Sunday, November 22, 2009

In other words

I thought it might be about time for another personal pill experience, and some writing from someone other than me on the subject. A fair few women have given their stories in the comments section also, so do take a look at those.

El is in her mid-twenties and lives in the UK:

"I was 18 and at university when I went on the pill. I had really irregular periods – sometimes 12 weeks apart – and my GP said it’d help to regulate them. Obviously my first pill (like most people’s) was Microgynon. After a few weeks I noticed how hungry it’d made me. I’d started to eat way more food than usual, and all I could think about was where my next snack was coming from! It sounds stupid, but I couldn’t concentrate properly on anything because I kept thinking about food.

I went back to my GP who prescribed me Cileste. I took this for a while but soon noticed I had really tender breasts and a bloated feeling, all the time. I changed pill again to Yasmin, but soon got thrush (ew – sorry!) I’d never had it before so I was really surprised. I did all the right things – used the medication, made sure I wore cotton, etc. But it kept coming back. I was 19 at this point.

I went to my GP again and she prescribed Dianette. I got the packet home, took out the leaflet, and read all the instructions... which said the pill should be prescribed for adult acne, and though it was also a contraceptive pill, it shouldn’t be prescribed primarily for contraception. This seemed weird, but I trusted my GP and took it anyway.

A little while after, I began to feel really miserable, and went to my GP for advice. I started crying at the doctor’s but she put it down to a recent bereavement, handed me some tissues, and I went on my way. Over the next few months I got worse and worse; I’d cry all the time and couldn’t bring myself to talk to anyone because I felt disconnected. Physically, I couldn’t sleep and night and also lost my appetite. I’d cook myself food and then feel like I was going to be sick at the first mouthful and end up throwing everything away. This went on for a long time, and really affected my personal relationships and my university grades. The only things that kept me going were my mum, my best friend and my boyfriend.

The worst time was when I went home for Christmas. My parents noticed how bad it was and my mum suggested I consider taking anti-depressants to see if that would help. I’d been determined not to take anything, but I made an appointment with my home doctor who prescribed me some very mild anti-anxiety pills to take if I needed them. I got the box of pills but decided not to take any. I wanted everything out of me system so I could decide if my feelings were part of ‘me’ or part of the pills – by this time I’d started to wonder if they were having an effect.

I came off Dianette and noticed an improvement within a matter of weeks. I felt able to cope again, I stopped crying, I was able to talk about how horrible I’d found my experiences. And I decided not to go back on the pill. Searching the internet, I found others who’d had negative experiences with Dianette. And I found out you’re only supposed to take it temporarily until the acne clears up (what acne?!)

This happened to me in 2004/5, and in 2006 the BBC published the story that Dianette was being investigated due to a link with depression: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4983774.stm. It's a shocking read but makes a lot of sense to me, especially this quote: "A spokeswoman for Schering Health Care, which manufactures Dianette, said: "Severe depression is listed in the patient information leaflet as a reason for stopping Dianette immediately. Depressive moods are also listed as a possible side effect.""

While the pill might not have been /entirely/ responsible for the depression I felt, I feel convinced it played a big part and will never take it again. In my experience, GPs (especially those working with people of university age) are too cavalier about prescribing the pill, and don’t take time to discuss other options or potential side effects. While on the pill, I also leapt from being a size 32A to a 32D. This could have been a consequence of taking the pill. If not, it’s at least a sign my body hadn’t finished developing yet, and so probably could have done without extra hormones confusing it!

There are pros to taking the pill that I miss: for example, it feels nice to have sex without a condom, and it’s nice to run packs together and miss periods if they’re inconvenient. When I first started taking the pill, it also made me feel ‘grown up’. But for me, the benefits are outweighed by the negative side effects. If I’m having period pains or mood swings, at least I know it’s just my natural cycle and I can deal with it. I also have a very supportive partner who would also prefer sex without condoms but not at the expense of my happiness.

At the end of the day, I feel angry about the way the pill’s sold to women, and don’t think there’s enough information for people to make informed decisions about contraception. I would have thought twice about going on the pill (which is marketed as such a ‘normal’ thing) if I’d known then what I know now."

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