Fumble blogger Avery Echo shares her personal experience of the contraceptive pill
A desire to avoid that classic “where on earth did you put those condoms?” awkwardness during sex, and my overwhelming paranoia of getting pregnant were the main reasons I booked a GP appointment to go on the pill.
I walked into the doctor’s office feeling uniformed, slightly nervous, and a little overwhelmed. I was asked a series of questions that I was not prepared for: “any history of blood clots in your family?” “Would you like to take a combination pill or a progestin-only?” I had no idea.
In the end I settled on the combination pill because I was told it was the most effective, and I remembered it was what some of my friends took. At the time I was vaguely warned about certain side effects to look out for – none of which were related to mental health – and I was given a three month trial for my new birth control.
Three months in, and I was fine. Or maybe I wasn’t, I will never really know. I physically didn’t notice much difference in myself, except for a decrease in libido.
Perhaps if I had been warned, I would have stayed more alert for alterations in my mental health, and become more aware of the changes in my mood earlier. But I didn’t – and so I got prescribed an entire year’s worth of pills on my second visit to the GP.
Six months in, I decided to stop taking my pills. I was going on holiday, and the hassle of taking keeping up with my contraceptive during the summer where I was going to be sexually inactive seemed unnecessary. I stopped without consulting my doctor – that was mistake number one.
Barely one week after stopping, my mental health crashed. I had my first ever panic attack. I cried, I felt lonely, hopeless. I started suffering from OCD symptoms, intrusive thoughts, and started seeing a therapist. I calmed down, stabilised a little more.
Then I decided to get back on the pill, and that was mistake number two.
I came crashing right back down, and that is when it hit me. The pill – specifically the imbalance of hormones it causes. I was convinced it had something to do with these relentless mood swings.
In search of answers, I turned to Google and consulted my psychiatrist (who by this point had prescribed me anxiety pills and was yet to prescribe me antidepressants.)
This is when I discovered the pill can trigger mental health side effects, but that this is not very spoken about. According to a 2016 study of more than one million women, those taking hormonal contraceptives are “70% more likely to be on antidepressants” with teenagers having a shocking “80% increased risk of antidepressant use”.
I fell down a rabbit hole of internet threads from women around the world who suffered because of their birth control. The story became even more relatable when I googled the name of the pill I was taking – ‘rigevidon’ – which happens to be one of the cheapest pills for the NHS to give out, making it extremely popular. It turned out a lot of girls were ditching it, and I followed suit.
When I stopped taking the pill for the second time, I was prepared. I knew I was going on yet another imbalance of hormones journey, and as much as I hated having to go through it again, I felt slightly better knowing what had triggered the feelings this time.
Fast forward three months and I can now say I am a different person. I have gone back to condoms – I use the free ones you can pick up at Boots, because they are student budget-friendly, super secure (perfect for a someone paranoid like myself,) and the only form of contraceptive that also protects against sexually transmitted infections.
While I know the pill was not the only reason my mental health deteriorated, I do believe it helped to trigger something in my brain, intensify my emotions and blur my rationality. Without it I feel mentally more stable, my libido has returned to normal (making sex that much better) and I have lost the weight I gained whilst on the pill.
Now – just because I had a negative experience with the pill, does not mean other women will. If you are considering taking the pill, I really hope you are lucky. I hope the first pill you try fits you like a glove.
It wasn’t the case for me, but I am still on the search. Still in recovery from the past few months, I don’t think I’ll try any pill form of contraception in a little while, but there are so many other non-hormonal options out there. From the copper IUD to cervical caps, there will always be something out there for everyone! Just make sure you do your research before you commit.