And here’s another one from Amy, can it really be blog number 6?! You can see her other blogs at the bottom of the page 🙂
Since I wrote that blog I have seen numerous articles about the pill and how, through research conducted at the University of Copenhagen, it has now been proven that the contraceptive pill has been linked to depression. Although these findings are of course shocking and desperately need to be discussed, I couldn’t help but think to myself “no shit Sherlock.”
This breakthrough in research got me wondering about the countless conversations I have had with people regarding contraception, especially since starting TOTM. At work, at university, at networking events, at the pub, at bus stops; the clear majority women I have spoken to have had some sort of problem with the pill, or other hormonal contraception.
When I was first put on the oral contraceptive, I was never really told what I was taking. In my head it made sense post-PCOS diagnosis because it would regulate my periods and at that point, although not “sexually active”, the thought of actually knowing when my periods were going to happen was enough of a reason for me to start taking the pill.
With time, as I learnt more about PCOS, I realised the other implications. I was digesting hormones, and in fact two of them, progestogen and oestrogen. From the personal research I have undertaken since being diagnosed with PCOS, my understanding of it is that a lot of my condition comes down the fact that I have, naturally, a hormone imbalance. It is acknowledged that depression can be a symptom of PCOS and in my non-scientific mind I think a lot of it will come down to this hormone disparity, and of course the other side effects of the condition having an overall negative influence on a girls self-esteem (weight issues, excessive hair growth, skin tags etc.)
As mentioned in my previous blog post, to me the only way I can describe being on the pill is feeling just more balanced. My overall mood is better and I feel I am more productive, which contrasts the sluggishness I feel when I am depressed. And please don’t get me wrong, I still have my ups and downs, but having gone through the experience of being taken off my pill, I can tell you personally I feel my overall mood is a lot better when I am on it. But I am fully aware that my condition might make me an exception to the rule! Most women don’t need their hormones tampered with.
Up until recently I didn’t realise that there were many different types of “the pill” with different levels of hormones in them. Through some online research I found that the one I was on “Rigevidon” was not actually considered the best for women with PCOS. I discussed it with my GP and she informed me about the different pills (a very refreshing conversation) and trailed “Yasmin” which had higher levels of oestrogen and could be better for controlling the unwanted hair growth. The change in pill had a negative affect overall (mainly headaches and weight gain), so after three months I went back on Rigevidon and no longer have issues.
After having the clarification from the GP about the different types of pill, I started to realise that what the medical profession need to understand is that many of us do need and want more of an explanation. Yes, money in the NHS is tight and yes every box comes with a folded-up sheet of information that lists the side effects of taking the pill, but a lot of the time a 2-minute explanation from a medical professional would help a tremendous amount, even if it sparks more a what I call “thorough google” when I got home.
I know friends who have been on the wrong contraception for too long and on visiting the doctors have not even been pulled up on it, their huge mood swings and weight gain not even considered a by-product of taking a hormonal contraceptive (please read next weeks blog for more on this!). I know others who have been forced to swap contraception and left with having a period for months on end, something I also experienced when taken off the pill, not only is it physically draining, but also emotionally so. Even mentioning the implant to some women unearths a deep, uneasy sound of months of distress (or as one friend put it, “I went mad”).
I don’t feel it’s too bold to suggest that a lot of these problems have been ignored because they can’t be physically seen and moreover, that they affect women. This was cemented for me when it was reported that production of the male pill has been halted because it made some male participants depressed.
And in the great words of Holly Grigg-Spall who wrote this wonderful piece for the Guardian: “Considering that women are fertile just six days per menstrual cycle and men are fertile every single day, that the burden of avoiding unwanted pregnancy falls to us, regardless of the burden that might have on our health and wellbeing, is nothing short of sexism.”
The point I want to make in this blog is, and sorry in advance if it comes across preachy, women need to be made aware of what they are taking when taking the contraceptive pill or indeed any other form of hormonal contraception. For some women, the change in hormone levels will be barely noticeable; for others, it may leave them with drastic mood swings and bouts of depression. And as patients we need to be bolder in our discussions with the GP.
I can only speak for myself but I have at times bowed to the suggestions of my GP because they are in my mind the peak of authority figures and rightly so; they’ve spent years studying this shit. However, similarly to how I feel when visiting the hairdressers, nobody knows my body (or hair) like I do, and this is what I cling onto when I have my visits.
And if you’ve not had enough of me, you can have a gander at my other blogs here:
- My PCOS: “when life gives you lemons make lemonade.”
- “I’m unemployed…I’m on the dole…I’m too fat for the pill and I live in Sheffield…I’m f***ed”
- Embracing the wobble: Face the fear and sod the haters.
- Shall we just talk about PMS?
- Why I’m running again