Health Sex

Birth control pills; why it’s not straightforward for everyone

The Growing Up Guide - contraception

Ah, those tender teenage years. We all remember that first excruciatingly awkward conversation about birth control that stands out like a blood stain on a checked blue uniform. It’s a cringe-worthy moment made worse by concerned parents, apathetic doctors and outdated schooling. Bananas anyone? Needless to say, I felt ill-informed and excruciatingly out of my depths.

Thanks to the internet there’s a plethora of information readily available at our fingertips. If you’re considering taking ‘The Pill’ it’s worth reflecting on a few things first.

Have the conversation

“Which one should I take?” I enquired nervously, perched at the edge of a stiff chair. Despite my best efforts to settle, jagged armrests dug into my gangly teenage frame. The office walls were scarce except for a generic flower photo and a handful of framed graduation certificates. Bachelor of Science, Doctor of Medicine, her credentials freckled the bleak space.

The General Practitioner forced a half smile. Let’s try; “Levlin,” she instructed, already hammering keys.

Her blatant disengagement made the entire experience seem even more excruciating. Eager for a quick fix, I nodded along and began popping pills. Birth control pills that is.

Apparently, these magical capsules helped cure my teenage acne and prevented me from falling pregnant. All I had to do was swallow. It didn’t take much convincing.

Rather than trusting the first source, you come across. It’s worth discussing it with your parents, school nurse, friends, boyfriend, the more options you know of, the easier it is to make an informed decision.

Does it suit your lifestyle

Four years down the track and the magic was wearing thin. A once religious routine was in upheaval thanks to changes in life circumstances.

While living out of a suitcase for months on end, remembering to take the pill became a daily challenge. By the time I returned to routine, my ‘period’ had been reduced to complete irregularity and almost none existence.

Consider your lifestyle habits, are you already taking medication? Are you forgetful? Do you need a long-term solution or something temporary? All these questions need to be factored in alongside your lifestyle and preferences.

Does it suit your needs

The thing is, I like getting my period. It tells me I’m not pregnant, I’m eating well, not stressed and everything is working as it should. To no longer have any bleeding was making me feel disconnected from my own body.

A handful of health checks later and I got a green light. Everything was fine. Only I had started to get cystic acne. It was rapidly spreading and defined by numerous dermatologists as hormonal ‘adult acne.’ A consequence of; poor diet, lack of exercise and stress-induced mental state.

I exercised most days of the week and lived on a balanced Mediterranean diet. This diagnosis seemed contradictory to my lifestyle and the hormonal tests that read positive.

My new GP, was an overweight European man in his fifties. I asked him if he could recommend any non-synthetic options that didn’t tamper with my hormones and still encouraged my natural cycle.

I was already at risk of an iron deficiency, “It’s important to retain all the blood you have,” he explained rationally. He divulged the details of these new pills that were in development, some of which stopped the period all together! A pause, he waited for my expression of delight, still not grasping the issue or what kind of birth control solution I required.

Don’t ignore the warning signs

When I enquired about the sudden adult acne, he brushed it off under the guise of stress and prescribed me a new kind of pill. Another pretty girls name, they all sounded the same to me.

So the solution to reaction to the pill was to try another pill… hmm.

Apparently, it was common for intolerances to be built up over time and the best solution was simply to switch pills until we found a suitable one.

It was like playing Russian Roulette, the pill was my bullet. Pick a pill, any pill, and watch to see what happens. I was gambling with my health in some messed up game of trial and error where the risks directly impacted me.

Ignoring the warning signs against synthetic substances, I kept playing. As the pinwheel turned, my body changed. I was spinning out of control, and I felt helpless to stop it.

Stay well informed

Fed up with ‘expert advise’ I turned towards google doctor. Apparently, these pills stop ovulation completely and sacrifice your usual periods in exchange for withdrawal bleeding. The natural cleansing that your body was born to process becomes indefinitely halted with every pill swallowed.

Turns out, the very thing that I was taking to prevent breakouts was throwing off my hormones and creating moderate adult acne along with a myriad of other side-effects. The roulette table had gone spun a full circle.

Random bursts of anger, mood swings, weight fluctuations, breakouts, period inconsistencies, severe nausea, dizziness and loss of appetite were are among many of the side effects.

Sound familiar?

Women are blatantly expected to deal with these imbalances as part of the consumption of the pill. Rather than offering other solutions, it was a matter of selecting one with the least side effects. Essentially, pick your poison.

Women should no longer have to carry the physical, psychological and financial burden of contraception. Thankfully there are a multitude of options becoming more readily available and widely discussed. We’ve still got a long way to go, but in the meantime, we can do our best to make informed decisions about what suits us personally.

Trust yourself

They call it the circle of life. Along with circadian rhythms, lunar phases and fractal patterns in nature, there is something so innate and empowering about the menstrual cycle. The world revolves around these full circles. Infinitely cycling through elliptical patterns that act as beautiful timekeepers, maintaining everything from the changing of tides to our body clock.

I’ve been off the pill entirely for three months and already feel more balanced and aware of myself. It’s refreshing to know that if I’m experiencing an imbalance, it is an aspect of my lifestyle that needs changing rather than a foreign element manipulating my moods.

Credentials, health checks, and external opinions ultimately don’t mean much when you are the one experiencing the consequences.

Having an open discussion with your partner and trusted sources can help discover what’s best, but ultimately it’s your body, and that needs to be a priority. Trust in how your body reacts and seek alternative advice or methods.

It took me countless GP’s, several pills and a whole lot of acne scarring to learn that no one knows my body like me.




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