mental health

Stopping the contraceptive pill and my mental health

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Stopping the contraceptive pill and my mental health

So, how was stopping the contraceptive pill and the effect on my mental health?

Over the last few years, I’ve had a few different physical issues that I’ve ignored. They don’t quite seem bad enough to go to the doctors and so I’ve just ignored them. About a year and a half ago, I booked an appointment with the nurse to discuss my pill. After explaining my problems to her, she switched me over to the mini-pill. I lasted just under 6 months before I asked to go back to the combined. My problems had continued with the additional bonus of endless bleeding- fun! It was becoming increasingly clear that I had a hormone imbalance. Switching back to the combined pill stopped the bleeding, and I was no worse off.

However, I kept thinking ‘what would happen if I just stopped the pill?’.

What were my physical symptoms?

Joint pains. Cystic acne. Migraines. Tiredness. Weight loss problems.

There are so many other little things that I could connect to my hormones, but I’m not sure whether they’re the cause (such as brain fog and mood swings). Each month, it felt like I was adding more and more to my list. Eventually, I decided enough was enough. I couldn’t keep blindly taking the pill.

Who knows what long-term damage it’s doing to my health?

 

Stopping the pill

It took me about a year to decide enough was enough and I had to stop. There were several reasons I didn’t want to stop it. Truthfully, I was scared. With every pill we take, we know they’re altering our hormones. It’s quite a scary concept, as I’m sure we all remember from our teenage years how much the surges of hormones can alter our mood. Truthfully, I no longer know who I am without a pill changing my hormones. Perhaps I’m level headed and calm (if you know me in person, you’re probably laughing right now). I’ve had so many changes lately, and last year I was on antidepressants. I’ve been terrified of losing myself in medication.

Despite the fear, I knew enough was enough. It doesn’t take too much searching to find lots of women my age struggling with similar problems, and we all appear to have some form of hormonal contraception to blame. In the modern world that we live in, they hand out hormonal contraception to women at the drop of a hat.

You may ask, where’s the male version of hormonal contraception? They deemed it unsafe.

They do little to educate women on the impact hormonal contraceptives can have on your body. I was naïve when the doctor prescribed the pill. It’s easy to just accept it as a part of life without researching the impact it can have on your body.

 

What happened when I stopped?

Physically, it was awful. It’s been my worst period ever. I spent an entire weekend struggling to move with the pain. Let’s just say one trip to the supermarket involved 2 packets of sanitary towels, 6 chocolate twists, and 2 cinnamon swirls. Yes, they were all for me.

I have a spare pack of pills in the cupboard and I came very close to taking one to make it all stop. I’m very much missing my hormonally controlled faux periods! Honestly, if it doesn’t improve, I’m going to have to go back to the pill because I don’t have time to spend a week every month doubled up in pain! I’d hate to go back now.

I wrote this a week ago, knowing I’d come back to edit it before I posted. One week on and the memories of that period have been blurred (thankfully!). Physically, I’m feeling better and I’ve noticed a tiny drop in weight (I know this doesn’t happen for everyone. My weight would always fluctuate each day. However, for the last year it’s stayed the same. I knew this wasn’t right for me and I suspected it was down to a hormone imbalance).

 

My mental health and the pill

I stopped the pill because of the physical effects it was having on me. The last thing I was expecting was to feel an improvement in my mental health. Perhaps it was naïve of me. This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed the impact the pill has had on my mental health. I’ve previously blogged about my experiences with Rigevidon (you can read about it here).

After about 3 weeks of no-pill, I realised my anxiety no longer felt quite so suffocating. I also felt a lot more capable in myself. The pandemic changed my life quite drastically, as my boyfriend went from being in the office for 5 days a week to 1 day. I spend that one day anxious about having the responsibility of our dog for the day. Three weeks after stopping the pill, my boyfriend was doing jury service, meaning I was on my own indefinitely. A few days in, I realised I had managed really well. I was no longer anxious about it and I felt like I could cope. Is it a coincidence? Possibly.

 

I don’t believe it is a coincidence. The pill had caused a hormone imbalance, which I had recognised through the physical symptoms. It’s unlikely that I escaped with no impact on my mental health. I strongly believe that the pill has been feeding into my anxiety.

 

Again, it’s been a week since I wrote the above and I’ve been thinking about how I feel and trying to dissect it. The best way to describe the feeling is this… Have you ever felt depressed? If you have, do you remember that feeling of the weight being lifted as it eases? Well, that’s what coming off the pill has felt like for me. A weight has been lifted and I’ve stepped out from the clouds. It feels really good.

What next?

I’ve only been off of the pill just over a month. I know it can take a long while for my hormones to settle, so I will let you know how it goes. So far, I’m dreading the thought of ever going back to hormonal contraception! Overall, stopping the contraceptive pill has had a positive impact on my mental health.

 

What have your experiences with hormones/ hormonal contraception been like?

 

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4 Comments

  • Ashley

    My depression is better when I’m on combined contraceptive pills, but I stopped taking them a few years ago. I didn’t need them for contraception anymore, and it just seemed a bit much to continue popping hormones.

    • Anxiety and Liz

      Oh that’s interesting! I suppose they alter our hormones and whether that’s for better or worse depends on the individual.

  • pinecanvasblog

    This is a surprisingly highly unsupervised area in medical health care. It’s almost like everybody has just accepted that women have to use these and most of the time they are served: choose what you like or will fit your lifestyle the best.
    But it should involve more. My doctors hardly asked any questions about my health and I got some issues. Switching last time I did my research and prepped a few questions. Doctor was annoyed and at one point she actually had to look up the answer for me. I have always wondered why there aren’t any tests made before prescribing them and while using them?
    The easiest one seems to be fertility testing – we are told, that it may infect fertility. But does anyone tests women beforehand or do we just place convenient blame on the birth control pills blindly? During check-ups, doctors usually ask: Do you have any complaints? But they could ask a few test questions about possible side effects – may be patient just doesn’t know or realize that sudden mood changes can be related to birth control and therefore doesn’t know it should be her complaint.

    • Anxiety and Liz

      It’s scary how unsupervised it is! In my earlier years on the pill, I was swapped to a different one (without my consent). The new one had a bad impact on my moods, which I raised with a nurse who told me there was no way it could be influencing my mental health. I then remember mentioning it to another nurse on a separate occasion where she told me I was right and it was known that this pill could have that impact!

      They expect you to raise the issues, but with a little research on our part it seems the pill can cause any number of problems. As the health professional, they should be looking out for this!