Here’s the thing. I’ve been taking (some form) of contraceptive pill since I was roughly 13 years old. When I first spoke to the doctor about it and made a decision it was partly to put my parents minds at rest from the potential of a teenage pregnancy and partly to get out of having horrible, heavy periods. I thought I was really grown up – I mean, I was able to openly speak about my sex life like an adult, to adults. I was totally fooled and so advanced for my age… the last thing on my mind was long-term physical and mental health. Far as I knew, I was as fit as a bloody fiddle and this lovely piece of science would only make (both types of) exercising easier…
Truth be told, being on the pill hasn’t ever been awful. It took some time to find one that worked for me without causing any major symptoms and for a good few years I thought I had it all figured out. But then I was sent this article on depression, written by Trudy Scott. The post (read it here) highlighted some recent findings that strongly suggest the contraceptive pill is linked to depression in women. Of course, this piqued my interest as I do struggle from anxiety and depression and am currently taking prescribed medication to treat/manage both.
People, mainly men but sometimes women, often ask me things like: “what do you mean you don’t have periods?”, “so what the hell happens inside your body then?” and “surely that’s not natural?” when, for whatever reason, they find out I’m taking a contraceptive pill that doesn’t even allow for a break. I used to fight it in an ignorant, sarcy way and simply brush it off with throwback comments like: “well the doctor isn’t going to let me take them if they’re bad for me, are they!”, “who cares? it’s gotta be better than having periods” and “do really you want to see me with regular hormones?”
I genuinely had the utmost faith in doctors and the medical industry as a whole – it’s how I was brought up and it’s what we’re all expected to do. Before I say what I’m about to say, allow me to disclaim to ensure my true intent/message is not misunderstood. I think doctors and nurses are incredible. I respect them for their immense efforts and appreciate the NHS more than I can express in just a few words. Nevertheless, I was naive to blindly trust ALL doctors and treat their word as gospel. Most do the best they can, plenty do a fantastic job and some do the bare minimum. But then there is that small percentage of people in the industry (just like any other sector) with unique, stubborn and narrow-minded views.
Think about it, have you ever gone to see a doctor regarding a problem only to see another doctor later on (from the same surgery) who tells you something completely different?
Yes the job is hard and mental and physical health is not always black and white… but that doesn’t stop me being frustrated, confused and utterly bewildered. I am now well aware that though the NHS is there to help, it’s ultimately down to me to do extensive research into the drugs I’m being fed and the information I am being (or not being) told. It’s amazing what you’ll find with just a quick Google search with the word ‘alternative’ after your topic/question/sentence. Try it!
Anyway, back to this topic, I decided to make an appointment with
my a GP (see a different one every time) and discuss my concerns. The conversation went something like this (yours truly in bold):
“Hello. Come in. What can we do for you today?”
“Well, I’m here for a few things really… but they’re all linked – I believe. I’ve come to pick up my contraceptive pills and my antidepressants. But I read a study the other day that stated 23% of women who use the pill are more likely to use antidepressants.”
“Okay. Well, there are new studies brought out all the time and you are right, I have seen some that suggest the two could be linked. These are fairly new drugs with a lot still to understand and explore. I think it’s best to consider things on an individual basis and in your case, you’re having talking therapy now which should help in terms of support.”
“So, are there any new natural contraception methods I may not know of that you can tell me about? I mean, ideally I would rather not be on antidepressants or taking anything that is messing up my body long term. Could taking the pill increase my chances of becoming infertile? How will I know if the pill is affecting my mental health?”
“The contraceptive pill you are on is safe and by the sounds of it, does seem to be working for you. It’s great that you want to come off antidepressants and it is a good aim to aim to have – something to speak with your psychiatrist about and maybe come back to us after a month or so. We really want the new dosage to kick in and settle down before we consider changing anything. In terms of natural contraception there really hasn’t been any advances other than the traditional pulling-out system which has a poor success rate or of course, condoms. There are some pills in which we would suggest you allow longer, but with your pill most women are able to conceive within a year of stopping taking it. You won’t really know if it is affect your mental health until you stop taking it.”
“Surely it’s not natural though, is it? Just not having a period. Without sounding disgusting, sometimes you can really feel like you have a build-up of bad stuff inside you that never comes out. And when I do have a random bleed, the blood is not fresh. How can that be good?”
“This is a common concern and lots of women say they feel this way. No one has a “real” period when they are on the contraceptive pill, so even the women who do regularly bleed are no more healthy than you. I understand it may not feel right but I assure you it is normal and completely safe. There are other options which you have been made aware of previously, such as the coil but it is likely to uncomfortable if you have not yet had a baby.”
“Oh no, I’ve never liked the idea of that. I just want to do what’s best for my body but I also don’t want to put myself in a predicament that I can’t afford or prepare for. It sounds like I’m already doing all that I can. I guess my first aim will have to be stabilizing my stress/anxiety/depression so I can come off the antidepressants.”
“Yes that is what we would suggest. Is there anything else we can do for you today?”
“Yeah, one last thing. Are you able to check my eggs?”
“No, not really. We can do a blood test but it doesn’t show all that much. We usually only go down that route once you’ve tried for over a year with no luck. Until then we assume everything is all good.”
“Right okay. Well thanks, doc. You’ve been helpful.”
“You’re welcome miss. Goodbye”
As nice as he was, I honestly didn’t come any feeling any more informed or reassured. He didn’t really know for certain if what I’m taking is actually good or bad for me in terms of mental health. He also wasn’t really willing to respect my wishes to be as natural as possible, as soon as possible. Whenever I talk speak with a doctor, I feel like my values are somewhat dismissed. I’d love to have a service that offers you all of the options – combining natural alternatives with life-changing pharmaceuticals according to the circumstances, symptoms and wishes of the client. Wouldn’t you?
Side note: I’m currently taking one 75 microgram pill called Cerzette per day. I have previously taken Microgynon and Yasmin. I also take 40mgs of Propranolol for my anxiety, as and when I need it, and 100mgs of Sertraline once a day.