On the pill

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Note: I’m not trying to be pushy or didactic in this post, telling others how they should look after their body. It’s purely an account of my own experiences and how they have led to my own decisions.

The subject of women’s contraception has always been rather taboo, mainly because you have to say words like period in a hushed tone as if we still live in the 1950s. Ladies – keep these matters to yourselves, please. Men don’t want to hear about such things and their comfort should be top priority (for once).

I’ve been on the contraceptive pill for seven years, and today, after much thought and research, I have decided to stop taking it.

In October, the Guardian published an article about new research proving the contraceptive pill has a strong link to depression in women, particularly teenage girls. Before this, the side-effects of the pill have always formed a long and tiresome list: mood swings, breast pain, cystitis, migraines, nausea, stomach problems, irregular bleeding, acne, hair loss, weight gain, changes in blood pressure and a reduced libido, as well as a higher risk of breast cancer, thrombosis and blood clots. I have always resented pumping my body with unnatural levels of hormones in order to prevent pregnancy, and I don’t even suffer from depression or many of the above effects.

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Obviously the contraceptive pill has its brilliance. It’s in the name – I’ve gone seven years without a single pregnancy scare, and I’ve been able to control my menstrual cycle and fertility. The world would be a terrible place without the variety of contraceptives on offer, and I know if I’d fallen pregnant in my earlier years I would have had terrible decisions to make, one way or the other.

When I first started taking it I was on the mini-pill, also known as  progestogen-only or POP. This is the kind that you take every day and is generally very well known for making your periods practically disappear without too many hormones involved. Sounds perfect? Not for my ‘brilliant’ body. Not only did my periods not disappear, they lost all calculability and started popping up on random days with no warning. I managed to persist with this for four years before it drove me completely insane, and I switched to the combined pill. The combined pill (progestogen and oestrogen) made my periods wonderfully clockwork again, and for a while I felt great. I suffered no noticeable side-effects and my womb was under total control.

Then, after two years, I noticed my skin was developing more spots than usual. I’ve always had the odd one or two, but for the entirety of 2016 I have gained more and more until now – when I look about 12 years old. I’m writing a book, people! I want to look like an adult, not like I’m hanging out in parks drinking WKD. I went to see the doctor and consider my options, and she basically told me the following:

  1. No matter what happens, I have to come off the pill within 1-2 years to reduce my risk of getting breast cancer.
  2. The coil (a hormone-free option) won’t be suitable for me until after I’ve had children.
  3. My only option was to go back to mental POP pills and have more periods than breakfasts, or to simply go back to ‘the old-fashioned way’, as my Twitter pal Charlotte brilliantly phrased it.

So what’s a lady to do? I thought about it, and I realised that I’d rather take the risk of getting pregnant without the pill, than risk getting cancer with it. And now that I’ve digested my own decision, I feel over the moon.

I’ve always been very aware of what kind of crap I’m putting into my body. I don’t eat meat or processed foods (much) and I try to buy organic food wherever I can, because so many of the things available to buy in supermarkets are full of grim things that only just pass government safety regulations. Anyone who has read Silent Spring by Rachel Carson will share my opinions on pesticide use in food – so why should I willingly tamper so much with a very delicate hormonal system that my body has evolved over millions of years? Yes, it would have been terrible to get pregnant in the last seven years, but to be honest if I fell pregnant now, it really wouldn’t be the end of the world. In fact it would be quite a cool tree-loving baby.

Theoretically, my spots should go away and my body will return to its normal fertility. I’ll have to be super ‘careful’ and learn to be more vigilant again, but I’m feeling completely brilliant about my decision and can’t wait to have clear skin in 2017 – no more excessive Instagram filtering! My other half is fully supportive too and was the first to suggest I give it a rest, which makes it all the more positive! Love love love.

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5 thoughts on “On the pill

  1. Great post! I’ve been meaning to comment on it for a while. And sorry if it’s a bit rambling!

    What annoys me is the conflicting advice I’ve received over the years. I started on the combined pill when I was 16 and had been on varying types for 12 years. Over the years I’ve been to 3 sexual health clinics and 2 GPs, all with different experiences and different advice.
    I’ve had brilliant nurses who have been supportive but I’ve also had nurses try (quite forcibly) to persuade me to change to the coil. But when asked whether carrying on with the pill (which at the time was working for me) would be dangerous, they said no. Why change something if it’s working, unless there is a good reason to?

    I’ve heard that you shouldn’t be on the pill for more than 8 years, or 10 years, but I’ve also heard the opposite. About a year ago I decided to stop taking the pill, against the advice of my doctor. She was very sure that I should try the coil. But I really couldn’t see why. I was in a long term relationship (in fact, we are now engaged) and we are both nearly 30, we are adult enough to avoid accidents, and if we had a baby now, it’d just be a bit earlier than planned.

    To be honest, I didn’t have a reason for coming off the pill. It was just a feeling. I hoped my PMS symptoms would improve, but they’ve stayed the same. The biggest downside since I stopped is the spots, which arrive like clockwork every month, scarring my skin until the next breakout. I’m sad to admit it but this, above everything, is what would make me go back on the pill. I probably won’t though, because in the end I feel it must be better not to be pumping my body full of hormones. It’s crazy to think I’ve been doing it since I was 16 – a teenager!

    Another thing to mention is that everyone reacts differently to being on and coming off the pill. Every friend I’ve talked to, every article/ blog post I’ve read or radio programme I’ve listened to shows different experiences. I’ve never heard a story and thought, “that is exactly how I experience it”.

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