There is NO easy solution when it comes to contraception…the pill, the coil, the implant and the trustee condom…they all present their own problems.
Having tried them all and four kids later I would love to be in a position to say ‘I have found the perfect contraception’… sadly, I haven’t!
The contraception journey started at 16 taking the pill. At that age, you’re already a walking hormone so it’s hard to gauge how the pill makes you feel.
After roughly 2 ‘normal’ years on the pill, my periods suddenly started becoming very heavy & painful and lasted 7-9 days. This carried on for years in between being swapped from pill to pill. Some made me depressed, some made me anxious, my weight fluctuated, some made me feel as though I was pregnant with sore breasts, I had constant tiredness and mood swings. Where I would suffer a prism of hormonal side effects, I had friends who seemed to glide through unaffected.
Looking in to contraception after having my 3rd child and desperate for a solution that would be less disruptive, I was told about and encouraged to try the arm implant. The process was quite uncomfortable and definitely not for the faint hearted. The birth control implant is a thin, flexible plastic implant about the size of a cardboard matchstick. It’s inserted under the skin of the upper arm and protects against pregnancy for up to 4 years. Not having to worry about falling pregnant and not having to remember to take the pill every morning, it felt like a no brainer.
At first it worked wonders for me – my periods stopped almost right away and I felt good within myself. I did notice that I struggled to lose the baby weight, but I could cope with that. I had also noticed that over the 12 months the side effects started to get worse and worse, peaking at the 12th month. I felt terrible. I felt like I was literally going to explode as my hormones went in to overdrive. I was constantly feeling anxious and depressed, I really struggled with day to day life and felt worryingly withdrawn.
The lead up to what would have been the time I was due my period was awful. Lots of tears, churning in my tummy, that foreboding feeling that something terrible was going to happen. Needless to say after 5-6 months of putting up with all these side affects I decided to have the implant removed. After a few days I felt like a different person and so relieved I had it taken out.
A few months later and I was worried that I didn’t have any cover so I looked in to having the coil. There are 2 different coils, one with a hormone that is almost designed to stop your periods, and then another copper one without the hormone which will cover you but won’t stop the periods. I decided I wanted to have the non hormone coil but after going to the doctors they highly recommended the hormone coil called the Mirena, as its success rate was very high. So I followed their advice and when for that option. Little did I know that it would start a very long and turbulent journey for me.
At first everything was fine, then after a few months I started bleeding in between periods. The spotting became heavier and then all of a sudden I was having a heavy period every two weeks which then lead to bleeding almost every day. It was agonising and draining. I was so lethargic and completely depleted of energy… looking after three kids, running a household and working felt like a daily climb up K2.
As well as the emotional turmoil, the physical side effects left me reeling with such excruciating pain I ended up in A&E. I was told after 5 days in hospital, on a drip and in constant pain that the coil had caused an infection and had to be removed asap.
The coil was removed to let the infection heal, and I was told to have it put back in when I’d finished the antibiotics. I was nervous to have it put in again but what choice do you have as a woman – there’s very little in the way of options and after four pregnancies, the coil seems the best one!
Having this new coil brought about more dramas thankfully not hormonal! While I felt a lot more balanced, unfortunately it wasn’t put in properly so I began bleeding almost every day. I was also getting tummy cramps and pains again. I was having to use sanitary products every day and had almost no energy to do anything. I thought maybe it was more than the coil causing my problems and I was eventually referred to a specialist who suggested I have some investigations in to my stomach and womb, so I was booked in for a few different scans and an operation to see what was causing the bleeding. All my scans showed there were no dangerous cysts and I didn’t have endometriosis. A few polyps were found on the lining of the womb which turned out to be fine and the bleeding was found to be from a poorly placed coil and some abrasions on my womb that I had cauterised. So under anaesthetic I had this done and a coil placed exactly where it should be.
That was a few months back. My periods have now stopped and I can feel a huge difference in my energy levels. On the down side my anxiety is through the roof around the time of my period and I find it very difficult not to cry all day long. I feel I have no option but to ride this wave and hope it all settles down eventually. The great thing is, I have a very supportive partner who understands me and what I’m going through so is very supportive when those down-days come.
I know for many women contraception is a doddle, but for the few who seem to have an endless nightmare finding the right one for you – I feel your pain! Here’s hoping a new discovery is around the corner!