The Hormone Diaries Part Two: The Contraceptive Pill

The contraceptive pill, in it’s many forms, is probably one of the most widely used forms of contraception out there. Yet it is something that for the majority of my life at least, has been a bit of a taboo subject. The pill is rarely spoken about openly and honestly, with doctors skirting around side effects and seeming more interested in getting you to take a little pill than actually considering your well-being.

image of multicoloured pill packets with text overlay The Hormone Diaries: The Contraceptive Pill

The conversation surrounding popular contraceptive methods, and most often, the pill, has been growing recently, with more and more women and girls opening up about their struggles and side effects. Having worked my way through my fair share of contraceptive pills over the last 8 years, I wanted to share with you all my honest verdict on the pill in the hope that it somewhat educates and enlightens others as to what an “easy-fix” can turn out like.

I first went on the pill aged around 16. I was in a steady relationship at the time and the topic of having sex had come up, and I wanted to be sensible about it. I was also really struggling with my periods at the time and had been advised by a doctor previously that going on the pill could help lighten my periods and make them more regular and manageable.

The first pill I went on was Microgynon. In the UK, this is typically the first pill that most girls will go on. To begin with, I had little to no issues on this pill. I didn’t notice any changes in my mood or my skin, my weight remained normal and my periods were still heavy, but regular. For about a year, Microgynon worked well for me, but then I started getting headaches. Having read that this was a warning sign whilst on the pill, I went back to the doctors and they took me off Microgynon immediately. Little did I know that this would be the start of a long and uphill battle.

After coming off Microgynon, I have been on around 7 different types or brands of contraceptive pill with different combinations of hormones. Off the top of my head, I remember being on Cilest – which was absolutely awful and I bled constantly and was in a lot of pain – for about 4 or 5 months. I have also been on Levorg but I don’t remember too much about that one. Ceresette was by far the worst I have taken. It made me incredibly down and depressed, paranoid, anxious, I stopped wanting to eat and I was still bleeding through.

Microgynon contraceptive pill packet on top if pink notebook on white fur rug

The most recent pill I have been on was Noriday, otherwise known as Norestiterone. This is called a mini-pill, meaning I would take a pill every day without a break and my periods (theoretically) would be left to their natural cycle. When I first started taking Noriday, I couldn’t believe the change in my mood. It felt like a weight was being lifted off my shoulders. I felt calmer, less anxious, my sex drive improved and I really thought I was onto a winner as I didn’t have a period for around 6 months. However, this was all too good to be true as once again, I started bleeding non-stop.

After 8 years on a variety of pills with no real improvement, I decided to get the Minera coil, which I will talk about more in a later post. But it got me thinking, would I have suffered from the mental health issues that I have if I had never used the pill? Would my weight have fluctuated as much as it has over the years, resulting in unhealthy eating habits and behaviours? Would I still be the same as I am today, or would I be a different person had I have never started the pill when I was 16?

The reality, and the reason why the subject has come up more and more recently, is that many of us went on the pill at a young age and struggle to determine who we are without the artificial hormones that we’ve pumped ourselves full of for countless years – and that’s pretty scary. What if, in years to come, there are concrete studies that prove a correlation between the pill and mental health issues? People are slowly waking up to the realisation that actually the pill can do a lot more harm than good for a lot of young women. What if we’ve all been living a much more difficult life than was actually necessary? And why was a male contraceptive jab study terminated early because the side effects of mood swings and emotional disorder (extremely common side effects of female contraceptives) were deemed to outweigh the benefits?

I’m aware that my experience has probably given me a negative bias towards the contraceptive pill, so I’m eager to hear any positive stories in the comments. Have you experienced similar issues with the pill?

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41 Comments

  1. Madi Dearson
    20/01/2019 / 5:39 pm

    This is SUCH an important post! I am 40 right now and have been on the pill for many years, untill I decided to just stop after giving birth to my daughter. I had enough of things messing around with my body. For years and years me and many of my friends suffered through all the things you mentioned but no one talked about it. I’m so happy it’s something women are becoming aware of. And I agree with you Ceresette wat the worst.

    • 20/01/2019 / 6:39 pm

      I’m glad you enjoyed reading this and sorry to hear that you also struggled on the pill. It seems increasingly common the more we begin to talk about it. I hope things are much better for you now!

  2. 20/01/2019 / 5:47 pm

    This is such a good topic to talk about! I feel like it’s something people don’t talk about for whatever reason so props to you babe!

    • 20/01/2019 / 6:39 pm

      Thank you! Here’s hoping it encourages others to open up about their experiences

  3. 20/01/2019 / 9:33 pm

    I was on Microgynon for years and it made my mood swings so severe! I’m on Desogestrel now and have noticed significant weight gain. Why is it so hard to be a woman? Best of luck on the coil.

    Georgia x

  4. 21/01/2019 / 9:21 am

    I was on the pill for a couple of years but found I got too many mood swings and just kept forgetting to take it some days, I’ve been on the implant now for two years and I’m very happy with it. Just need to find what works for you! x

    G

    https://www.teawithgi.com

    • 21/01/2019 / 8:21 pm

      Yeah definitely! I tried for so long and my body just didn’t agree with it at all, but it’s so pushed by doctors x

  5. aisasami
    21/01/2019 / 11:03 am

    I took the pill for a while until I forgot to take the pill. So, I changed to the pill to the patch and then go the shot. I miss having the shot as it helped me to regulate my period (and subdue all the bloody cramps I had, they were so painful that I would skip work and stuff). Sadly, birth control is not under the health insurance scheme here in Japan and I don’t want to shell out $30 a month for pills.

    • 21/01/2019 / 8:22 pm

      That’s such a shame that it’s not covered for you. I’m glad you managed to find something that worked for you though

  6. 21/01/2019 / 1:53 pm

    I love reading posts like this, i’ve had issues with different pills in the past. I heard something really interesting today, that the combined pill, where you’re supposed to take a 7 day break, isn’t needed. you don’t need to take a break, the only reason that was a rule was a male doctor thought it would be more accepted by the pope so Catholics could use it, or something like that x

    • 21/01/2019 / 8:23 pm

      Yeah I read that too! Not sure how much truth is in it but it’s definitely thought provoking!

  7. 21/01/2019 / 10:46 pm

    HI Abigail, I’m long over my troubles with the pill but I started at 15 because of “irregular periods”. Periods that came every 45-90 days and then ripped my uterus apart for a week. The pills regulated me, great. But the side effects were rough. Fast forward 15 years and I finally found a doctor that knew what PCOS was and that I likely had it. Well, I was right. Then I tried to conceive…long, long road, but successful. In my late 30’s my periods finally got the hang of it and started being ridiculously on point at 28 days (how annoying). I talked to my OB/GYN and he suggested the Mirena IUD. The gates of heaven opened up. I have a spot here and there, but I’ve been period free and PMS free for about 4 years now. I think it even is helping my headaches which have always been hormonally linked. I think the IUD is the best thing ever and I tried like crazy to get my daughter one, but she declined. She is nervous about it. So – if anyone gets anything from this – my recommendation for an IUD is solid. Check it out with your doctor. Thanks for bringing attention to this subject, it goes unsaid a lot.

    • 23/01/2019 / 2:25 pm

      Hi Michelle, thanks so much for reading and sharing your experience. I had a similar experience to you on the pill, only I would bleed every 2 weeks or so for about 6-8 weeks at a time! I’ve only had the coil for 6 weeks or so but it’s definitely helping – my bleeding has slowed right down, my mental health feels better and I’m in less pain. I used to be like your daughter and hate the idea of it, but after so many years of struggling I got used to the idea and it’s really not bad at all. Whole post on the coil coming soon!

  8. 22/01/2019 / 8:33 am

    I’ve tried the pill and was on the same as you at first. The doctors advised it due to my periods being so painful and heavy, but I had headaches and I would forget a lot. I then decided to go for the implant. It’s not perfect by any means, but it means I’m safe and out of pain. I suffer with bleeding a lot but I feel it’s the lesser evil because it’s lighter and I have no pain.

    However I don’t know if I can do it for another 3 years. Maybe I will have to look into alternatives soon, but I’m hoping to try for children before I’m due a change. 🙂

    Thank you for sharing! It really is something that isn’t talked about and that’s got to change.

    Fran x

  9. 22/01/2019 / 11:33 pm

    It’s my first time reading someone’s experience with contraceptive pills and I never thought that the side effects would be that horrible. This is something that I’ll keep in mind, if I’ll be using pills in the future. Thank you for sharing the experience and knowledge!x

  10. 23/01/2019 / 4:08 pm

    I never made the correlation between the pill and my mental health until this conversation came about on Twitter last year, been off it since November and I really do feel like my mental health is less intense than it was before! Just waiting to see how being off it effects me physically over the next few months x

  11. 23/01/2019 / 5:47 pm

    Ive been on several different pills and the side effects outweigh the benefits massively. My mental health has been shite ever since going on the pill, so Im considering just coming off it entirely. Im only 18, but like you said, would I still be the same person if I weren’t on the pill? I miss my old self who wasn’t depressed all the time, so perhaps this is what I need to do. I don’t think this topic should be taboo at all, I need more people to talk about it for my own experiences and what I am currently going through. It shouldn’t be hidden away at all. Loved this post, and thank you for sharing your experiences xx

    http://zoe-ware.com

  12. 23/01/2019 / 11:49 pm

    I’m 30 now and have been on contraceptive since I was 18 years old and I’ve never had any issues with any type of contraceptive. I used pills until I was 27 years old — two different brands and they were both fine. Then, at 27, I switched over to Nexplanon, the arm implant that lasts for three years, which I also enjoy.

    I, of course, have a different experience than others, but my doctors have always been open about possible side effects and left the decision up to me, especially when I decided to switch over to the arm implant. The most side effects I got were headaches and fatigue, which subsided pretty quickly.

    I think it’s important that women know that there are different types of contraception available and it’s not a one size fit all sort of deal, sometimes it takes a few tries to figure out what works best for you and your body.

    Thanks for sharing! x

    Michelle
    dressingwithstyle-s.com

    • 24/01/2019 / 7:42 pm

      Yes I totally agree! I think I am many others have been particularly unlucky. In my personal experience, doctors were always more keen to just switch my pill than put me on anything else which I don’t think was necessarily right for me at the time, but they did make me aware of the side effects. I just found that no pill was solving my problems and 7 years of basically constant bleeding and not being taken seriously just got too much! X

  13. 24/01/2019 / 8:13 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your story! I’m currently on microgynon because my periods were very irregular, and even though it’s great for me I have noticed that over the years I’ve become a lot more stressed and anxious about the smallest thing. I might not be down to the pill, but it’s something I need to think about…

  14. 24/01/2019 / 8:16 am

    As someone who has been looking for different options than the ones that I’ve had horrible experiences with, I really appreciated this! Thank you ❤️❤️

  15. 24/01/2019 / 8:20 am

    The pill keeps my daughter from producing cysts, so I’m forever grateful. Sadly at the age of 13 her periods started and on her second cycle she was in horrendous pain, took her to the hospital where she stayed for a week, on morphine and having scans, saw a cyst and they hoped it would disolve, her period ended and we were sent home. The following cycle it started again, but worse so this time she had surgery, but it ended up with her losing 1 fallopian tube and 1 ovary as the cyst was so big it twisted around and killed the ovary, without surgery she would have died. Now the pill controls these cysts and she will have to consider IVF in the future. For all the bad that the pill can do, for girls like my daughter having a natural cycle isn’t an option and this is their last hope x

    • 24/01/2019 / 7:44 pm

      Oh I’m so sorry to hear that. Obviously the pill can do wonderful things for people and I hope that this post doesn’t come across as totally slagging it off, it just didn’t work out for me and I think doctors need to be more open to testing and suggesting other options when side effects keep reoccurring x

      • 24/01/2019 / 7:47 pm

        No way did you come across like that. I totally agree with what you are saying, the whole topic of periods and pain, and contraception should be a topic we can all freely talk about especially with doctors, but often it’s not the case, they are so quick to dish it out without ever saying about the dangers, or side effects of them. I just thought I’d add a positive the pill has for us as a family.

  16. 24/01/2019 / 8:36 am

    I think it’s great you’re sharing your experience with the pill! I have actually never been on the pill. When I was a teen my mum didn’t want me to be on the pill since it affects your hormones & can have a bunch of negative side effects like you mentioned. Instead she suggested other safe-sex methods like condoms & I’ve stuck with that. However in college my doctor at the time wanted me to do the implant birth control & I refused b/c I read all the horror stories of it getting stuck in the body.

  17. 24/01/2019 / 9:36 am

    Great post! I’m on the pill currently and find that it works for me but you hear so many people having a rough time on it! thanks for sharing your story x

  18. 24/01/2019 / 10:51 am

    Really sorry for having such trouble with the pill. I have found they ineffective for me as I fell pregnant whilst on the pill diligently. I now have the patch contraceptive. It seems to be working but let’s see!

  19. 24/01/2019 / 11:10 am

    I loved this post on the contraceptive pill. Like you, I began taking Microgynon at aged 16-17 as I was in a steady relationship at the time. Fast forward to just a few months back: I’d been struggling with my sense of identity for years and had spend 4 years living socially as male (although being born female.)

    I came to realize after some time that I don’t actually feel 100% like a male and that a mental disorder I have is the root cause of my gender related issues. When I came off hormone replacement therapy, I went back on the pill to protect myself during sex as I have a male partner.

    What I later came to understand is that my body was not returning back to its female pattern as quickly as it should because the contraceptive pill was stunting the release of my natural hormones. I’ve now been off of the pill again for about two months and my body is quickly snapping back into its feminine shape. If I hadn’t taken myself off of the pill, I could have been in a terrible state.

    From my experience, the pill can do more harm than good and it would be great to see different forms of contraceptive being promoted more often than the pill.

  20. 24/01/2019 / 12:41 pm

    I’m actually one of the lucky ones I guess. I started the pill at roughly 15 and was on it on and off until 22. I got off of it because I thought my body could use a “break”. Well that break cause my body to go crazy. I gained weight and my face broke out so bad I had to start seeing dermatologists. I waited 6 months to see if it would eventually level out but it never did. So I got back on roughly 3 weeks ago and I am already down 5 pounds and my face is finally clearing up. I guess my body needs the extra hormones🤷🏼‍♀️

  21. 24/01/2019 / 1:06 pm

    I went on Microgynon when I was around 16 and was on and off that for years, until maybe 22 years old? Depending on my relationship status etc at any given time I’d decide whether I should go back on but I never had any issues with it at all.

    I’m on the mini-pill now (zeletta?) which has the same ingredients as another mini-pill but is just branded under a different name for some reason (the nurse did tell me but I forgot haha) I don’t have periods any more but I also like that this pill is generally “safer” and my doctor said now with my anxiety, it’s probably better I stay on this one.

    Jenny
    http://www.jennyinneverland.com

  22. 25/01/2019 / 8:23 am

    This is a great topic to take about. I’ve only ever been in the implant and that was a disaster!

  23. Becca Blogs It Out
    25/01/2019 / 1:49 pm

    I was on the pill for over 10 years, before coming off it to have a family. I was never go back on it. I feel so much better without it!

  24. 26/01/2019 / 12:21 pm

    Great post and such an important topic to talk about! I went on Microgynon to begin with and I was on and off that for years but I had to stop because it started causing me unbearable pain! It’s quite scary to think sometimes about what we’re putting into our bodies and what it’s actually doing!

    Chloe xx
    http://www.chloechats.com

  25. 26/01/2019 / 1:34 pm

    So glad to see more light being shedded on topics like this! I’ve only been on the pill for a year now (Loestrin 20) and have experienced no side effects to my mental health, only my bra size increasing! I’m on the new 64/4 method where I take all 3 packs of 21 pills back to back, then have a 4 day break. I only bleed on the break which is such a relief for the rest of the time – thank you for sharing 💓

  26. 27/01/2019 / 10:36 am

    Very interesting post! Sorry to hear you’ve struggled with the pill and its side effects for so many years. That’s the main reason why I’ve never taken it and would not want to. I know too many women who have had depressions, have gained a lot of weight, and have overall started being ill because of it. We don’t know enough about it and it’s terrible! It works perfectly for some women and I’m so gad for them, but for the rest it’s not something anyone should go through.
    And for the fact that the male pill never went through because of the side effects, it’s because they’re men so their wellbeing is a priority. We can just deal with it, they don’t give a shit 😉 x

  27. 28/01/2019 / 4:50 am

    Side effects suck! I had to shop around with contraceptives. When one has side effects I hated, I asked the doctor for something different. I have a positive experience after trying a few and landing on one. With less PMS and lighter flow, its worth it for me. Going all natural can work. Hey there are lots of options! Definitely go with what makes you the most comfortable!

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