Why The Pill May Not Be Right For Everyone.Wednesday, September 07, 2016
I realised the other day, that I have been on the pill for over nine years. NINE whole years, I've been taking a tiny hormone filled pill every evening before bed for what 36% of my life so far. However, as the title of the post suggests, that is changing. I've been umming and aahing about whether to write this post or not, but I decided that maybe if I had read something like this, then maybe, I would have come to this decision earlier and saved myself some of the hassle that I've been through recently because of the pill. After all, talking about the pill isn't something we should be embarrassed about or feel we should hide.
So let's go right back to the start. I was first put on the pill when I was 15/16. I was put on it for my skin, as I had been going to the doctors for a few years trying to find something that would clear my skin up. The pill was the next option after numerous antibiotics and creams. I was put on Dianette, a pill which is prescribed to women who are suffering with their skin or excess hair growth. It contains hormones called cyproterone acetate and ethinylestradiol, cyproterone acetate is an anti androgen, (androgen is a male hormone which is found in women too.) But when you have too much anrodgen in your body, this is when things such as excess hair growth, acne, and super oily skin can happen. The other hormone is ethinylestradiol which is a form of oestrogen and together they work as a contraceptive method but also helping other symptoms. Now Dianette, is considered a 'higher risk pill' because it gives you a higher risk of blood clots and certain types of cancer because it has different hormones in it compared to regular pills (because these hormones are used for acne and other reasons rather than just stopping you from getting pregnant.) For this reason, you aren't allowed to be on Dianette for more than two years, and doctors are very hesitant to give it out. For example if you just want a contraceptive pill, you won't be given Dianette.
So this was the first pill I was put on, I can't overly remember having any side effects, I was 15/16 so I was naturally a moody cow anyways, and I don't awfully remember my skin being too shocking. I was on this for about a year, till my doctor took me off it and put me on to Marvelon (also known as Gedarel). Now this is where my first bad experience of the pill started, within a few months, I started to feel really low. Like really low. I remember saying to my Mum, I just don't feel myself, and back I went to the doctor to be changed onto another pill. I was then prescribed Yasmin. I would say that Yasmin is the pill that I have gotten on the best with over the past nine years. My skin relatively cleared up and I wasn't feeling as low as before.
I was quite happy to stay on Yasmin, although it is considered one of the 'higher risk' pills due to it having a newer form of progesterone in it (other brands to be aware of are : Yasmin, Marvelon, Femodene, Microgynon and Rigevidon.) But when I was a fresher at uni, I popped to the uni doctor to get a prescription of my pill, but she told me she didn't have Yasmin (due to it being a slightly more expensive pill) so I'd have to change to Microgynon. Annoyed but with no other option as I didn't want to stop taking my pill for a couple of weeks till I went home, I sucked it up and took this pill. It was okay, but my skin did start to get quite bad again.
I think I was on this for a year or so before then asking to be put on another pill. Now this is where things get hazy as I can't awfully remember the names of the pills I was put on now, but I am pretty sure I was popped onto Gedarel, and I was on this for a while. During this time, I finished university, and got a job, over that year, I was in jobs that I didn't enjoy. I was unhappy, stressed and I had really bad anxiety ( I remember I even went to the doctor about my anxiety who told me to take up yoga!!!) so tbh I don't think the pill was entirely to blame, but I do think this had a huge impact on my feelings. I was very low, almost depressed, I would feel like I had PMT all the time. I was always hungry, and always wanted chocolate, I was moody, I'd cry at everything, sometimes I'd escape to the loo at work to have a cry - for no reason. I put on a stone in weight, and my self confidence was at it's lowest. I realised that I was unhappy due to my job situation, and I found myself being happier when I left my job to go self employed. Though, I was starting to feel better and the crying in the toilets had stopped, I still felt low. I couldn't work out why though, I had my dream job, my life was almost perfect so why do I feel so fed up??
One night, I was lying in bed awake thinking about why I always feel like I've got PMT. I thought to myself 'stupid hormones' when a light bulb went off in my head. Hormones. My pill is full of hormones. I quickly reached for my phone and punched in 'Gedarel side effects.' I was met by hundreds of articles and forums from women who had the same side effects as me; depression, mood swings, PMT syndrome, weight gain, nervousness and acne. It was like a switch had gone on. I wasn't mad, this pill was doing this to me. I wasn't a freak. I also hadn't realised that Gedarel was also Marvelon which was the pill I struggled with when I was 16/17. All the different names don't half confuse you.
I rung my GP for an appointment the next morning and also found online you could have a hormone test done to find out what pill is best for you. I asked about this, to be faced with blank faces who said they'd never heard of such a thing. Brilliant. I was put back onto Yasmin as I said I'd done well on it before. Again, I was on this for a good year, but I realised that I just didn't feel myself and I put this down to my pill. Though my skin was slightly clearer, I felt seeing as I was 24, it could be better. I went to my doctors earlier this year, and was like 'what can I do for my skin?' She prescribed me Dianette straight away. It was like I'd asked for a tube of smarties. I was in and out, no questions asked.
I took Dianette for six months, up until last month till I ran out. My skin hadn't improved and although I know skin doesn't just clear up, I felt I should have seen a difference in six months. But not only that, my moods were back. I was really, really low again. I could barely motivate myself to do anything, and I decided enough was enough. So I visited the doctor again, and she told me she'd prefer to put me on a lower risk pill, so she put me onto Rigevidon. It was within this appointment that I also got her to check my leg as I had this random pain in the back of my calf.
She said she thought it was a muscle strain but to keep an eye on it. I took home my new pill, and told my sister who said she'd been on the same very one and it had given her terrible mood swings and nausea. Brilliant I thought. I'm not sure if it's hereditary to have the same side effects from the pill, my Mum told me that she'd never gotten on well with the pill, and I can't seem to find much online if this is true, but I started to already feel deflated. Cause to me, I can see this being hereditary.
However, I was willing to take six months of this pill to see if it worked for me (whilst not holding out much hope) I genuinely thought to myself 'here's to six months of being moody.' But then I had a light bulb moment again last Saturday evening.
It was about 7pm and I was sitting in A&E at my local hospital. You know that leg pain I was talking about earlier? Yeah it had come back with a vengeance. I'd sat at my desk all day, one day earlier in the week and my calf was in constant pain. I thought it would just go away again but still I booked a doctors appointment for the following week. Then a few hours later, I started to get chest pain. I felt like someone had punched me right in the heart, it was a dull pain that did not go away. I went to bed, and woke up still not feeling right. I did some googling and convinced myself I was dying (as google always tells you) but put it to the back of my mind.
I went on with my normal day, taking ibuprofen and at about 4 pm, I was like enough is enough. I called Henry's step mum who is a physio who told me I should probably get myself down to the walk in centre at the hospital. So off I went, drove myself as didn't think I'd be too long ( I honestly thought they'd laugh at me and tell me I was wasting their time.) As soon as I went in, I told them what was going on and I was taken off to have my blood pressure taken and an ECG. I then waited for about two hours, 'there's obviously nothing wrong with me' I thought. Then the doctor at A&E called me in, I explained everything, he checked my leg, listened to my chest and said 'right we're going to need to do some blood tests and a chest x ray.' I was like 'what?' I hadn't even told him my worst fears that Google had given me, he explained ' we need to see if you've got a blood clot cause you have the same symptoms. It's unlikely cause you're so young, but you are on the contraceptive pill.' I suddenly thought 'shit, I wasn't being a drama queen, my symptoms did match up and they're taking this seriously.'
I had four blood tests (I'm not particularly squeamish but after the fourth lot came out of the vein on my hand - I was ready to have a vom) and a chest x ray. I went back to the waiting room, with my arm aching, feeling sick and thought to myself 'what am I doing to my body?'
For nine years, I have been on the pill and I've only found one pill that has made me okay. Yasmin still gave me moods that made me not feel like me, I could never work out whether I was just a moody mare or if it was my pill. Was I actually hungry or was it just my fake PMT? Though my pill made my periods seem as breezy as a sunset walk on the beach, it wasn't enough of a pro to stay on it. I was sitting with the symptoms of a blood clot, being tested for one and I could go to my doctor till I was blue in the face to try different pills but maybe it just wasn't for me?
I've been doing a lot of research for this post and there are so many pills out there that would probably work for me, but I have found most doctors I have seen to not know much or care about what they put me on. No one really looked into it, or tested my hormones. Was it really worth trying pill after pill, risking my health and happiness? I decided in that instant, it was a no.
Thankfully, my results came back clear. I have no idea what my leg and chest pain is; I'm guessing it's a muscle strain, or something with a nerve, and perhaps my chest is due to the fact I've been stressing and worrying a lot lately. Although part of me feels like a hypochondriac for taking myself off to A&E, everyone I have spoke to tells me I did the right thing. I had all the symptoms and it's better to be safe than sorry. I scared myself, cause I could have very easily had a blood clot. I take my health for granted every day, and I guess it made me wake up and realise we aren't always as invincible as what we think we are.
I don't want to scare you with this post, although the pill can increase your chances of getting a blood clot by 4 times, it goes from like a 0.04 % to 0.18% chance. Still teeny tiny. But my main reason for this post, was to talk about how perhaps the pill doesn't work for everyone. Growing up, I was never told this and only really recently realised this over the past couple of years. I just took on the crazy mood swings and weight gain as normal. I don't feel enough is told to young girls about the pill, it should be covered in sex ed at school. We have a right to know what we are putting into our bodies, and what it does. Rather than just being prescribed whatever the doctor can be arsed to give you or whatever is cheap.
Whilst I'm not saying the pill is the devil, it's great for what it does and for some women it works and it's amazing. I just think that I am ready to give up with it. I'm kind of looking forward to having my body working by itself, if I'm moody, I know its me and maybe I can do something about that.
I'm sorry this has been such a long post, and a bit of a ramble. But I wanted to write this, and I just feel it's something that should be talked about more. Whilst doing some research for this post, I also found that Hannah and Hannah who I actually went on Trek with last year, have wrote and talked about their feelings on coming off the pill too, so give them a read if you want a different perspective, but it's good to know I'm not alone. It's not just me who feels like this.
Also I know there are other forms of contraception but I'm not prepared to have an implant (literally makes me want to gag) have hormone injections or a coil fitted. Nah thanks. I don't see why I should? It's my body and it's up to me right?
So let's talk. How have you found the pill? The same as me, or have you found one that works perfectly?