Who knew that the minute I hit 24, my body would go down into deep decay and reject all hormones? Okay okay, I may be overreacting a little. But in all honesty, the past few months have been total chaos for me and my hormones. And now finally, I am coming off the pill after 8 years.
For this post I wanted to get my frustrations out and share this long pill-filled journey with you. It’s pretty personal, so surely it can’t be relatable for all of you. I’d love to hear your stories though – because I know so many of us have had to cope with lots of stress concerning these matters. Do share your opinion down below!
About the pill
The contraceptive pill was mainly designed to withhold a person from ovulating, thus preventing the opportunity to get pregnant. There are different kind of pills and also many different reasons why one might take it.
Honestly, I am absolutely no expert in this area (even though I was on the pill for eight years), so I would rather refer you to the following sources for further information:
- NHS on the combined pill
- NHS contraception guide
- Sex & relationship expert Hannah Witton: a blogger/Youtuber/podcaster who knows all about hormones and such!
- NL: anticonceptie.nl over de anticonceptiepil
This post will purely focus on my personal experiences with the pill as a contraceptive method.
My first pill
I first started the pill when I was 16. At the beginning, I only noted sensitive breasts as a side effect, and that quickly went away. According to my GP practice it was no longer customary to do health check-ups when getting on the pill, so as long as I had no concerns I didn’t have to come back.
This pill was free until I was 18, when I had to start paying for it myself. If I was in a relationship, the other person and I would usually share the costs. Purely symbolic, because it wasn’t actually that expensive.
5 years later: move to the UK
When I moved to the UK five years later, I had to get myself a similar prescription as to what I had been on in the Netherlands. My GP and I figured out together which pill lay closest to the one I had been taking.
I noticed two differences between UK and Dutch health practice: in the UK, they did a health check for me, where amongst other things they measured my blood pressure and weight. And to my great surprise, I got the pill in the UK for free!
Another year later: repeat prescription
After I ran out of the pill again after a while, I had to get a new prescription, but couldn’t do so unless I got another health check-up first. I went to a Nurse Practitioner (NP) to do this. Again, she took my health very seriously, measuring my weight and asking me if I did regular breast checks, etc.
Then as we got talking about the pill, she pointed out that the pill I was on, wasn’t particularly good for your skin or mental health. I was absolutely furious. Not at her – but at all the doctors in the Netherlands I had seen before. Skin problems and mental health issues were recurring topics in my doctor visits. Why hadn’t anyone pointed this out before? I had been on this pill for six years!
One glance at my health records, and this NP knew I probably wasn’t on the right pill. Together we decided to get me a different one.
This new pill seemed to work much better for me. My skin indeed cleared up. I didn’t notice any negative side effects at the time, so I gladly continued taking it.
Move back to the Netherlands
When I moved back to the Netherlands some 1.5 year after switching pills, I eventually had to get a repeat prescription again. I went to see my doctor and she seemed a bit fuzzy about giving me this particular pill. She clearly rather saw me taking the pill I had first started on. This really pissed me off: I was not willing to go back to the negative side effects, which was giving me bad skin. So, I decided to stay on the same pill I had been on since a little over a year.
I also discussed taking my pill without breaks, because I was getting a little tired of periods (and how much waste they produce!). The GP agreed there was no real harm in not taking monthly breaks all the time, so I no longer intended to do so.
Continuing pill: a different box
I got the same pill, this time from a Dutch pharmacy, and soon noticed a difference. I started spotting throughout the month, even though there technically hadn’t been a change in pill. The only difference was that this pill came from a different manufacturer – so the box it came in looked different.
My symptoms led to another visit to the GP. Slowly I started to realise that, even though I thought not much had been going on with this pill, I actually had seen a few side effects over the years. I’d started getting headaches during periods, for example. My periods had also changed. I couldn’t deal with them the way I used to.
My GP suggested I consider a triphasic pill, which consists of different hormones throughout the month. This pill could perhaps cooperate better with my natural hormones.
Continuing without breaks
Later when my symptoms seemed to have calmed down, I decided not to take my monthly break after all. This was a big mistake. It triggered a hurricane of side effects: cramps, nausea, stress, extreme sensitivity – basically a PMS nightmare. Eventually I became really ill. The most frustrating thing was, because I wasn’t taking my break, I wasn’t technically on my period either, so I was dealing with all this physical commotion for nothing.
Back to the GP!
I abruptly decided to take a break – in the middle of my strip – and also take some time out to rest. I went back to the GP, discussed my problem, and said I wanted to try the triphasic pill.
Meanwhile, in my head I was also thinking if that didn’t work out, I would want a complete break from the pill. I had been on it for 8 years now and had always had the idea I would come off it at some point when I was 24 or 25. Had this moment suddenly arrived?
The GP I spoke to pressed me to think about alternative contraceptive methods besides the pill, because he reckoned the pill in general wasn’t right for me anymore. I flinched at the mention of the copper coil and hadn’t thought about much else. He named a few others, like the arm implant. I said I would think about it. For the time being, he gave me a prescription for the triphasic pill.
The triphasic pill
I started the triphasic pill and thought it would all come round. Unfortunately, it didn’t. Only a couple of days after starting it, I became extremely depressed. I was shocked at how badly I was doing and couldn’t figure out where it had come from: was I relapsing? Had something triggered me? Was I in more urgent need of therapy than I thought I was? What the hell was going on???
The next day as I was cycling to the train station and uncomfortably hit a bump in the road, I noticed my boobs were hurting. A lot. And it wasn’t going away. This is when I realised the low mood, just like those overly sensitive breasts, was a side effect from the pill.
The last straw
As someone who’s been through enough shit with mental health, I can’t risk taking a pill that could possibly make me suicidal. So, the decision was soon made: I was coming off the pill. After a quick glance at the contraception methods mentioned in Hannah Witton’s Doing It!, I needed no time at all to make my choice: I was going for the arm implant.
The arm implant: pros and cons
I can’t say much about it yet, as at the time of writing I’ve not had it placed yet, but I can say a bit about the pros and cons to the arm implant.
Long-term solution (up to 3 years)
Fewer hormones (meaning fewer side effects, hopefully)
Can’t forget to take it!
99% effective against them babies (but be safe and still wear a condom because STIs and UTIs are also a thing)
Less practical to get. In my case it went like this: visit to the GP to get prescription à take prescription to pharmacy à pharmacy had to order it à go back to pharmacy and pay for implant up front à make appointment with GP to get implant set à send over invoice implant to health insurance. A massive hassle!
My implant cost €140, which isn’t expensive if you plan to have it in for three years. However, it is a lot of money to have to pay up front. As a student I wouldn’t have been able to afford it. Plus, if you end up only having the implant for a year, you’ve paid €140 for a year worth’s of contraception! That’s a lot more pricy than the pill.
I’m worried I’ll feel a bit uncomfortable with not taking a daily pill anymore. It made me feel secure and certain that I was taking responsibility for my (sexual) health. Also, I have no idea what’s going to happen with my periods. They might become irregular or stay away completely.
I honestly have no idea! At the moment of publishing this post, I will be having the arm implant set. From then on I’ll just have to sit and wait, and see how it goes.
I am very curious to hear your stories concerning these health matters, so please do share them! You can leave a comment down below or contact me elsewhere.