I was super nervous about posting my last blog – it was complicated, personal, and potentially controversial. I thought maybe 20 people would read it…I was shocked when it got over 400 hits (unusual for a post about ovaries).
What was more amazing was the response to the post: I went out with a friend right after posting, and each time I checked my phone there were more private messages/emails/texts coming through from people who wanted to share their story of hormonal birth control (mostly, the pill) with me.
And, unsurprisingly, it seems there are many of us in the same boat. I got a lot of comments thanking me for talking about the topic: I’m not a physician, and was only on the pill for 3 months, so my input is limited…but the fact that someone is talking about it makes all the difference. It did for me: googling articles and forums where people let me off the hook by sharing about how the pill hadn’t worked for them was so reassuring. In a sense, I felt like a bit of a failure of a woman when I realised it wasn’t a good fit for me…after all, so many take it without
talking about side effects, making life easier for their doctors and partners. From what I have heard over the past 24 hours, I think ‘talking about’ is the key part of that last sentence (but again, I don’t believe that hormonal birth control is negative for everyone, and like I said yesterday, this must come down to personal choice. We just need to make sure that choice is informed, and thus truly free.)
Anyway. Some of the wonderful women who contacted me will keep our stories just between us, and some others agreed to let me share parts of their stories with you here. All, again, in the hope that someone will feel like it’s OK to reconsider their options and find better health because of it.
I have had the most horrendous year because of one contraceptive injection. It has completed ruined my health the last year (I could barely walk any distance without extreme pain, I became so fatigued…tonight I came home from work and had to sleep before doing more activity again) and it’s only now that I’m starting to feel slightly like a normal person again. If I had known then what I know now.
I was on a couple different types of pills over the years, firstly for skin then for contraception! I had to change pill types as my blood pressure was too high, so I was on my final option for a pill. But taking it was horrible…I felt VERY bloated, my breasts were VERY sore and big (I was at the doctor a couple times concerned there was something really wrong with my breasts!), and I just felt bleugh!!! So I came off it, and like you within a few days felt totally different!
I was put on a pill and I was so down and felt depressed on it.
I went on the pill when I was 16, no questions asked. It wasn’t until last year that I was discussing my medical history with my doctor, I told her I’d had an extreme migraine where half of your body goes numb, mimicking a stroke, when I was 15. She said to me – you do know that you should never be on the pill? I had had no idea, thankfully I had come off after a few months because I didn’t like it anyway, but the doctor obviously hadn’t even looked at my recent medical history when prescribing me the pill. Because of it, being on the pill increases my risk of stroke and brain haemorrhage. It’s pretty scary that doctors will put you on it so easily without even glancing over your medical history.
I hated it… What it did to my body and my overall sense of emotional well being (ie I was a complete wreck!!). As I’ve got older, I’ve personally become more reluctant to take any drugs that disrupt what is natural in the body.
Two other interesting things happened: people who were on the pill with and without negative side effects expressed fear at coming off it because a., they’d heard about negative withdrawal experiences, and b., they weren’t convinced by any other form of birth control. I completed a sexual health training course a few months ago and one of the exercises was to pick out some familiar and some very strange methods out of a box and discuss them: thus, I agree that our options are fairly limited (and sometimes downright terrifying!)
However, time and time again studies show that non-hormonal birth control methods (of which there are several) are as effective as the pill and don’t necessarily need to encumber the bedroom experience (as an aside, I got a LOT of anecdotes about how the pill had affected women’s desire to, eh, be in the bedroom. I think it’s probably better to want to be there in the first place and then work it out than to be taking something that keeps you out, anyway!)
A great starting point is to get to know your body (check out Alisa Vitti’s resources), ask your partner to join you in that, and work out what’s right for you (if it’s not the pill, that is.) As for withdrawal: yes, it does exist and symptoms will vary. Something to bear in mind though is that the longer someone is on the pill, the worse/longer the withdrawal phase will be.
And the other interesting thing was the number of men who got in touch. I love that: I think we’re seeing a shift now in men owning responsibility for contraception even when the condom isn’t the used method with their partner. Men who talked about the effect of the pill on their relationship, men who didn’t realise the pill had any negative effects, men who were disappointed at the lack of male contraceptives out there. Well done, guys!
So there we go. I really hope this conversation continues. It’s been really useful for me, and hopefully for others, too. Please do get in touch if you’d like to share your story with me (privately or for others to read, too!)