Pills, Pills, Pills

As Christmas just gone was approaching, I knew it was time to give my body a break. Not from all the drinking, dancing, and substance abusing, but from over seven years of filling my body with various different means of contraception. The Pill and its counterparts offer a range of perks between them – no babies, better skin, less pain and less or sometimes no periods to name some of the most attractive traits, but what about the sides they’re not shouting about?

I was 14 when I went on The Pill. I’d been sexually active for about six months, and after a few near misses and trips to the Family Planning Clinic for the morning after pill, I decided it was the sensible thing to do. I’d heard from friends that The Pill was the best thing that had happened to them – no pain, no periods, more unprotected sex, some even said they’d been prescribed it by their doctors to make their acne clear up. I’d suffered pretty badly with period pains in the past, and so in my mind, the decision was already made for me. What could possibly go wrong?

I marched myself down the Family Planning clinic, told them I wanted to go on The Pill, that I was in a healthy, stable relationship (I wasn’t) and that I was ready to stop using condoms. The files they had on record for me said that I was 17 at the time, because I had lied about my age when I first went in there, so believing that a normal, healthy 17 year old girl in a loving relationship was asking for contraception, they started me off with the standard My First Pill, Microgynon 30.

 

When I was in the clinic, the woman told me the dreaded news – going on any type of contraceptive may cause you to put on weight. It might give you headaches. It might give you this, it might give you that, we’ll start you off with three months’ worth of pills and get you back in to see how you’re doing, blah, blah, blah, SHUT UP WOMAN AND GIVE ME THE PILLS. When she asked me if I understood, I nodded my head, grabbed my notes, picked up my pills and ran out the door. FINALLY!

From there on in, I’ve been on roughly three to five different pills, as well as Depo Provera (the injection) and the implant. After six months to a year on Microgynon, I realised I was having intense migraines which had been brought on by The Pill. As it was a combined (oestrogen and progesterone) pill, these pills carried a much higher risk of migraines, and so I was switched to a mini-pill (progesterone only pill). The term ‘mini-pill’ sounds so innocent, like a cute little hormone that you pop in your body and it gently keeps the babies at bay. It’s not. After grappling with not remembering to take my pills, I moved onto the Depo.

 

Depo, at first, was brilliant. I had to go back to the clinic every 11 weeks to receive an injection in my bum cheek, which was hugely uncomfortable when they got it wrong, but I was willing to take the pain, and there would potentially be little to no periods. Fucking FANTASTIC news, I thought, there is obviously absolutely nothing wrong with depriving your body its natural need to menstruate, and so what if it can make you infertile for up to two years afterwards? I’m clearly not in a rush to have any babies. Beam me up, in my bum, I am ready for the period free life.

Then came the bit that I had been warned about, but believed would never come – the extensive bleeding. When you go on Depo, they warn you that your periods can stop, or you’ll get spotting, or you will have great, big, fuck off periods, and towards the end of my Depo term (you’re supposed to come off it after two years), I started bleeding, and that went on, on and off, for four months. FOUR. MONTHS. I HAD A FOUR MONTH PERIOD. I ended up having to get tested for anaemia, luckily they came back negative, but decided that it would be best to move on to another form of contraception. One that didn’t involve remembering to do anything, going back to the clinic every 11 weeks or six months, one that would just go about its business in my day to day life without being noticed – the implant.

 

The day I went to have the implant fitted, I was basically foaming at the mouth with excitement. I’d enjoyed having piercings done in the past and part of me felt like I was having a body modification done – it’s not quite a bagel head, but it was enough. We went through the risks, the highs and the lows that I could have recited off the top of my head but had never really paid any attention to, and away we went. After the scar healed, I played with that little fucker in my arm every single day – poking and prodding it, showing it to everyone, it was like my brand new party trick. In with the implant, out with the periods, and there was no setting alarms or checking packets to see if I was on the right day, no spending 45 minutes trying to ring up the clinic to get an appointment and waiting an hour and a half to be seen by a nurse. It was just there, doing its job, being fabulous and a great way of freaking people out.

Then it came again, the great, big, fuck off period. Three months of absolute hell and I decided enough was enough. The woman at the clinic agreed to book me in for a removal and put me on a new pill, but asked me something I had never considered before; “have you ever thought about coming off contraception completely? You’re not in a relationship, now would be the time to do it”. I immediately said no and insisted on getting on to this new pill as soon as possible, but the thought festered in my mind. ‘It’s been six or so years now, what’s the damage?’

The problem with taking drugs with hormones in at such a young age is that you are growing up with an improper balance of chemicals in your body when your body is just learning how to deal with them. Not only can contraception cause migraines, it can cause depression, blood clots, thinning of the bones, short-term infertility, loss of sex drive… The list goes on. Today I read about a woman who took the controversial Yasmin pill, and within three weeks she had multiple blood clots which dislodged from her legs to her lungs and caused a double pulmonary embolism. After going into a coma for 14 days, she woke up blind. (Read more in depth about the appropriately named Yasmin/Yaz here).

I’m all for avoiding unwanted pregnancies, but should we really be filling our bodies with all this shit for such long periods of time? I have no idea what mental or physical implications my contraceptive actions will have, and I’m sure over the coming years I’ll only scratch the surface on what I’ve done to my body. If you’ve been on any kind of contraception for a while and you don’t really need it, do your body a favour and get the hell off it.

 

PILL FREE 2014.

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