A little more of a personal post today, but one that needs to be talked about. My experience with contraception. Contraception/birth control/pregnancy prevention. That.
I'll be honest, up until the age of 20 I never used any form of contraception, bar condoms. In the space of just over a year, I've gone through 4 (!!) different methods. It's been pretty rough, to say the least. However I thought I'd do a little breakdown of my experience with each method in the hope it can maybe help some of you.
(3 months experience)
I was put on the combined (progesterone & oestrogen) pill to begin with. It works by preventing ovulation-stopping your ovaries from releasing an egg. Take a small pill once a day at a roughly similar time, break to have a period, repeat. Pretty simple. Or so it would seem. I think this was without a doubt the worst experience I have experienced out of the 4 methods I've tried. I want to do advantages & disadvantages, but tbh with pills it's difficult for my to think of even one advantage.
- Regulates your periods, can control & know when you're due.
- Didn't affect the heaviness/pain of periods.
- Non invasive-can stop taking them at any time & cycle will return to normal.
- Doesn't affect chance of getting pregnant in the future.
- No spotting whilst wearing.
- Have to think about it every day. What time is it? Is it pill time? Did I put the alarm on my phone to remind me? Wheres my packet? Will I remember to have them on me at the time? What if I'm out of the house? Did I take it at the same time yesterday?
- Boob growth. Sore, heavy & painful. Goes off around a month in.
- Constant disorientation, spaced out, struggle with concentration, fuzzy head, general major overload of hormones.
- As the pills built up, say around day 7, I would be bedridden for around 4 days with uncontrollable & overwhelming sickness. Also, if you're sick or have diarrhea whilst taking the pill, it isn't effective as you've expelled it from your body. After the 4 days, it goes back to disorientation, spaced out etc. Great fun.
- Is it pill time yet?
Worst method ever. The 4 days of sickness is clearly the worst part-thank god no other methods were quite this bad. I hated the fact I had to constantly think about the time, whether I had them with me & the general mither it caused. It was too much to think about every day, for me personally.
*I will say, I think I got so incredibly sick on the pills due to their high level of lactose they contained. At the time I was taking these, I was still vegan. I hadn't consumed any type of lactose for around 4 years & wondered whether being reintroduced back into it triggered something inside me & was my body's way of rejecting it. Though, now I am a new vegetarian, I regularly consume lactose (only via cheese & for the types I consume is processed in a way to contain a very low level of lactose) & have no side effects. It's strange, but will not happen to everyone who uses the pill, clearly it just wasn't for me.
(2 months experience)
After the awful attempt at pills, I was prescribed patches. My friend used these (at the time) to improve her complexion & boost her mood. I thought they would be the next method to try as I was still after something non invasive.
The contraceptive patch is a transdermal patch (think of it as an intensive, really sticky plaster) that you apply to a suitable area of skin (for you to decide-I found top of my back worked best as my clothes couldn't rub it there) that releases the same hormones as the combined pill-progesterone & oestrogen. It works by thickening the cervical mucus-making it difficult for sperm to enter the cervix & fertilise with an egg. I would apply my patch on my back, leave it for a week, then change to a fresh patch. You do this for 3 weeks, then have 1 week off.
- Once applied right, will stay stuck on for the duration (7 days).
- Non invasive, can stop taking it at any time.
- Know & control when periods are due. You take the patch off, you bleed.
- No spotting whilst wearing.
- Boob growth. Heavy, sore & painful. Goes off after around a month, like the pill.
- You can see it. The only place I could get it to stick & not fall off was on the flat center part of the top of my back. It's a pretty large pink square patch. Strappy tops etc were a no, no.
- The patch left a mark. Once removed, it left some kind of film. I had squares all over my body for months, months (!!) after I stopped using them. I got used to having residual squares left, whilst still walking around with my pink baby-preventer on show.
- If it wasn't in that very specific place on my back, it would fall off. I would go through a patch a day on the times I tried to put it on my legs, bum, tummy etc. Maybe I'm too wobbly, applied it wrong, I don't know.
- Has it fallen off? Will this piece of clothing rub it? Has it moved place? I'm sure it's moved. Ok, keep the shower away from it. Are you touching my patch? Could you not touch me there?-You may touch my GOD DAMN PATCH (!!)
- Worrying whether it will fall off in the shower. Keeping my leg, back etc away from water. Pretty difficult when you're washing your flipping hair & the baby preventer is on your back.
- As I had bad experience with them falling off any parts of my body that weren't visible, I would run out of patches. In a box you got 3 months worth. Having to replace mine multiple times a week, I would run out much sooner. More doctors visits, more waiting around, more effort, more thinking, etc. Repetitive & monotonous.
- Worry about effectiveness & accuracy. With them falling off, yes I can apply another one, but has it been absorbed? It it stuck down enough? The corner has peeled up, am I safe? Etc.
If I could deal with keeping it on my back & risk it being seen, it wouldn't be that horrendous. At least I wasn't bed ridden for 4 days eh? But still, far too much maintenance & too much worry. Birth control should be easy (at least I think), not a constant 'omg, stress' mindset. The thought of wearing shorts was pretty debilitating as I was covered in residual square patches. Time for something a little more permanent, a little more invasive & alot less worry.
(11 months experience)
After two relatively non-invasive & what I view as 'temporary' methods, I needed something more. After yet another contraceptive chat with my doctor, the implant seemed to be the right fit for me.
It's a small, flexible tube around 4cm long that gets inserted into your non-dominant arm. A relatively painful procedure. Some local anesthetic, my eyes closed chatting to the nurses about my bad fake tan, a couple of pokes & prods & I was implanted. Honestly really simple, nothing to worry about. For the love of god don't watch youtube videos of girls getting theirs inserted-vile. The implant contains progesterone & works by preventing the release of an egg from your uterus by slowly releasing progesterone to thicken your cervical mucus & thinning the womb lining. This makes it harder for sperm to move through the cervix & fertilise an egg. Once inserted, it lasts for 3 years.
- Lasts for 3 years.
- Don't have to think about it for 3 years.
- I had no period for 6 months after getting it fitted.
- No spotting other times.
- Didn't experience any weight gain, mood swings, acne or heavy/painful periods-all side effects it is frequently associated with. Bitch slayed me another way-wait.
- Irregular, long & unpredictable periods. As I said, 6 months without. Then it was a week on/a week off. Sometimes it was 2 weeks off/1 & a half weeks on. I never knew what was happening. My period tracker app for the time I was on the implant is pretty terrifying. I bled, alot.
- Headaches. Intense, constant (I have one as I write, 3 weeks post removal), crippling & just awful. I honestly don't remember what it is like to not have a headache. I wake up with them, have them all day & go to sleep with them. They can vary in degree of pain but yes, I always have one. This only started the around the 8/9 month mark of having the implant. But still, 3 weeks after removal, they're niggling away. Awful. My backpack looks like a drug bag. Also, painkillers do not take the pain away! It's brilliant.
- Feeling generally overdosed/imbalanced with hormones. Similar to the feeling from the pills; disorientation, fuzzy head, difficulty concentrating. All leading to lethargy & lack of energy. Having a headache & feeling pressure in your head constantly is pretty damn exhausting.
- Bloating/changes in weight (?). The ? is because I am unsure. I think most part it was due to the constant periods & the bloating correlated with those. My face changed shape daily. It was pretty bizarre. Some days I would look 10cm dilated, overdue baby type of belly, the next pretty normal. Odd & frustrating.
This was the best experience out of the 3 & I can't say I hated it. But the headaches were wearing & so were the erratic periods. Just little niggles. The main thing I wanted though was to balance out my hormones. They had been so out of balance with the 3 different methods that I wanted my poor body to have a break & retain it's natural ways. Not being controlled by an overload of hormones. I also believe these were the cause of my headaches, despite 3 different doctors telling me otherwise.
Also, the removal was pretty painless. I didn't even feel it. A small aesthetic, some prodding & poking & I was implant free. Nothing to worry about. I have a small, incredibly insignificant scar where it was removed but even I had to really search hard to find it.
IUD (INTRAUTERINE DEVICE)
(3 weeks experience)
Annnd so we move onto the final of the 4 & the method I'm currently using, the IUD. If only I'd known about this little sod from the get go. This is completely different to my other methods, as it is hormone free *yay*! That was my main reason for chosing this, it seemed so natural to me. Preventing babies & not messing with my natural balance.
Basically, it is a little T shaped device (google it) which is wrapped in copper. This gets inserted into the womb & works by preventing the sperm & egg from surviving in the womb or fallopian tubes. This baby lasts for 10 years. 10 god damn, long, blissful, years.
Ok, so the insertion. Good lord, deep breaths. I was lay down, legs open, feet together. She first measured me, to ensure I was the correct size (?) to have it fitted. I was, so she began. My poor heart is racing now reliving it. She used a device (I'm really sorry I don't know specific names, again I wouldn't advise YT'ing it, it's flipping torture) to stretch me. I found this extremely uncomfortable & painful. This was actually like incredibly bad period pains. She then inserted it, into my womb. Good lord, honestly the pain was indescribable. I didn't expect it, as I was told it would be 'bad period pains'. Lol. I went incredibly hot, sweaty (t-shirt was literally wet), pale & faint. All the time one poor nurse is holding my hand getting me to breathe, not pant, & the other one at the tail end is still messing around with my insides. It was over pretty quickly to be fair, but good god. They went to get a fan & kept that on me to cool me down. I was made to lie with my feet above my head & my pulse was being checked regularly to make sure I wasn't about to faint. We spoke about my house plans, her daughters career history & my uni course. All the while she's holding a fan on me & I'm sat in a wet t-shirt. Lying there after insertion, it was actually like bad period pains. These lasted for a good couple of days afterwards. It was incredibly painful & I used it as an excuse to eat my body weight in ice cream & chocolate. Is there a more apt time to request bedside assistance?
I'll do advantages & disadvantages, but bear in mind I've had 3 weeks experience. I'll of course do an update once I've experiences it properly & my body has adapted to yet another change. Sorry bod.
- 10 years without thinking about any form of contraception.
- Non-hormonal. No imbalance, overdose, nothing. All 'natural'.
- It doesn't interfere with your natural cycle. So if you're a really regular gal, it will be great for you as you'll know. I'm a little unsure on my own. It's been a pretty long time since I've not had some form of hormone controlling my cycle, so I'm just seeing as it comes. So far, a little 3 day period after insertion, nothing since.
- It's possible (20% chance) for you to become infected after insertion, or for your body to expel the IUD. This hasn't happened to me & since it's been 3 weeks, I'm assuming we're in a mutual agreeance & my lil bod is now bffls with its new copper pal.
- 10 years ppl.
- The absolute crippling pain to have it fitted.
- It can have a tendency to cause longer, more painful & heavier periods. I'm yet to find out.
- Not really a 'disadvantage', per say, but it definitely isn't a bonus point, is that after every period, you have to check for your strings. These are attached to the IUD & hang down into your vagina. Checking they're in place ensures it's in the correct place.
- May not be suitable for those of you who use a menstrual cup. I wanted to use one of these, to prevent tampon & sanitary towel waste. But as it (the coil) is located in my womb, there is a risk of the cup interfering or changing the position of my IUD.
Like I've said, it's only been 3 weeks, so I can't make any conclusive statements. But I honestly wish I'd have known about this sooner, if not in place of the implant. The implant & pills are often the most commonly prescribed as they're the cheapest methods available. I'm just in love with the idea of 10 years (!!) (have I mentioned 10 years already?) without having to think about any contraception. It's so relieving.
*I will confess, for all the descriptions (hormones & how it works) I used all the NHS wordings. I had little idea how they worked before googling, even though I'd had extensive experience with most methods. It's so interesting to think about what my poor body has gone through & adapted (or rejected) in such a short period of time.
Also, of course no method of contraception, bar condoms, protects you from STI's. Don't be silly with yourself & your own bodies health. Be clean pls, ppl.
I would genuinely love to know other peoples experiences with contraception & thoughts of any of the methods I've had experiences with. Pls share ladies.