Contraception. Where do I even begin with this one? It’s a minefield, init? Lots of different options, for every kind of person, with a whole list of side-effects depending on the form, and the person! Cor. It gets me out of breath just typing it!
I never remember learning about the different forms of contraception at school, other than that boys should wear condoms. I didn’t even have the pleasure of putting a condom on a banana like the rest of the population, which I really feel like I missed out on… *runs home to the fruit bowl*
When it came to losing my virginity, I had no idea what I was doing other than that I had to get the condom on the penis and fast!
So let me rephrase all of that, I never learnt about female contraception.
However, a few weeks after I started having sex, I turned to my Mum as she was mashing potatoes and whispered, “I need to go on the pill.” The words just fell out of my mouth, even I was surprised.
“What??” my Mum replied over the sound of the oven.
“I need to go on the pill!!” I said in a raised, high pitched voice.
Mum paused mashing the potatoes. “Ok. I’ll make you an appointment tomorrow.”
Mum resumed mashing the potatoes.
I only knew about ‘the pill’ because a handful of my friends had started having sex or had been prescribed one to help with their periods (not sure whether this actually did help and instead masked underlying issues, but we’ll save that chat for another time!) Anyway, the pill seemed like the obvious and most trendy option and to be honest, I didn’t know about any of the others.
I don’t think the doctor even gave me a choice of which pill to go on. He told me it was called Microgynon, wrote me up a prescription and waved me off in to my new sexually active life to see how I got on with it.
Or should I say, how I didn’t get on with it. Mum and Dad took me back to the doctors about 4 months later and said “What have you done to our darling daughter?! She’s a monster!” or words to that effect. Yes, Microgynon sent my hormones cray cray. I was shouting, slamming doors, breathing fire, trampling on skyscrapers and my forehead had turned into a pimple breeding ground that resembled pepperoni pizza.
Again, at this next appointment no other forms of contraception were mentioned other than the pill. I had to choose between, Yasmine, Cilest, Marvelon, Loestrin, Mercilon, and Femodette. Cilest was the chosen one. Apparently it would help even out my mood swings and keep my teenage acne under control, making my face more of a marghertia than a pepperoni.
I guess ‘the pill’ seems like the easiest option when you’re younger, but it would have been good to know my other options too. Then again, each surgery practice is different. Some of you may have been offered the injection or implant at the tender age of 15, but I was not.
Fast forward 11 years. Yep, 11 years of popping this tiny purple pill everyday at 7pm. (Those who know me will have heard the ringtone on my phone go off and I’m sure we would have all sung in unison, “PILL TIME!”) This year I have decided to come off it and have some ‘me time’. The last 11 years haven’t been filled with too many hormonal catastrophes, but some things started to not feel right. I knew it was time for my body to take a little holibobs (ew, ‘holibobs’).
The cervical ectropion on the entrance to my cervix was caused by the contraceptive pill and the fluctuations in hormone levels. This erosion was the cause of my consistent bleeding after sex and it had started to take it’s toll on my relationship with sex. “Oooh yeah that was great babe, really hot…. hang on let me just check my vagina, bed sheets, pillow, floor and your dick for blood. Bare with!” You know, it kind of kills the vibe. Now I don’t know if the science is correct, but I’m glad to report that since coming off of the pill 3 months ago, I’ve have had NO bleeding after sex (!!) That can’t be a coincidence, surely?
I also wanted to conduct a little experiment to see if coming off of the pill would help me take back control of my mental health. Over the past 3 years I have found it difficult to know whether I don’t feel well, or if it is my hormones playing silly buggers. Extra amounts of oestrogen pumping through my blood stream was sure to amount to more tears and (I don’t bounce this word around lightly), depression.
The only way I was going to find out was to stop pill poppin’!
So, just like that, I turned off the 7pm alarm, bought a multi-pack of condoms (oi oi) and prepared the hot water bottles for bad period pain… and so far, so good! Minus the period pain, which is flippin’ horrible, but my mood has definitely improved. I feel that I can distinguish more clearly when I feel normal or am PMS-ing, and when I don’t feel well and need to look after my brain.
I’ve also noticed I feel lighter, more patient, my digestion and bowel movements are better, I’m not as bloated and my blood pressure is lower. I am now enjoying tracking my periods and “fertile days” through an app called Clue. I still use protection, I don’t 100% trust an app to act as effective contraception – that’s a bit too Black Mirror-y for me! But it has been great for predicting my period, PMS symptoms and just keeping note of what is going on in my body. And b.t.w, 28th of June I’ll be PMS-ing, the clouds on the app are very grey, so don’t say I didn’t warn you. (If you know, you know.)
The pressure and responsibility often falls on women to take control of permanent contraception, whether they have a regular partner or not. Which is funny because I was told to practise contraception for a penis (with fruit), but not what my sustainable options were. Therefore I was pretty unprepared for the various effects it would have on my body and mind. Whether it’s gaining weight, going up a cup size, skin break outs, feeling incredibly sad, low libido, continuous bleeding – whatever it is, it ain’t nice. And it is constant. I’ve experienced all of these at some point over the last 11 years, as I’m sure many of you reading this have.
I am by no means ruling out alternative contraception forever but I want an option that is going to keep my boobs at the size, my skin as flawless as a babies bum and not make me feel so crap.
“In the past 50 years, there have been few changes in male contraception compared with the range of options available to women. Although there’s ongoing research into a male contraceptive pill, there isn’t one available yet.” – NHS
So, I’ll keep waiting.
This post does not mean you should come off of your contraception, especially if it works well for you. I believe contraception is a human right and it is a woman’s right to control their fertility however they wish.