Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Some mixed and inconclusive thoughts about the pill...

I love the NHS for many reasons, one of them being the fact that it has given me the pill for free since I was 17. When I was younger they also gave me a lot of party bags full of condoms as well. You just can’t fault this amazing service.

However I do have a problem with the pill. My experience is one of constant compromise. I began on Dianette because it is a treatment for acne as well as a contraceptive, and as an acne treatment it was amazing. Unfortunately after a couple of years on this pill I was called into the doctor’s and advised to stop using it because of the extremely high risk of blood clotting. Since then I have also discovered that it has been linked to severe depression. So, not great then.

Following this I had a few hiccups about finding a new pill primarily because the doctors doing the prescribing knew little or nothing about the contraception they were giving me and ignored my concerns about the return of my (severe) acne. Things got a lot better when I realised the Practice Nurse could prescribe, and knew a lot more about what she was giving me. The fourth brand of pill I tried, which lasted for about two years, was Femodette. This was another combined pill, it didn’t make me spotty, and had few other side effects. So far so good.

About two years ago I started getting occasional but debilitating headaches which lasted about a day. It took me a while to realise that these headaches began the day before my period in the pill free week started. I was also having terrible nightmares in the days leading up to this period and generally feeling pretty crap. So went to the nurse who diagnosed it as an oestrogen withdrawal headache. She advised I try the mini pill. I tried Cerazette, which gave me so many spots I looked thirteen again, so I then tried Norgeston, which didn’t help the spot problem and was horrible inconvenient. The nurse I see is amazing. When I went back and told her I was feeling pretty low anyway and just couldn’t cope with the spots as well she took me off the mini pill immediately.

For the last three months I have been using the contraceptive patch. I was hoping this might be the solution to my problems but unfortunately the headaches have come back worse than ever. I’m going back to the nurse on Friday hoping for some miracle invention, but I’m fairly sure I will be disappointed!

Having a child is not an option for me at this point in my life (who knows if it ever will be?) and I am very responsible about contraception as a result. I love the freedom the pill gives me but hate the constant compromise I have to make, the days of illness I suffer because of it. I’m aware of the position from which I am whinging – being an educated, white, middle class citizen in a country with a health system that provides contraception for free is pretty damn hot, and maybe I should just be pleased with what I’ve got. But when I’ve got headaches so bad I can barely focus it is a little difficult to be grateful no matter how lucky you know you are.


At 5:17 pm, Blogger Buttercup said...

I also had a bad experience on the pill. I was on it for four years in college and just felt out of sorts in my body. I went off it b/c I didn't like the idea of the hormones messing with me.

Three years ago, I tried to go back on the pill again, because I was in a serious relationship and I wasn't ready get pregnant. I had a HORRIBLE experience. I was constipated, depressed, and had really bad stomach aches almost every day. I thought at first I was experiencing food allergies or stress, but then realized it was hormonal and related to the pill. After 6 months, I went off it again and haven't been on since.

I too try to be very responsible sexually, but I favor condoms over the pill b/c the side effects aren't worth it. Btw, I found out while I was going through that experience that women suffer disproportionately from depression and constipation - both of which are linked to the pill but neither of which are talked about enought (if ever).

I recently read that they have come out with a male pill that stops the sperm production. Pretty cool. Now if only we could trust them to use it.

At 5:44 pm, Blogger kate said...

interesting post. i was on dianette for 10 years before coming off it (of my own accord, my doctor continued merrily prescribing it as long as i continued sending in the repeat prescription forms) last autumn - basically because i decided i wasn't happy with taking such a strong chemical for such a long period of time. plus i wasn't getting any at the time anyway so it seemed a bit pointless.
like you, i had a bad complexion when i first went onto dianette, and it was sparklin' great while i was on it. i've had about 6 months of bad skin, though not as bad as i'd anticipated it would be. it's not great now but i think (touch wood) it has settled down into being just average-shitty rather than pizza-face.
there's no way i want to go back on that or any other pill, i've felt mentally so much better since i stopped taking it (though i had two months of hell when i first stopped, i seriously thought i was having some kind of breakdown, my hormones were all over the freaking place).
however, i'm now back in the saddle again (sexually i mean) and, while i always use a condom (of course!) i'm starting to think it's about time i got round to exploring some of the alternatives to the pill that are out there.

At 8:21 am, Blogger spotted elephant said...

I've been on the pill for almost 2 decades with no problems, so I can't help there. But I suffer from severe headaches, so I can empathize and have to say, do whatever will help the headaches!

Don't know about things like the newer (and safer?) IUDs, etc. But maybe exploring a variety of methods will allow you to find one you can live with.

I have cystic acne, and the only thing that helped was a product (not sure if available in the UK) called Proactiv. I thought it was snake oil, but darned if the stuff doesn't almost eliminate my acne. So maybe you can treat the birth control and acne separately. I hope you find something, and I hope those headaches stop.

At 7:55 pm, Blogger Laura said...

Word of warning to any readers: do NOT use Ovranette. I was on it for about a month and had bad depression similar to the kind I had as a teenager- crying every day, self hatred, depair etc etc - thought it was just my old feelings returning, but figured I'd change pills just in case it was that and it all went away. Another friend was extremely and uncharacteristically depressed to the point of a suicide attempt - I asked her what pill she was on and it was ovranette - she came off it immediately and returned to normal. I've mentioned this to friends and they also know people who have become extremely depressed on ovranette. I would strongly recommend that people use a different one; I know that not everyone reacts in the same way, but it doesn't seem worth the risk.

Another crappy pill experience (loestrin 30): I didn't have periods for quite a few months and had to take a couple of pregnancy tests to ease my panic. When I happened to go and see a different doctor she said I shouldn't be on that pill because it is less effective than other ones and I could get preganant without knowing because I wasn't having periods. The doctor who originally prescribed this pill hadn't mentioned this. Thanks a lot.

BUT I do very much appreciate the pill in general - I would never feel safe enough just using condoms - one split and morning after pill from Tesco experience is enough for me! (It's great that you can get it from Tesco, but £20 a go is not so great).

Bring on the male pill - the man should be just as responsible as the woman for preventing pregnancy. An icky question for anyone in the know - does the guy still come?

Hope the headaches go away, la somnabule, - nasty stuff :(

At 1:16 pm, Blogger Sarah Louise Parry said...

I am on my fourth pill now in like four years due to problems ranging from headaches to inconsistant bleeding, I have nothing but trouble with it.

At 1:21 pm, Blogger la somnambule said...

Thanks for all the comments - it's great to hear about others' experiences. Went to see my nurse today who has no further solutions apart from only having a pill free week four times a year. That means only about twelve days of headaches a year, but I don't think it's ideal.

It's interesting to read that a couple of you have given up on the pill. I'm getting pretty close to that at the moment but as with Laura a bad experience with the morning after pill a few years back leaves me loath to rely only on condoms. Unfortunately there seems no point in me trying any of the other methods of contraception because they are progesterone based and are likely to have the same side effects as the mini pill.

SE - the problem with treating the acne and birth control separately is that antibiotics make the pill less effective and I have pretty bad eczema which means I can't use strong chemicals on my skin. At the moment I use witch hazel based products.

Aren't I painting a pretty picture of myself? Spots AND eczema! I'm not as hideous as I sound hehe. Ah well I'm going to keep an eye out for any new advances, and see how the headaches go. It's all a matter of balance and I don't seem to have got that quite right yet. If any of you hear of anything that might help please let me know!

At 5:33 pm, Blogger Pippa said...

Re: acne, have you tried sudocrem? It used to be for nappy rash and stuff but it worked wonders on my spots. It is really thick cream and I think it also has something on the tub about eczema... it has lavender in it, so might not be good for very sensitive skin.

Otherwise, and I KNOW I shouldn't really say this, sunbeds really clear my skin up. Or actual sun! But it's bad enough to make me think carefully about it. Pippa xx

At 1:54 pm, Blogger hexyhex said...

Hey there,

I run through on the pill, skipping periods. I originally had a period three or four times a year, but now even less than that. I'm actually starting one now that is the first in over a year.

From the research I've done, my own experiences, and the input of various doctors including my girlie doctor, I'd say there's really no significant arguments against it. The periods you get by skipping a pill aren't "real" periods, so they really only present psychological benefits. Obviously, if you'd feel better having them then you'd probably want to have one as often as you can manage the side effects, but you might as well do away with them all together. Personally I'm glad to be rid of them.

I've been running through for nine or ten years now, with a break of a year and a half before I went back to it. The only side effect I've had to deal with is the certainty that you WILL bleed a little when you have a pap smear. :)

I hope you find something that works for you. I just wanted to chime in with the "Hey, I do that and it's not so bad" side of things.
Good luck!

At 10:34 am, Blogger blogiast said...

acne and birth control

Here's some useful info on acne and birth control which you might be looking for. The url is:

At 4:44 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i recently started cerazette and came off it after 3 weeks as i kept getting tight chests and heart flutters leading to me nearly passing out i have now stopped this and the symtoms are in the morning with the tight chest and the dizziness!! anybody who has had the same experience i would like to hear as it has worried me

At 3:02 pm, Blogger Acne Treatment said...

For milder cases of acne there are over the counter acne treatments and other skin care solutions that contain benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. There are also a variety of on-line ordered products that are very effective, such as Proactive. Remember, pregnant women should avoid products that contain salicylic acid, as it can possibly lead to complications during pregnancy or even birth defects. These are to be applied normally after washing, just like with facial acne solutions.

At 5:22 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ive just started on Cerazette (this is week two) and...erm...slightly embarrassing but I CANT POO. Eating beans, quinoa, bran, kiwifruit...de nada.
Im about to give up on it!!!

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At 8:28 pm, Blogger Jason Mandrix said...

However I do have a problem with the pill. My experience is one of constant compromise. I began on puraskin because it is a treatment for acne as well as a contraceptive, and as an acne treatment it was amazing.

At 9:36 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have had nothing but trouble with the pill as well, I firstly tried the combined pill, and it seemed to be okay, but I was having Migranes, and it wasn't until one Doctor said to go on the mini pill, because the combined one could be causing them I didn't realise (great!) Since being on the mini pill, I haven't had any Migranes, but constantly don't really feel that great, I was on Cerezette, and didn't have any periods, which led to me constantly feel panicked that I was pregnant, so tried Norgeston - this then caused me to have periods every two weeks.

I then went to my Doctor again, who put me back on Cerezette(doh!)so I thought I would try it, but again, I am having no periods, have put on weight, have headaches and feel slightly sick - so tomorrow I am going to see the Doctor again(this time I am hoping for a miracle too) but I don't think I will get one, I am almost prepared to go back on to Norgeston again and see if my periods gradually settle. Has anyone had any experience with the injection?

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At 6:49 am, Blogger Zoe Malone said...

Hey does anyone know if the ovranette pill reacts to the UV lights in sunbeds, it sounds stupid but some pills do react with UV light


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