can empty itself while you use the bathroom. 

How does it empty itself?

Essentially, the natural muscle tension of our body helps hold the disc in place as we’re living our life throughout the day. When you sit on the toilet, the muscles relax a bit. If you “bear down” slightly, the disc can somewhat pop out of place, emptying a bit of blood while you empty your bladder. With clean hands, use your thumb or pointer finger to situate the disc back into place just as you did when you first inserted it, then carry on with your day. 

This company stands out

The fact can the disc can naturally empty itself BLEW MY MIND! Our bodies are so cool. If disposable period products aren’t your jam, Flex does have a menstrual cup available as well. I’ve seen other menstrual discs on the market, but the period and sex-positivity that Flex has really stood out to me. They mention period sex several times on their website and use inclusive language to make it clear that this product is for anyone who has a vagina and menstruates. Check them out at flexfits.com

This year seemed to have been the year of the period underwear. Brands all over the market, across all different price points, created period underwear within the last few years, proving this is a product here to stay! Period underwear is underwear made out of material that will absorb your period blood, ranging from 1-3 tampons worth, depending on the cut and brand of the underpants. Recently I saw that period swimwear is now on the market as well. 

This surprised me and raised a lot of questions. How on earth could these still be absorbent when they’re submerged in water? What if my swimsuit gets knocked out of place slightly while I’m swimming or frolicking in the ocean? Lucky for you, dear reader, I investigated a bit and have some answers.

How does period swimwear work?

In doing my research, I found that Ruby Love and Knix were the two most popular brands making period-proof swimwear at the moment. Both brands, and period swimwear in general, use the same technology to absorb blood that period underwear does. Ruby Love had an informative video and diagram on their website showing the layers of fabric they use to absorb blood, but no specific info on how much blood their swimwear could absorb. Knix, also known for making bras and underwear outside of the menstrual care game, is a little more specific. Their website says their period swimwear holds up to three teaspoons, or two tampons worth of blood. 

At first I thought this didn’t sound like a lot of absorbency, but then I remembered we’re just talking swimwear here. If you were to go to the pool or the beach, you probably wouldn’t use more than two tampons anyway, depending on how long you’re there and how heavy your flow is, of course. 

What if I need additional protection?

Both websites also suggest that you can use the period swimwear as a little backup protection, wearing them with a menstrual cup or tampon, or you could wear it solo, relying only on the swimwear to manage your period alone. Of course, every person’s body and menstrual flow is different, so I’d advise wearing this swimwear on your lightest days at first, or using a tampon or menstrual cup with it as you’re getting used to the product. Although, if you’re already a fan of period underwear, and already know what days of your period you can confidently wear them and have no leaks, then you might as well give it a go. If you already have used Knix’s period underwear, for example, their swimwear would likely work exactly the same way.

Would you try period swimwear?

I love that we are making more and more strides in period management as each year passes, giving people a lot of options for their period care. I think I’d try the period swimwear perhaps on a light day on my period. I do have faith that this swimwear could absorb my period while I and my body are dry, but I don’t quite understand how it could keep that period blood locked in when I jump in the deep end. All of the information out there suggests period swimwear, no matter the brand, can do just that, so I’ll have to try it out myself.  Find more info on Ruby Love and Knix on their websites. 

It’s the holiday season, baby!!! Typically the winter holidays mean lots of stress, lots of shopping, and lots of family time. Three things that don’t scream sexy sex time, right? Although this time of year is full of things that could cramp your sexual style, such as staying in your childhood bedroom a wall away from your parents while home for the holidays, I’ve got some holiday season sex tips for you!

Reduce the stress this holiday season

A large reason it is hard to get some sexiness going through the holidays is the stress! If your partner is the one hosting, cooking, buying all the presents, wrapping all the presents, and inviting everyone to your home, they do not have the time or energy to think about having sex with you! Share in some of those responsibilities! Finish up the shopping and wrap everything for them. Ask them what they need help with. Not only is this super thoughtful and lovely, but it frees up their schedule a bit.

Get out of the ordinary 

If you’re going home for the holidays and are staying with family members and don’t feel like you can fully get your freak on, consider staying in a hotel. If you don’t have the means to do this or you just don’t want to, this presents an opportunity to get creative. Try and have completely silent sex. Fun! Have sex in the car after running errands together. Schedule a sexy interaction during a small window of time when everyone else will be out of the house. Discreetly sext each other throughout the day in front of everyone. No one will know!! The disruption from the ordinary is fun, and the feeling of getting away with something sexy that no one knows about is fun too!

Make holiday season sex playful

Get playful! Dress up as a sexy Santa, Mrs. Claus, or another holiday-themed thing. An elf, perhaps? Do naked holiday cookie frosting. Spread the frosting on each other’s bodies. Lick it off! Gift each other certificates promising fun sexy stuff like a massage or romantic date. Even if you feel silly, tapping into your sense of play makes sex fun! 

Flirt it up and stay safe

If you’re single and ready to mingle this holiday season, flirt it up!! Flirt with everyone and expect nothing in return. Freely flirting helps you tap into your own sexy side, just for you. It’s fun to share that with others. Plus if you’re practicing freely flirting, then you’ll get really good at it and can use some of my holiday tips anyway. Just make sure you are safe. Ask your partner about their STD status, (preferably not in the heat of a sexy moment), use condoms or dental dams, and make sure you have consent!

Find time for intimacy, even if it’s not sex

If all else fails, embrace the coziness of the holidays and enjoy some wine in front of the fire together. Set the mood. The great thing about sex and intimacy is that there are no rules. Talk with your partner or partners about what excites them and what they like. Embrace the extra time off work outside of responsibilities to really take your time with each other and enjoy each other’s energy. 

Now that you’ve got all these hot holiday season sex tips, go forward and have some fun!

I love talking about birth control. If you’ve ever talked to me for an extended period of time, or heck, read any of these blogs on here, you know I love talking about birth control options. The pill, the patch, the shot, the ring, condoms, IUDs – the list goes on and on! It’s one of my favorite topics. Despite my passion for the pill (and other contraceptive methods), I found myself clueless recently when I realized I didn’t know what to do if I miss a birth control pill myself!

I’ve been on the combination hormonal pill (estrogen and progestin) for nearly a decade. During that time, I’ve never missed a pill. (Thank you for the applause!) Life got extra stressful recently and I was extra distracted because I opened up my pill pack one Friday afternoon to see Thursday’s pill staring me in the face. Since I had literally never missed a dose, I had no idea what to do. I immediately called my gynecologist and got some answers.

How does hormonal birth control work?

In order for the hormonal birth control pill to be most effective, you have to take it at the same time every day. The pill works in two ways: it thickens your cervical mucus so if sperm were to get into the womb, no implantation would occur. It also shuts down ovulation. This is the big one with the pill. If you’re not ovulating, no eggs are being released to be fertilized. If you miss a dose, this can throw off the delicate balance of hormones needed for ovulation to be shut down. This is why some people get pregnant immediately after coming off the pill. Of course, everyone’s body is different, but even one missed dose, depending on the timing, can cause problems. 

I called my gynecologist and asked to speak with a nurse. I told her I had forgotten to take yesterday’s pill, so I was 24 hours late on that dose. She said since I had only missed one pill this month, I could just take it with today’s pill, taking two pills at once. Since I only missed one pill in my monthly cycle, and I took it as soon as I remembered, I would still be protected contraceptive-wise. She did say that it’s possible I might have some breakthrough bleeding, or the length of my menstrual cycle at the end of my pill pack could be slightly different than normal, but I did not need to use any backup methods of birth control because I had only missed one pill. 

Protection if you miss a birth control pill

If I had missed more than one pill that month, I would not be protected contraceptive-wise and would need to use another form of birth control, such as condoms. If you miss more than one pill in a cycle, it throws off the process of stopping ovulation. If you miss more than one pill in a cycle, take your missed pill as soon as you remember, even if you have to take two pills in one day. Use condoms in addition to your pill until you have taken active pills for seven days in a row. You need active pills for seven days to reset your cycle. It’s also recommended to take emergency contraception such as the Plan B pill if you’ve had unprotected sex within the last five days if missing that second pill. If you have fewer than seven active pills left in your pack, take what’s left and skip the placebo pills to start your next pack early. 

In addition to not being protected against unwanted pregnancy during this time, you might also notice spotting. Your next menstrual cycle might be slightly longer or shorter than usual as well.

If you’re on a progestin-only pill, the protocol is slightly different. If you take your progestin-only pill anywhere between three and 12 hours late, then you’re late on your dose. Take the pill as soon as you remember, even if that means taking two pills in one day. It’s also recommended to use emergency contraception if you’ve had unprotected sex within the last five days of missing a pill. Use condoms in addition to taking your pill until you’ve taken your pill on time for two days in a row. Then your cycle is back on track. 

Backup methods when you miss a birth control pill

If you ever miss a pill and you’re unsure, call your gynecologist and ask to speak to a nurse. If you don’t have a gynecologist, call Planned Parenthood, and they can tell you what to do as well. Although this was my first missed pill in nearly a decade, people miss doses of their birth control all the time. Like I said earlier, the pill works best if you take it at the same time every day, but stuff happens and sometimes you forget. Take your missed pill as soon as you remember, and use a backup method of birth control if you missed more than one pill during your cycle. 

Trying a different birth control option

If you find that you’re missing pills frequently, consider a different form of birth control. Talk to your doctor to discuss what options are best for you. Birth control such as the ring or an IUD might be a good option since you don’t have to “take it” every day. If you love the pill, but find you keep missing doses, you can also have some strategies to help you remember to take it on time. You could set an alarm on your phone that goes off every day to remind you. You could also take it at a time of day when you know you’ll be doing the same thing, for example, if you eat lunch every day at the same time, take it with your lunch. Even if you’re not sexually active, taking the pill on time every day helps keep your hormones regulated and feeling good. When in doubt, call your gynecologist and ask for help.

A key component to great sex is communication. Thinking about what you want to do, will do, and won’t do, is a great way to set sexual boundaries for yourself and carry that through with sexual encounters with a partner. Talking about sex can sometimes be a little scary. We are socialized to never talk about sex, to keep our sexual desires a secret, and talking about sex out loud is taboo. I’m here to help you normalize talking about your desires, baby! If you can’t talk about what you want with a partner, then how do you expect to get what you want in bed?

What is a Want, Will, Won’t List?

A great tool for bringing up what you desire with a partner is a Want, Will, Won’t List. This is essentially a list of intimate and sexual activities that you can categorize as something you want to do or have done to you, something you will do or have done to you if your partner is into it, and something you won’t do or have done to you. You can make up the list on your own if you want, or you can find one online. 

How to write your Want, Will, Won’t List

The Want, Will, Won’t List can be filled out by hand, or there are some that you and your partner fill out online, then it only shows you the acts that overlap between you and your partner. That way you’ll only see the things that both of you want or will do. Having a list like this can be fun to help you and your partner think of sexy things to do together that you’ve maybe never considered. It’s also fun to fill out just for yourself as a tool to reflect on what you desire. You might also find that in filling out the list, some things don’t sound appealing at all, or some things are meant to stay just as fantasies. That’s great too. Every bit of information you discover about your desire will lead to a better sex life. 

Discussing your Want, Will, Won’t List

Once you and your partner or partners fill out the list, it’s time to discuss! I recommend discussing your desires separate from sexy time. You could talk about your list sometime when you’re just hanging out, or at the beginning of a date before you start hooking up. In the heat of the moment, it can be hard to clearly state what you are or aren’t into. Talking about what you want to do sexually with each other can also be a bit of foreplay, which is always fun.  

If you find yourself feeling nervous in discussing the results of the list, having one that generates the overlap between you and your partner can make it a little easier. That way, you’ll both only be talking about sexy scenarios that you’re both interested in. Getting better at communicating about sex outside of the bedroom will help make communicating about sex in the bedroom easier too. 

So what are some examples? 

Want: 

  • I want to give and receive oral sex
  • I want to cuddle after sex
  • I want to make out for a long time before getting naked

Will: 

  • I will use sex toys on my partner
  • I will watch a sexy video with my partner
  • I will explore anal play with my partner

Won’t: 

  • I won’t have vaginal or anal sex without a condom
  • I won’t have anything put inside of me without being asked first – fingers, toys, body parts, etc
  • I won’t have penetrative sex without foreplay

Usually, the lists you find online are much more extensive, but your list can include anything you can think of in a sexy situation. If you Google “Want, Will, Won’t List,” you’ll find plenty you can download and fill out. Have fun!

Content warning: This article discusses stealthing, a form of sexual assault in which a condom is removed during a sex act without consent. 

Stealthing is the nonconsensual removal of a condom during a sex act. This is sexual assault. Despite being sexual assault, this topic is rarely discussed, even though it happens too often. Thirty-two percent of women who sleep with men, and 19% of men that have sex with men have reported this happening to them. California just became the first state to outlaw this specific act, which I think is great progress in the right direction. 

Is stealthing assault?

Many people don’t discuss stealthing because I think many people don’t realize it is assault. If you consent to having sex with someone under the condition that they use a condom, then in the middle of sex, they remove the condom without you knowing, you are not continuing to consent to what’s happening. That is assault. This is a problem because it is sex without consent, even though it began consensually, but it can also put someone at risk for an STI or an unwanted pregnancy when the sex they agreed to with a condom would not expose that risk at all. Consent is essential for all sex acts. It’s essential in many of our interpersonal interactions in fact. Consent says that everyone involved in whatever is happening says “yes” to all that is happening. If someone removes a condom without the other person’s knowledge, it is impossible for them to consent to that.

How are stealthing cases handled?

California just outlawed stealthing earlier this year, and I hope this brings much-needed attention and discussion to this topic. Many sexual assault cases do not end in favor of the survivor, and the way investigating sexual assault cases in this country is handled is not great. This is a step in the right direction though, allowing survivors of stealthing in California to sue the perpetrators. 

I first heard about stealthing several years ago through an article I saw online, but I had never heard of it discussed amongst people I knew or in any discussions of consent. It was also a topic of discussion on the most recent season of “I May Destroy You,” where the main character is raped after being drugged, then several weeks later is assaulted again when her partner removes the condom during sex when she turns around to switch positions. She asks him about it afterward and he says he “assumed” she could feel that he took it off, blaming her for being upset. 

How can I talk about consent?

Hopefully, other states will follow in California’s footsteps and outlaw stealthing as well, furthering this conversation of assault and consent. Sexual consent is ongoing throughout a sex act. If someone agrees to sex with a condom, then that condom needs to stay on the whole time, unless there is consent for it to be removed. This act being outlawed can also act as an opportunity for people to further discuss consent. As I mentioned, consent is ongoing, and it can be changed at any time. It is a discussion. Sex without consent is an assault. Hopefully, this being outlawed can help acts of stealthing to decline, and other states will follow California’s example.

If you take hormonal birth control, you probably spent hours researching the possible side effects that come with starting the pill. You’ve probably heard horror stories of women having adverse side effects, and you probably asked your doctor a bunch of questions before you started taking the pill to be sure it was the right birth control for you. I’ve been taking the hormonal birth control pill for years, and despite knowing all of the possible side effects before starting, I realized I only recall hearing a few side effects for when you stop taking the pill. A lot of people start taking the pill when they’re teenagers or young adults, so it’s hard to imagine a time in the future where you’ll be stopping birth control, but the side effects of coming off the pill are important to know about as well.

Most people stop taking the pill when they want to become pregnant, but some people come off the pill sooner to try a different type of birth control if their body didn’t react well to the pill. Just like how not all people on the pill experience all of the side effects of starting hormonal birth control, not everyone going off the pill will experience all of the side effects coming off the hormonal birth control. If you’re considering coming off the pill, however, here are some of the side effects you might experience.

1. Withdrawal bleed after stopping birth control

If you take the pill with three weeks of active pills and one week of placebo pills, you’ve already experienced a withdrawal bleed. This acts as your period during your cycle, but since hormonal birth control shuts down ovulation, you’re really experiencing a withdrawal bleed from the steady flow of hormones. When you are stopping birth control, you will have a week-long withdrawal bleed just like you would if you were taking your pills how you normally do.

2. You could get pregnant right away

Doctors say it takes people anywhere from zero to six months to have ovulation return and their cycle to regulate itself without the pill. Every person’s body is different and it is possible to get pregnant right away when you quit the pill. The hormones in the pill will leave your system within a few days of stopping the pill, but it might take your body a little longer to begin regulating your cycle with your natural hormones again. Your body could also begin its natural cycle right away, leading to pregnancy if you have unprotected sex.

Because it’s impossible to know specifically when you’ll begin ovulating again, use condoms or another form of birth control right away if you are not wanting to get pregnant. For some people though, it may take between three to six months to begin ovulating again, so if you are quitting the pill to get pregnant, doctors recommend giving yourself a few months to have your body adjust so you can get pregnant when you are ready.

3. Cramps and discharge from ovulating

Once you quit the pill you’ll begin ovulating again so you might experience cramps on one side of your body during your cycle. These cramps are from your body ovulating and getting ready to release an egg. Now that you’re ovulating again, you’ll also notice a change in your vaginal discharge. Discharge during ovulation is stringy and clear. Since the pill shuts down ovulation, you likely haven’t seen this particular discharge in a while, but don’t worry, it’s normal and a sign that you are ovulating again.

4. Breakouts, cramps, mood swings, and a heavier period

If you experienced bad breakouts, cramps, and mood swings leading up to your period before you started the pill, you might have those symptoms again. If you experience these symptoms when coming off the pill and you didn’t have these pre-pill, your body should adjust after about three months and these symptoms should level out, becoming less harsh after a few months. Additionally, your period will likely be heavier after you quit the pill. The pill uses hormones to regulate your cycle, so once you come off the pill, your period might return to how heavy it was pre-pill. People’s cycles change over time though, so your period will likely level out to a “normal” flow after a few months as well.

5. Increased libido from stopping birth control

Some people report experiencing an increased libido after coming off the pill. During your cycle, you will feel the most frisky when you are ovulating. This is your body’s way of saying, “We’re the most fertile we’ll be all month, let’s make a baby!” Since ovulation is shut down when you’re on the pill, you of course can still feel frisky, but some people report having an increased sex drive once they are ovulating again. For some people, however, there is not a noticeable difference. Conversely, some people report feeling less sexy after coming off birth control because they no longer feel a sense of ease being protected from unwanted pregnancy.

6. Change in weight and breast size

Some people notice their breasts shrink a little when they stop taking the pill. This has to do with the hormones from the pill leaving your body and your natural hormones regulating your cycle again. If you didn’t notice a change in breast size when you started the pill, however, you likely won’t notice a change when you stop the pill.

Some people also report losing a bit of weight when they quit the pill. This isn’t super common either, but when it does happen it is due to a loss of water weight. The progesterone-only pill can cause people to retain water, which can cause a bit of weight gain. If you’re on a progesterone-only pill, you’ll lose this water weight when you come off the pill.

7. Hair loss

Admittedly, this is the only side effect I had never heard of, and this is the only one that scared me when I first read about it. This side effect isn’t very common, and when it is present it’s not as scary as it sounds! If you have polycystic ovary syndrome or some other condition that caused hair loss before starting the pill, you might experience hair loss again when coming off it.

If you don’t have a condition that affected hair loss prior to the pill, you likely won’t experience a noticeable amount of hair loss, if any. If you do experience hair loss, though, this should stop within six months of quitting the pill. This is due to a temporary condition called telogen effluvium, which causes your hair to shed. In most cases where hair loss is present after quitting the pill, however, it is usually due to stress, diet, or some other factor and not the pill, so don’t worry too much about this side effect if you’re considering quitting the pill.

If you’re considering coming off the pill, the biggest things to keep in mind are that you can get pregnant right away and that the levels of side effects you experience will vary depending on you and your body. You might not experience all of the side effects, and the ones you do experience will likely have varying levels compared to someone else you know. When you come off the pill, your body adjusts from being regulated with synthetic estrogen and progesterone to being regulated with those hormones naturally in your own body. This does require a bit of time to adjust, so know that for the first few months at least, your cycle and body will likely not feel back to “normal.” If after six months you are still experiencing severe side effects or your period hasn’t returned to normal, see your doctor.

With the news at our fingertips on our phones or other devices, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the bad stuff happening in the world. Social media causes us to compare our lives to those that we follow, while just regular life stuff can get heavy and hard to deal with. Thankfully it has become more “normal” to talk about mental health, self-care, and getting help when needed. Perhaps you are going through a hard time at work or in your personal life, or maybe you just feel a little “off” and want to do something about it. Or maybe you’re still feeling funky after experiencing, oh I don’t know, a global pandemic!! Finding a therapist is a great option for getting your mental health on track and being kind to yourself.

How do you go about finding a therapist?

Once you’ve decided you want to go to therapy, how do you even begin finding a therapist or counselor? A quick Google search of therapists in your area is a great place to start. When I was looking for a therapist I searched therapists in my area on PsychologyToday.com. Once you start searching, it’s important to set filters on your search to find therapists within your insurance plan or budget. When searching, look to see what therapists accept your insurance. Some therapists don’t accept insurance but do offer a sliding scale for payment based on income, which is also a great option if you don’t have insurance. All of this information should be found under the therapist’s profile on the website or on their personal website.

What type of therapy are you looking for?

Another thing to consider is what type of therapy you are interested in. Do you want a male or female therapist? Do you want someone that is religious? Do you want a therapist that is LGBTQ+ friendly or is LGBTQ+ themselves? Take a moment to reflect on what is important to you and what qualities in a therapist will help you feel comfortable. Again, all of these details should be listed on the therapists’ profile. 

Additionally, some therapists will do art therapy, meditation, or even assign work for you to do outside of your sessions. Are those things important to you? After you’ve found a few therapists that are within your insurance plan, budget, and values, reach out to them. I recommend reaching out to three to five therapists to see if they are accepting new clients. On Psychology Today’s website, you can email the therapist or call them if their number is listed. If you are nervous about reaching out, an email is a great option. You can send the same message to each therapist, and if it’s your first time seeking out therapy, mention that.

Meeting with a therapist for the first time

After you’ve reached out to the therapists you are interested in meeting, they should all get back to you and mention their availability and insurance they accept, as well as if they have a sliding scale. In my experience using Psychology Today, several of the therapists didn’t accept my insurance even though it was listed on their profile, so you should always confirm before moving forward with an appointment.

After finding a few therapists that line up with your needs, book a consultation appointment. Some therapists also offer a free phone consultation, so you can also do that to decide if it is a good fit or not. When I started therapy I met with two therapists in person for a consultation so I could decide if I felt comfortable with either. Therapists are people too, and just with any new person you are meeting, you might jive with some people better than others. I recommend meeting with two or three therapists and going back to the one you feel most comfortable with. Maybe you want a therapist that is very vocal and asks a lot of questions, maybe you want someone who listens and doesn’t talk as much—these initial consultations will help you figure this out. Be patient during this process!

Choosing which therapist to stick with

After your initial consultation, take some time to reflect and decide which therapist you’d like to go back to. When deciding on your therapist, remember that therapy is for you. Don’t feel bad for telling a therapist you’ve met with once that you will not be returning. Just tell them that you found someone that matches your needs and fits your schedule and thank them for meeting with you. You can even send an email telling them this if that is more comfortable for you.

Once you have chosen a therapist and started going regularly, just remember therapy is a process. Some sessions will be super awesome and productive, while some sessions you might leave feeling worse than when you got there. Think of therapy as self-care and time specifically for YOU. I always like to get myself a treat after therapy like ice cream or wine to thank myself for taking care of me. It sounds silly but keeps the good self-care vibes going the rest of the day.

If you’ve decided to start the process of finding a therapist, congratulations on taking that step. Take your time in choosing someone you feel comfortable with, and remember you are in control and call the shots. Good luck!