Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Thoughts on the pill - warning long post!

I have wanted to write this post for a while now but was never quite sure of how so here goes...

I am on the combined contraceptive pill and have been now for about six years. This is the third pill I've been on and for the most part I have been very happy with it. However of late things have been beginning to change (moods, shape etc) and I've been thinking of changing contraceptive type. I have also been giving some thought to the information we are given about the pill.

The first pill I was on was Microgynon, at first it was fine, then I started to cry - a lot - and I would also cry when it was highly inappropriate to, like when getting an answer wrong in a university class. I also started to get angrier, J and I would have rows (we argue but never shout and I started shouting), these were generally fueled by alcohol I'll admit but I'm normally a sleepy drunk not a shouty drunk.

I never connected my change in behaviour to the pill. Because when I was prescribed it no-one told me to watch for it. Until talking to my middle sister and telling her about the problems I was having and she suggested it might be the pill. To be honest I was pretty surprised but went along to the Dr's and got a change of pill and lo and behold I changed too.

I think this was when I started to get a little surprised about all the things I wasn't ever told to look out for. Also the lack of checks before I was prescribed the pill (how prone one is to depression/anxiety for example). I just asked for it and was given it. I also wasn't aware of the multitude of pills available and that it was easy to change and try them until you found one you were happy with.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that were it not for being lucky and having a sister I'm close to who alerted me to the effects of the pill I wouldn't have been aware that something I was taking every day could affect me so much.

So coming full circle I'm now thinking of looking at alternatives to the pill. I feel like my body needs a change.

Have any of you experienced anything similar on the pill? Do you have any suggestions on alternatives? Thoughts in general?


Spare Thoughts said...

Oh I love this post! Warning very long comment!

I was put on Dianette, a combination pill used to treat acne, when I was about 14, I stayed on that until I was in my third year at Uni when I developed the most intense headaches, and I thought I was dying. The doctors thought the combination pill might be causing the headaches and so put me on the mini pill hoping that the headaches would go away – they didn’t and my acne came back with a vengeance, plus you have a 3 hour window to remember to take it.
So they decided that I must be reacting to the hormones and advised that I come off everything – offering me condoms as my only form of contraception. Not great for a girl who by this time was at the beginning of my relationship with O, wasn’t prepared for any accidents and let’s be honest condoms spoil the mood. So I decided to go to a Family Planning clinic for a second opinion in the hope that they would be able to offer some solutions. The clinic recommended that I try Depo-provera an injection of hormones that acts as the pill but which you only have once every 3 months. Magic! I went from being hormonal and ratty once a month to only being hormonal every 3 months, I didn’t need to remember to take a tablet every day and extra bonus my periods stopped! Downsides however I put on over a stone in weight and the headaches still hadn’t stopped (by this time it has been decided that they are probably posture related). The other downside is that the injection can actually mess with your fertility for over 15 months after you stop getting the injection (they give Depo to paedophiles in America – weird). After about 18 months on the Depo I asked to go back on the pill, the weight disappeared - phew. Unfortunately I don’t have any recommendations for alternatives, my eldest sister however I don’t think they recommend the coil for women who haven’t had children. I have friends who have the implant. I would recommend going to a family planning clinic to speak to the doctors/nurses, they are experts in all things fertility and will be able to discuss all potential options with you. The waiting room with the 14 year olds is a bit shocking but you get used to it after a while.

I will dance in the streets the day that they come up with some male equivalent, let’s mess with their hormones for a while and see how they get on. I have been experimenting with my hormones for almost 14 years now it can’t be a good thing.

Will you update us if you find any alternatives?

Spare Thoughts said...

sorry I meant to write that my eldest sister has a coil but that it isn't recommended for women without children, clearly deleted that sentence by mistake in the vast vast comment!

Julia (Color Me Green) said...

i haven't really had serious problems with birth control affecting my moods. but i was feeling depressed this winter though with no sex drive so i decided to go off birth control to see if that would help. i'm feeling less depressed, but whether that is really because of the changing seasons or what, who knows. still no sex drive though. anyway the more i read about it the more birth control creeps me out, especially how it takes your body a while to readjust after you go off it. and how the hormones are infiltrating our water system and are correlated with hermaphrodite frogs and earlier puberty in girls. i'm using the fertility awareness method to try to track my cycles to know when it's safe to have unprotected sex, although so far my cycles are very ambiguous so we're really just using condoms for protection. i hope that after 6 mo or a year my body it will be easier to understand my body's patterns. boyfriend kinda hates it though, his friends all think i'm a hippie weirdo and that we're going to get pregnant by accident, but i'm standing by it...i want to at least give it a year of being VERY careful and see how it works.

Marie said...

@Spare Thoughts - Thank-you for your lovely comment! So useful to hear about other people's experience and to feel less odd for being so concerned about these things. I am looking at a new coil called Minerva which releases a small amount of hormone too and is apparently better for those who haven't had children and to avoid heavy periods. Who knows though, but I will speak to my doctor and see what they come up with and suggest and of course share once I have a better idea!

@Color Me Green - Thank-you too for your comment. I also am concerned about the amount of hormones being pumped into the system both within and beyond my body. And yes it can't be good for the environment. I have thought about condoms but don't really like them or the fear I have of them splitting. Although I have read about the monitoring system as well I'm not sure I have enough faith in it just get to be convinced.

I guess what this is making me realise is that it's all about finding something which suits you and trying to make the best of the choices we have. Although having support while wading through those decisions is also vital!

M xx

Make Do Style said...

I have to say I tried the pill 3 times and it ended in minor disaster twice and major disaster once. If I wasn't crying, or eating like a pig I was being sick.

My body spent the whole time trying to reject the pill so much so I had the misfortune to get pregnant and then nearly die in the process. Sorry that sounds really scary! Basically I didn't know I was pregnant and I was only 22 and my body went into some sort of shock which meant lots of emergency treatment and a termination all in the space of a few hours, most of the time I was out of it.

I recovered and then they added warning things to the pill about being sick etc. But I could never take it again. I think my reaction is quite extreme, I am allergic to penicillin and then later after the pill incident developed an allergy to prawns - again I suffered an anaphylatic shock - I told you I'm a bit extreme.

However the body is being subjected to man made hormones and it does affect you. I'm of the view don't go there but then the alternatives are not without effort. I actually used a cap for years without any probs or condoms. Hardly romantic but when you are married it is easier than when you are not!

What a good topic and you are right it should be a joint decision. Good luck.

agirl said...

Ugh. This issue gets me so cross with my profession, because I think it IS often poorly handled. (Having been messed about and made to feel the hysterical female myself.)
GO TO A FAMILY PLANNING CLINIC. Seriously. God bless GPs, but I worked as one (a trainee one to be sure, but still ) for a few months, and I'm no contraceptive expert. By a loooooong story I ended up in a family planning clinic and it changed my life.
ALSO, there are new coils which are FINE for women who haven't had kids. Most GPs are just uneasy about doing them. For the price of cramps for a few hours I have had problem free contraception for almost 4 tears, and I don't need to think about it till year 5. Granted, that may not be for you, but the point is there is enormous choice out there! So see an expert.

*gets off soapbox*

Krista said...

In North America "coils" are called IUDs. Weird! And they are safe for women who haven't had babies, as the previous poster pointed out. In the few women who become pregnant while using IUDs, the risk of that pregnancy being a tubal pregnancy is increased. That being said, the chance of pregnancy is slightly lower than on the pill.

Frustratingly, brand names change in different countries. I was on marvelon for about 10 years. Whenever I wans't in a relationship, I still took it. It's so convenient - it reduced the PMS (which was borderline PMDD), reduced my flow (which was heavy) and was just amazing. Only downside? I burn in the sun more easily. That's a very common side effect that most people don't know - sun sensitivity is common.

(Marvelon is also marvelon in the UK, but wikipedia says it's Desogen in the US.)

Now I'm on nuvaring - no pill to remember! I find that I get minor (very minor) cramps intermitently for a couple days after inserting the ring. After 3 weeks, I take the ring out, then put another in. After another 3 weeks, then I let myself get my period. I love not menstruating very often, and it's perfectly safe.

IMO women don't talk about contraceptive enough, don't know how they can/should switch if they have side effects, and aren't always well informed by their doctors. So I love your post.

Marie said...

@Make Do Style - Wowsers, sounds scary and makes me feel very lucky I've not been through anything like that. My mum used the cap for years and I think it was fine and yes as you say when you're married it is different. It's been great getting other people's thoughts and has given me lots to think about.

@agirl - You'll be pleased to know I am off to a family planning clinic this week to talk about getting one of the new IUS's - I think it's called Minerva, has a little bit of hormones in it. And knowing you've used one with no trouble is encouraging, I don't know anyone else who has ever used one! I shall hopefully have something to feed back about all this sometime soon.

@Krista - We also call them IUDs but the coil sounds easier. I have done quite a lot of research on them to try and find out all about them and am hoping by talking to someone at the Family planning clinic I'll have a much better idea of all my options. I've also heard about Nuvaring but it's not really over in the UK yet so not sure I can get it. Plus I quite like the idea of the coil where it goes in for five years and I can forget about it! Lazy I know...

To all commenters - thank-you so much, it's been so good for me to discuss this and I really appreciate your thoughts. M xx

Rose said...

am late in on this but is something I think is really interesting- the pill has made such a huge difference to women and (as a historian) I think it will come to be seen as a defining change in the 20th century- but it is still a fairly new way of life and we are only now seeing women who started on it at the normal sexual activity age getting old old and effects and all sorts of things.

As for what to do personally, it's an ongoing conundrum, is it good for us? is it bad? health benefits/ health side effects. Still it's great we have the choice, it's made a huge, huge difference

Gaynor said...

Sorry Im late to commenting on this. I used to be on dianette until the docs decided I had been on it too long. I got microgynan instead but came off that after my mum had a blot clot in her lung. Now I'm on the newer mini pill which you do still have 12 hours to take. I'm not too impressed so far as periods are totally random.

I'm not sure what to try next and as we would like to have children fairly soon I don't want anything long term. X

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