Is there a disregard for the effects of contraception on women's mental health?(195 Posts)
I've just been wondering about this recently as I'm planning on giving up on hormonal contraception following some awful, awful mood swings and depression.
I've read about women whose experiences of this (as a result of hormonal contraceptives) have been disregarded by some HCP.
Given that this seems to be quite common/widespread, why aren't the effects of these drugs on mental health more widely spoken about?
They are. I think.
Certainly in the two big areas of the UK I've lived in, the effects are discussed and monitored.
To a certain extent, though, the side effects have to be disregarded. I would hate for my GP to decide I have to change contraception, rather than have that choice myself. If I suffered from any of the side effects, I'd seek help for them separately if I wanted too.
I don't want someone else to make, or attempt to influence, my decision on contraceptives. Unless of course there are serious risks such as DVT.
That's a good point, Caja, I'd never want a decision like that to be forced upon me.
I'm thinking more about the women who complain of mental health-related side effects to their GP/FPC and are, to some extent, ignored and told to persevere as emotional issues and mood swings are seen as secondary to any physical problems. (This has happened to at least two friends of mine - one was on the mini-pill and the other on Mirena).
I was taking microgynon for several years no problems, then started experiencing bleeding before the end of the packs and worried that it wasn't working for me any more. GP prescribed loestrin instead... after probably six months of taking it I had a complete and utter mental breakdown after months of very low mood for no apparent reason. It affected friendships (some of which didn't survive - I became very paranoid and withdrew from friendships) and my relationship (which fortunately did survive!).
Went back to the GP about all of this ( me and DP had already self diagnosed it was because of the pill) who offered me Yasmin instead. I said I would think about it and would have a break from taking anything for a month or so... that was 3.5 years ago and I've never been back! No further problems with my mental health whatsoever.
I just don't want to take that risk again plus the years of taking microgynon caused cervical erosion (the cause of the bleeding that led to the change in the first place!) I feel quite strongly that contraception is something women/ media and HCP need to talk more about in terms of both physical and mental side affects
My daughter suffered from bad depression in her second year at university. It came out of the blue after a brilliant first year. Being a typical mum I wondered if she had got into drugs, bad trip..whatever. She subsequently revealed that she had started taking the contraceptive pill and it had plunged her into really black despair. Once she made the link and stopped her mood lifted within a week or two.
In later years she tried it again (different brand), same thing happened. She stopped, mood lifted within a week or two again.
I think it could be more common than any think.
I'm thinking of asking to get sterilised because the pill affects my mental health badly, bad anxiety and on and off depression, occasional suicidal thoughts. I don't want the coil for personal morality reasons (I don't agree with the fact that you can still conceive but it stops implantation, I believe that a life is created at conception. I don't want abortion outlawed before I am flamed but for me personally it is not an option, I couldn't live with the guilt). I'm pretty sure they will say no to sterilisation, I'm 31 with one child (don't want more) but I wonder if saying it's for mental health reasons would help my argument.
If you look at the number of people who report problems with the merina coil (mood swings, depression as well as physical symptoms), and say that the gp replies that it can't be their coil,, then I would say that it is either ignored or minimised a lot.
I agree entirely Pink. I have never had a doctor raise this with me as a possible consequence of hormonal contraception and I definitely think it is a significant issue. It's not even mentioned as an issue on the Wikipedia page, for example. It's a very good question why this is not being looked at more seriously. Scientists still know relatively little about hormones which makes it quite alarming that so many women are taking hormones for long, long periods.
It's certainly something I will be discussing with my DD when the time comes.
This is a very interesting topic and I agree with the OPs thoughts.
I think it may be linked in with the general approach that seems to happen a lot with women to do with reproductive type issues. A general minimisation of side effects, lack of warning of what might happen, dismissal of symptoms etc.
I had a mirena for a while and I had a host of stuff happen - of course much of it is subtle and you don't know for 100% that it's the mirena rather than a coincidence. But they stopped when I had it taken out.
Incidentally I had to have it out under a GA as the strings had vanished. That was a possibility that was definitely not mentioned to me at any point and yet the woman who first realised when doing a smear said "Oh you're the third this morning where the strings were awol". You'd think the possibility of having to have a GA to remove the thing would be raised - it doesn't sound like a rare occurrence.
Other side effects were permanent low level thrush and of course the ubiquitous low mood.
Also what bothers me is that with the fact they don't really know what tampering with hormones does beyond the immediate effect eg no periods. And yet it is deemed acceptable for females to be on hormones basically from the day they become fertile to the day they die. So never functioning in the way that "nature" intended IYSWIM.
While I think there are huge great things that hormone related drugs and treatments can do, I think there should be much more research into other ways of doing things.
I felt like no one would listen to me when I had issues with hormonal contraception. When I came off the pill after realising that my depression had got significantly worse since taking it, I wanted a copper coil and the GP kept insisting that I consider a Mirena right up until I had it fitted. This is despite the fact that I had broken down crying in the GP's office and have a history of depression.
I tried to commit suicide in my teens and I think that the first GP to prescribe the contraceptive pill should have told me that it could affect my mental health rather than try and sell it to me as practically side effect free.
Grimbletart - your daughter's experience soubds like it was exactly like mine. Black depression, inability to work (I think in addition to emotional effects, it has cognitive effects - I could not think properly), and complete loss of libido (I found a certain black humour in this - the pill's very high effectiveness compared to other methods is probably because you don't bloody want to have sex any more once you're on it). And I definitely found that my concerns were poo-pooed by health care professionals. I've since found out that something like 1 in 3 women are affected by depression while on the pill. But I think it's seen as acceptable collateral damage for making PIV sex easy. (Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of PIV, but I think there is a default societal assumption that any price is worth paying by women for a sex life that allows men to have PIV). The only other time I've found this level of disregard by HCP for my ability to form rational judgements about my own experience was as a new mother - if you tried to form an argument rationally, you were ignored, only losing the plot emotionally was recognised as an acceptable sign that something might be amiss over either your own or your child's health. It does feel like there's a common thread of dismissing women's health experiences as trivial or unimportant.
I am about a million times less stressed since having Mirena removed. It's like I have lost the pissed off gene. Have also rediscovered sex, well until getting pregnant again!
I most certainly think mental health is not considered as much as it should be when fecking about with our hormones.
Can you imagine if men were getting the same symptoms we get with hormonal contraception? Actually moody arses would probably be no different other than the sex thing!
It is a good point that if a treatment for men affected their sex drive / performance then it would be a side effect raised carefully with patients and I suspect not considered acceptable in something that was not for quite serious conditions.
The same most definitely does not apply to women. Loss of female sex drive / performance does not seem to be flagged up in the same way or treated as serious.
I think that has many reasons. One is that (I think) drugs used to be tested on men - and it was assumed that the results would apply to everyone - and of course they didn't. I think they found this out first when they tested some pain killers on women.
The second thing I wonder is if it ties in to the idea that sex for women is not that important to them and so it doesn't really matter, and that if their performance is affected (ability to become aroused / orgasm) then that doesn't actually mean sex can't take place. Whereas if a man can't get an erection / come then that is a pretty huge deal, seemingly.
I was on a drug recently which had a side effect of loss of interest / loss of ability to get aroused / near impossible to orgasm and it said in the bit of paper in the packet that might happen. BUT when researching on the net to find out more, many sites only said that men may experience loss of desire / inability to become aroused / inability to orgasm, and said nothing about that exact same side effect applying to women as well.
Thanks for this topic, OP. While I am sure some GPs are attentive to this issues, it is also my experience that the side-effects of hormonal contraception are largely ignored. My problem, however, was not mental health, but disappearing libido and weight gain. Every time I raised these matters with the family planning clinic, they just offered a different brand of pill, without any consideration for the hormone doses or reputation of the drug. At the end, I gave up the pill entirely and never looked back. I do believe that there is a lack of will in the medical community to discuss the effect hormonal contraception has on women. It would be interesting to see what happens when similar drugs become widespread among men (if ever).
Anecdotally it's interesting how many women on MN report telling their GP/HCP that they are having depression/mood swings/other mental health issues that have started since they started using [X] method of contraception who are told that there's no possible link even though the manufacturer's monograph clearly lists mental health issues among the known possible side-effects.
In turn that suggests that mental health side-effects are probably being under-reported under the Yellow Card scheme (IIRC you can self-report without going through a GP, but how many people actually do that?).
I don't think there is much regard for the mental or physical health of the woman where hormonal contraception is concerned. It's a disgrace.
I've always a feeling that the side effects and long term effects of hormonal contraception is swept under the carpet to an extent.
I can't imagine that any hormonal pill for men will be approved or if it was that many men would take it. My Mum used to say that the Pill was approved with very little testing, particularly of the effects of long term use. I found this paper which looks fascinating and I'll read it properly later:
And look at this:
I've never heard of her but this is fascinating!
The public can indeed report an adverse drug reaction via Yellow Card (although for some options like a coil it may need to be reported as a device rather than a medicine).
Very interesting topic.
From my own experience hormonal contraceptives seriously effect my mental health but doctors don't care/believe me.
I've often pondered wether gps get some kind of commission for fitting the mirena coil.
I've had many (gps) try to really 'push' it to me, despite my history of pnd.
I have tried just about every form of hormonal contraception and all have had a detrimental effect on my mh.
I am now using the copper coil and although my periods are hell on earth, at least I'm not an emotional wreck, with no sex drive.
I feel strongly that woman's reproductive health (especially pain management) are defiantly feminist issues.
I shudder every time I speak to a friend who has had a cs/ecs and hear that they have been left in agony, trying to pick up their newborns with no help from nursing staff!
It seems to me that a woman's pain, be it physical or emotional is nowhere near as important as a mans in society.
I think gps assume the benefits outweigh the unwanted side effects unless a patient says otherwise. I use condoms for this reason.
Barbara Seaman was talking about the pill's effect on mental health in 1969 according to this obituary:
She raised suicidal depression as a side-effect as well as the other, more familiar ones such as heart attack and thrombosis.
She was apparently blacklisted as a writer and pharma companies would pull their advertising from publications which printed her articles (according to wiki).
I came across this MN thread from 2011 where the question of GPs being obliged to push mirena was discussed.
And they are - obliged to, that is. There is a payment for the time it takes to fit the device but it seems more related to NICE guidelines around long term contraceptives.
Very interesting topic, I tried cerazette last year and it made me feel psychotic. I am it being dramatic. I was off the wall crazy. Stopped taking it and within days was back to myself.
I also think women's reproductive health and choices are dismissed too easily.
yes i think so i have asked for my implant to be taken out 3 times as i feel compulsed to cut it out myself, i feel it effects my life so much!! it definatly effects my mental health
Will they still not take it out confuddled, is it still there?
Is there anywhere else you can go a local clinic or somewhere who might be more prepared to listen? Another doctor at the practice?
As an aside, the mirena threads on here show many women who have had to really fight to get it taken out. That is just utterly wrong.
Yes OP, I think you are right and I think it is a feminist issue.
I would never go on hormonal contraception again. After my previous experience I simply don't trust it to be safe for my mental health, and it's just not worth the risk when there are so many other kinds of contraception easily available.
I've been off hormonal for a few years, the cerazette debacle aside, and apart from hideous periods feel better for it, but dh doesn't want the snip, and I have no rights over his body, but I can't cope with the monthly am I aren't I wait for my period so am going back to see the doctor. I do not want the coil, but am wondering about sterilisation. I have 2 ds and that's enough for me.
It's an interesting one. Having avoided hormonal contrception for 10 years I had a mirena coil fitted last year (not for BC but for a gynae condition) I was told it had none of the side effects other progesterone based contraceptives do.
I have bled very heavily for up to 8 weeks at a time with only a week of non-bleeding in between. At my 3 month check I brought up my concerns and was told it can take up to a year to 'settle down' (yippee).
More recently I've gained weight, have been suffering depressive episodes (have a history anyway), suicidal thoughts and extreme tiredness. This time the Dr I spoke to said while it is pushed as all singing all dancing it can actually have these side effects.
I have found that my concerns about hormonal BC have always been dismissed, the basic message being 'tough, it's this or nothing'
Wow, I wasn't expecting so many replies! Clearly it's a widespread problem.
What, if anything, could be done to tackle this? As Vivienne says, I think it's a total disgrace that so many instances and problems are being overlooked, especially if it's due to GPs and practices getting commission for fitting certain devices!
Surely patients' well-being has to come first!
Excellent thread OP. I have felt for many years that anything to do with periods,contraception,women's sex drives is regarded as an ''Oh Well'' by HCP. I started my periods at 11 years old and right from the first one I bled very heavily. I was prescribed the pill at 15 and suffered crippling headaches,years and different brands of pills/mirena/implanon later and although I have conceded that hormonal contraception does not work for me,I get the distinct impression that my HCP think I am being fussy. I have asked for a hysterectomy and been told no.
I am most probably unemployable by a company (I am a cm,at the moment,I would love to return to the workforce outside the home) as I would need constant toilet breaks for the first 4 days as well as prone to vomiting from the pain. Gynae issues have no doubt contributed to my depression and has made me terrified to leave my house in case I leak. And yet I have no real medical cause for a hysterectomy.
After my bad experience with the Pill, I decided a cap would be a good idea. So I went to my GP, who was the very wonderful and lovely Ann MacPherson (she co-wrote the Teenage Health Freak books) and started to outline all my reasons why I wanted a cap, and she just laughed and said, 'Which kind of contraception do YOU feel you want to use?'
It was a complete surprise to me (at the age of around 19) that I didn't have to justify my choice.
Fastforward 20 years, and I have several times had doctors/MWs etc insist on talking to me about contraception, because I have 3 kids (all planned....) and it seems to be in the Rules that they have to keep asking you about it in all these post-baby checks, and not ONCE have they been as open and woman-centred as Ann MacPherson was. They go on and on about hormonal contraception even though the first thing I always say is 'I'm fine with what I'm using atm, I don't want anything hormonal.' I have several times taken leaflets and promised to think about it just to shut them up.
They are definitely under pressure to prescribe hormonal things. Is it the drug companies? Does Ben Goldacre have anything to say about it in his Big Pharma book?
Stretchy, I'm so sorry to hear what you're having to go through - the same goes to everybody else who has had these problems too.
Even a quick Google search brings up hundreds of stories of women who have suffered mental health problems as a consequence of hormonal contraception. I feel completely appalled that pharmaceutical companies and even our own doctors are willing to push products with unknown or ignored consequences.
I also found out that Depo Provera was banned for a period (no pun intended) in the US, so that makes me feel really happy about having it in my body...
I pretty much wanted to die when I was on depo provera. when I finally made the link, I still had to wait 3mths for it to leave my system
This is so interesting. I gave up on hormonal contraception as it made me feel ill. What I have more experience of is IVF drugs. I can honestly say that I have never been the same since I started my first round of IVF.
I don't know if it's the psychological effect of that time of life, or if it's the medication. I can't keep hold of thoughts, I can't think clearly. It started from the first induced 'menopause'.
I feel my brain has been irreversibly 'spoiled', I used to be so bright and clear in my own head.
I've never been to the doctor about it as...who would I talk to? And what could be done? Nobody will ever tell me if this is a known side-effect (albeit a long-lasting one) and if it isn't, how can they investigate it?
Sorry to resurrect a 'zombie' thread, but I am the OP (completely pointless to have namechanged now, I know).
I just wanted to say that I wrote a short piece on this topic for the Vagenda blog/website, but they replied to me saying that they could not publish it as it was 'scaremongering' and that there was no proven link between artificial hormones and mental health issues. (In the 'article', I also tried to write a bit more widely on reactions to women's mental health, as it's an issue I feel strongly about)
I can see their point, but AIBU to feel annoyed that this issue is seemingly being overlooked by people who identify with feminism?
(Just going to do a little bump because somebody else is bringing up a lot of zombie threads tonight as well - sorry!)
Hi OP, thanks for resurrecting this as its interesting stuff. Clearly I don't know what your article was like, but could you try focussing on your personal experience? I think it would be hard for the editors to describe that as 'scaremongering' and many other women might click and realise what their contraception is doing to them.
I was put on the pill for my awful periods when I was 14, and came off for "a break" aged about 20, then back on a different pill til about 22. When I returned to it at about 24 it gave me this awful sense of detachment combined with incredible rage towards everyone. My boss, which was normal but also my lovely boyfriend, my friends and colleagues. I came off within a month as I truly felt like I was a completely different person. The really scary part was when I was saying how weird that the pill had never affected me before and I suddenly remembered just how negative I'd been for my final 2 years of university. It makes me really upset to think that I could have done so much better if I hadn't been on this dreadful stuff.
After having another year-long session on the pill recently, I have again come off after I began to feel as if every day was that pre- menstrual day where you just want to cry.
As well as the issues others have mentioned, I think there's a feeling of not wanting to look like these things have a bad effect on us, because it seems to be playing into all those "hormonal, eh?" jibes we get subjected to. Some women who don't experience bad periods or problems with the pill seem almost proud, as if they're outgrowing their biological weaknesses and we - poor fuckers - are not.
Quite possibly, I can only speak from my experience I can't have any horm, contraception makes me depressed, anaemic, nauseous , lethargic etc,
Its depressing the very limited amount of non hormonal , i use condoms now , If I used the copper and its a failure, I'm basically screwed. I don't want to just have to rely on condoms.
chaoshayley I don't know what vagenda is, but if it's a feministy blog thing I'm surprised at what they said.
I'm almost certain that all the hormonal contraceptives that I have used had depression down as a possible side effect. I don't have any in the house to check though. If you could show them that then maybe they would reconsider? I think it is a really valid point and bears talking about.
mirena website US here
Includes "depressed mood" and "nervousness" which is anxiety I guess.
Between 5% and 10% of Mirena users may experience:
Heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding.
Less than 5% of Mirena users may experience:
Breast pain or tenderness
Inflammation of cervix, vulva or vagina
Pelvic pain during your period
Decreased sex drive
Pain during intercourse
Unusual hair growth or loss
Skin irritations (such as hives, rash, eczema or itching)
Swelling of hands and feet
Seriously I am really surprised that they said "there is no proven link" when the drugs themselves declare it. And we know drug companies don't put down side effects unless they absolutely have to.
Who are Vagenda? They seem to have dismissed you out of hand for pretty spurious reasons if you ask me.
Chaos do you have your own blog. If you do and a twitter account we cold all link to it and get it out there.
When I started Uni I went on the pill, totally withdrew from social activities, felt like I was in a haze, like a great fog was around me. Cried a lot. Missed loads of lectures. Got into a few thousands of debt as couldn't stop spending (nothing to show for it). This carried on for about a year until one day I made the link in my head that I had felt fine before the pill, came off and within a week felt miles better.
When I discussed it with the nurse she chuckled about it. I felt like I was making a fuss out of nothing but actually that contraception ruined a year of my life.
The pill side effects I have looked at (just a couple and not full as on things like patient.co.uk and NHS all talk about "mood changes" or similar.
Would be interesting if anyone is on the pill on the thread to see what it says in the blurb in the packet.
There ^is" a proven link so why have these people said there's not? I don't get it.
Auntfini that's terrible. Why won't they take it seriously I wonder.
Interesting thread. Personally, I haven't had any problems with hormonal contraceptive and mental health (although I was constantly nauseous on the pill which affected it!). However a good friend of mine was incredibly depressed after going on the depo. It was very frightening to watch. Thankfully she made the connection quite quickly but as Branleuse said it can take a few months to work its way out of your system.
I agree with Mnachesterhistorygirl. If you have a blog chaoshayley we can get it out there through twitter/Facebook.
That's really odd of them. There are definitely known links. They do seem to go both ways, though - some people find their mood swings/depression gets better on some kinds of pill (I did, though - boo - I'm not allowed to take that one any more).
I hope you get somewhere with your article, because I do think it's something that isn't well understood/discussed enough.
And I think one of the reasons that this link isn't taken seriously or is dismissed, is because of misogyny. Women are thought to be a little bit 'hormonal' or 'loopy' or hypochondriacs anyway so what's a bit more of that in the mix And of course as others have said women's health isn't treated as seriously as men's.
I totally agree with that, scallops.
I think a lot of it is this 'but you have hormones sloshing about all the time! They make you mad and strange!' attitude. As if men don't have hormones, or as if somehow no-one need care about synthetic hormones because the real ones can be problematic too.
Take it a step back and you get to the Victorian attitudes about the 'curse of Eve' and how women really deserve to suffer because their bodies are fundamentally that way.
Thanks for all of the replies, everybody. It's good to know that somebody agrees with me that this is a serious issue which needs to be talked about.
Vagenda is essentially a 'humorous' feminist blog, so I can absolutely see their point that this is a bit too serious for them. But I was surprised that they called it 'scaremongering', because that absolutely wasn't how I intended it to come across. And mental health problems are scary, there's no avoiding that really, is there?
I do have a blog, but it's embarrassingly crafty/baking/DIY orientated. I'm thinking of writing a feministy one too, so we'll see how that goes.
I might spend some time having another edit of my piece, but in the mean time, how could we even begin to tackle this idea that women's MH issues can be easily dismissed because of, as LRD put it, the lady-hormones-sloshing-around thing?
Fascinating thread, prompted me to report an appalling side effect i've just had from taking Norethisterone.
I was taking it to avoid having a period while on holiday. My contraception for the past 8ish years has been the copper coil because of hormone probs.
This time i have been in completely unreasonable rages, been horribly weepy, and have wanted to self harm to release the stress (I didn't). Thankfully after coming off it the side effects are going, but i have had it before without this happening.
I really had to battle to get the copper coil though, the hard sell with Mirena was awful!
I don't take it anymore but I have an old packet of Mercilion in the cupboard (a combined pill) and just had a look at the patient info and it has depression or mood changes as a side effect. So depression on it's own, not just general mood changes. The other side effects are scary too (including Chorea, a condition of the nervous system causing involuntary jerky movements?! No one ever mentioned that one!). So yes it says in the blurb it can cause depression and it should be taken seriously.
Just checked microgynon. "Depressive moods or mood swings" experienced by between 100 and 1000 in 10000. This is described as "common". It's also not something the doctor mentioned when he prescribed it, even though I have a history of depression. Thanks for resurrecting the thread, it's made me think about switching to something non hormonal.
Thanks for adding the side effects to the thread, Makes the response from the other website even more bizarre. You'd think they'd check - or as women just know! - that those warnings were there!
I put my experience with the Mirena upthread - it was not good. Loads of threads on here about Mirena and terrible side effects which get dismissed by HCPs.
Is there are general feeling in society that women make things up for no apparent reason? Just thinking that the lack of belief that women with nasty side effects of hormonal contraception are met with is similar to the lack of belief when they come forward with other negative stories.
I think you could rework your article about the problem with treating women as adults around all sorts of health issues (coming off Lurcio's point: "The only other time I've found this level of disregard by HCP for my ability to form rational judgements about my own experience was as a new mother") and focus on this too.
I don't think I've ever gone for a contraception appointment and come out feeling anything other than humiliated/ patronised. I imagine men only get asked about their sex lives and general habits in that level of detail when they get a rash and have to go to the clinic.
O.P - as another idea, maybe you can offer it as a guest post on one of the MN feminist blogs.
I took Dianette for several years in my teens/early twenties and used to have really black moods during it. It wasn't until some time after I stopped taking it that I realised the impact it must have had on me.
I feel this is a hugely underreported and underdiscussed issue. Thanks for raising it.
Agree with this Lurcio's point that it also happens when taking children to the doctor. I found we were only taken seriously when DH took them. It's as though it must be serious if a man is worried, rather than just an 'over anxious mother'. I received similar paternalistic treatment with childbirth choices.
A friend of mine who wants to start a family but suffers from extreme anxiety and panic attacks around the issue of childbirth, was similarly fobbed off by doctors and told to go home and talk to her husband and family. Obviously she'd done that, she wanted professional advice about whether she would be able to have an elective C Section, what the options were etc - you know: practical, knowledgeable advice. Not to be told she was a silly girl who needs to talk to her mum.
I'm sorry this is a repeat of my posts above but I think it's important. My Mum always said that the pill was rushed onto the market with little testing. It's a touchy issue for feminists because the pill was such an important area for the women's movement in the 60s and 70s
and so important for increasing men's ability to get consequence-free sex .
However Barbara Seaman was talking about the pill's effect on mental health in 1969 according to this obituary:
She raised suicidal depression as a side-effect as well as the other, more familiar ones such as heart attack and thrombosis.
She was apparently blacklisted as a writer and pharma companies would pull their advertising from publications which printed her articles (according to wiki).
From my experience I would not use hormonal contraceptives or HRT. The possibility of depression has never been mentioned to me by any doctor but it's clearly a real possibility. I'm very disappointed, disturbed even, that a feminist blog would say you are scaremongering. Even though this is a difficult subject for feminists, we can't turn away from it.
I also read (and have experience myself) that the pill changes your sense of smell. It can affect the type of man you are attracted to and how you react. It really can have an effect on women's lives. For the first few weeks after coming off the pill I couldn't believe how strong everything smelt. I kept on asking DH what the smells were and if it was normal! He thought I was mad!
I've been discussing this with my friends for decades and we believed it to be a great conspiracy / cover up!!
I'm now 40 and have refused the pill since my late 20s after being plunged into horrendous depression about 4 times on different brands. The pattern is that I actually feel fantastic for 3 months and then a debilitating panicky paranoid depression follows and only lifts when I stopped taking it. It lifts almost imediately. I've told various GPs, including women, who have dismissed my depression as co-incidence and unproven. I am convinced though and I will never risk the mirena coil though I've heard some women consider it a wonder drug.
I've read on MN that in other European countries blood tests are done to hormonally match you to your contraceptive which I think shows not everyone should be given it?
Dark dark days on the pill. I wasn't great ante nataliy either.
I also had zero libido and altered sense of smell.
In the last couple of years I feel like everything is smelly (especially me!).
I put it down to changes due to childbirth - I think your sense of smell gets more acute when you are pg and I thought maybe it had sort of carried on.
Reading that though I realise I was on the pill for about 15 years up to when I wanted to get pg, then mirena which disagreed with me after the babies, and this new aromatic lifestyle probably ties in with us using condoms.
I always wondered why I didn't think cigarettes smelt too bed / couldn't smell them on me or other people, when many others thought they stank
The problem with all of this stuff is - it' subtle - long term - slow changes. Not as cut and dried as "I did this and this happened". eg with the Mirena I thought it was OK but had a couple of concerns, it wasn't til it came out that loads of stuff suddenly wasn't bothering me any more. Like constant low-grade thrush.
Also the point about scenting out mates - I saw that program too - if the pill does alter how women scent mates then that is a huge problem as there is a reason that we sniff each other out.
"It is a good point that if a treatment for men affected their sex drive / performance then it would be a side effect raised carefully with patients and I suspect not considered acceptable in something that was not for quite serious conditions."
To be fair it's not. antidepressants can significantly affect us in that area and it gets no mention by the doctors, but it's on the leaflets.
and by "significantly" i mean potential for the old fella never to rise again.
This thread is very interesting.
I was rather impatiently dismissed a number of years ago when discussing this with my doctor. But I've always suspected it and coming off the pill to TTC confirmed it beyond doubt. There is no way I would consider going back now, we use condoms and I'm encouraging DH to find a more reliable solution of his own now that we've had DC2.
It affects me quite badly, paranoia and anxiety are high. DH and I no longer have the crazy arguments we had when I was on it, either.
Interesting topic. I am always amazed by how cavalier so many women are with their health when it comes to contraception. The leaflet inside the packet lists all the side effects and they are not good. I haven't used hormonal contraception in years, for that very reason.
My 'DH to be' read the leaflet inside my pack of pills when we got together in our early 20s and was horrified that I would take such health risks when barrier methods are available that don't mess with your hormones & health.
Reader - I married him. As a young man of 23 he could see it was unnecessary health risk - why do so many women not show the same respect for their bodies? - and why don't their partners?
I think this issue definitely deserves a mumsnet campaign. I personally didn't have much issues yet with contraception except with the implant which was horrible and almost made me anaemic.
Could I just ask, for those who don't use hormonal contraception, what do you use? I really want to give up the pill but I don't like the idea of the coil. Are things like the cap effective? Is anyone relying on the calendar method?
DH & I have used condoms successfully throughout our 20 year marriage. Never had a contraceptive failure, conceived easily when we wanted to. They are very good if used properly. We have good, regular sex.
Personally, now our family is complete & we are older I would quite like DH to get the snip so we don't even have to bother with condoms. But he is squeamish about the idea and I respect his body choices as much as he respects mine, so condoms it is.
We use condoms.
I did use persona years ago and have DS to show for it!
I feel strongly about this because most men , it would seem , don't like using condoms. Because it dosn't feel as nice. Well no but the pill makes me psychotic. Nowadays if someone dosn't use condoms until I'm sorted they can piss off. The pressure to go on the pill normally strts early; after about 3 dates. Why can't they design a pill for men for example?
So what choices of non-hormonla contraception do we have? Condoms, copper coil....female condom?
Agree totally, super.
I don't entirely know why diaphragms have gone out of fashion - I expect they're just too fiddly. But it does annoy me when blokes say they 'can't' use a condom.
OTOH it's not perfect and if you use them, you have to be prepared to swing into action with the morning-after pill if need be.
I would love to see a MN campaign. Something that bugs me is that I (like lots of people) can't use microgynon because the risks for people who get aura migraines include stroke and death. My first issue with this isn't a mental health one - but I'd say roughly 50% of GPs I've met didn't know this and prescribed it anyway. But the second issue is with mental health. Microgynon makes me feel a huge amount better mentally - it is amazing. So clearly there is something hormonal going on, which isn't - so far as I know - being properly researched.
This is a really interesting thread.
I've just decided to stop taking the pill after ten years, seven of which were on Yasmin and the last three on the mini pill after my migraines started getting much worse. Planning to chart cycles and use condoms. I'm just fed up of putting hormones into my body without even thinking about it. My side effects weren't even bad compared to many people - weight gain, spots and a loss of libido.
I don't intend to tell my GP either because I know I'll get a telling off for stopping the pill and have the implant or coil thrust upon me, which I really don't want.
I also think a campaign would be a great idea. It seems the vast majority of us just take it as read that we'll go on the pill. The risks and side effects were never once discussed with me at appointments.
I agree too super
All contraception carries negatives. For who, though? Mustn't interfere with sexual enjoyment, especially for men. That is such a grimly tenacious meme in society. For the sake of clarity, I feel compelled to add I'm not just a feminist pruderist (or whatever that stupid word was)
It's almost a right of passage to go on the pill in a newish relationship, it's making a statement that it's getting serious.
Weight gain - now that's an interesting one too. For all sorts of reasons.
I wonder would it have anything to do with this obesity epidemic I hear so much about?
Also, I wonder if it's true that all the artificial hormones being excreted is ending up in the water table and affecting the general population? Thereby adding to the obesity problem among the general population - not to mention other environmental effects.
I could well be talking bollox here.
Well, I think women are to blame as well as men. Why do you unquestioningly go on the pill? Why do you choose men that expect it?
Women are capable of reading the health risks inside the packets for themselves and making their own decisions.
We've used condoms for years and I bet lots of other women could, but they haven't. Their body, their choice.
Well, yes, of course everyone can read the inside of the packets. But most people don't, it seems, they just assume it will be fine. Why is that? that's what we are trying to get at. Cultural messages are strong and definitely influence that, imo.
You could have a point, Sal. I certainly don't think you could say it has no impact.
ithaka I don't know if it's a question of women choosing men who expect it, although I'm sure that may be true in some cases. I started taking the pill as a teenager and when I made an appointment to talk about it my GP said 'Okay, I'll put you on the pill.' That was it. I had to bring up the fact I suffered from migraine with aura. At that time I think it wasn't considered a problem to take the combined pill. I think in a lot of cases the decision is made when a woman is very young and after several years, it's just what you do.
Everyone certainly can't read the inside of the packet!
That's a huge issue.
My mum has worked with women who are illiterate, and often there is very little provision for them.
There are also many, many people who do not know they are not understanding what they read.
It is incredibly problematic to assume that all women are nice, well-informed, well-educated types.
There is also the issue of weighing up risks. I am literate, but if my GP prescribes me a pill, and the risks of that pill include death, how do I know how high that risk is, and whether or not that pill is seriously something I shouldn't take? That is not my job.
I think there is also a secondary issue, that we're not really encouraged to try to educate ourselves. I can understand that for medics, it must be very tedious to be constantly faced with 'well I looked on google and ...' or 'well google says my diagnosis is ...'. But many women (and men) feel intimidated by doctors and unable to challenge them, or even to ask for clarification. Many women are simply not told that the side-effects are avoidable. More worrying, some doctors do not realize that some side-effects are avoidable.
That's true of course LRD regarding illiteracy, showing my nice educated privilege there
Back when I was a newly-wed 23 year old I had a few issues with breakthrough bleeding and irregular bleeding on the pill. This happened with 3 types of pill and I told my (old-fashioned male GP) who advised me to get pregnant!
I'd never mentioned the possibility of wanting a baby (I didn't!) and didn't think it was his place to say that. Basically I think he wanted rid of me.
FWIW, fast-forward 10 year or so and my DH is a GP. He has told me that the NHS has a drive to push long-lasting contraception - coils, implants - as they are cheaper.
Agreed LRD completely. I think it is dangerous to blame women when even the medical professionals are minimising or ignoring the symptoms even when a woman is explaining what is happening to her.
I see the issue for maginalised women, but surely most women are reasonably intelligent and can read. It seems a bit insulting to women to suggest otherwise. You don't need to Google - the information is all in the packet.
Perhaps if women who could read took the time look at their medication packet, it would free up GPs time to focus on the marginalised women who can't do that.
I don't want or need extra looking after because I am a woman and therefore, it appears, need a GP to read out the information inside a packet of pills for my benefit.
Plus people equate the leaflet with 'Caution: May Contain Nuts' on the side of a packet of peanuts. Meaningless legelese. That ties into the point about risk asessment mentioned above, it's the doctor's job and if s/he can't be bothered raising the (possible) issues people conclude the risks are, in actuality, negligable
sal, it was ithaka's post I was thinking of. Not having a go.
But I am going to bang on about it, boringly, because it really worries me.
If you think about all the subsections of the population who might no cope with medicine instructions, it is pretty shocking. Of course if you are able to read and understand the instructions, you have a responsibility to read them. But it doesn't take us far enough.
To be honest, it has always been easier for educated middle/upper class women to get decent contraception. It was women like that who got into the Marie Stopes clinic by knowing that it existed and how to flash their wedding rings. It used to be that divorce was only really available to the very rich.
The basic issue of how contraception affects women's mental health won't go away if we focus on how middle-class Western women could chivvy their GPs. We need a change of attitude, such that it's no longer acceptable to suggest that most women should really just put up and consider themselves lucky.
I have no intention of 'insulting' women. I am merely pointing out that your generalization is way off. Which it is.
A minority of women are educated enough to second-guess medics.
A larger number of women can read and understand the instructions on a pill packet, I agree. But since the issue here is not the simple 'how many do I take per day' but the rather more specialized issue of mental health, I think it matters to acknowledge both that some women literally can't read the info, and that many of us are not equipped to understand it to the level of second-guessing medics.
Agree, LRD. I also think many people, myself included, tend to read leaflets like that with the assumption the side effects won't happen to me.
You don't have to second guess medics. The leaflets don't just include instructions, they also list possible side effects. If you experience any of these side effects, stop taking the pills. It is hardly rocket science, is it? The pills are not necessary medication, safe forms of contraception are available.
Oh, I certainly do that, wasa.
But I mean, also - if it says 'risk of stroke', that is very scary. But that is in the small print of a lot of medicines. For me, microgynon has enough of an increased risk of stroke that I mustn't take it. But I am not a medic, so I don't know how to calculate those risks. FWIW they're associated with what's called aura migraine, but if you've never been diagnosed with that, how do you know?
Of course you try to take some responsibility. But I think it's not really sensible to make out that most women can act as GPs. If we could I'm sure we'd all be earning a lot more!
When I was on the pill, reading the packet wouldn't have done anything. I was barely functioning in terms of caring about myself as I was in a black hole of depression, going to bed each night wishing I wouldn't wake up in the morning. I'd been prescribed it to help with PCOS symtoms and I was a teenager so I didn't question it. Nor had I ever heard about pill-related depression. I'd had a big life change around the same time and gone away to university and I never for a moment linked what I was feeling to being on the pill.
BTW, I've been on the pill twice for 9 months at a time in my teens/very early 20s. I've been depressed twice, both during those periods, never at any other time in my life.
I know LRD.
It annoys me tbh when people think a few hours googling is the equivalent to 10 yrs studying medicine. Most people don't think that, and tend to trust their doctors' judgement over their own in medical matters. Fair enough, I think
ithaka, it doesn't really work like that.
Side effects are unpleasant, but I am fairly sure that if I experience the side-effect of stroke and death, I wouldn't be in the ideal position to 'stop taking it'.
I also think it's very dubious when the side-effects are mental health ones - someone with depression or anxiety, let alone psychosis, is already disadvantaged when it comes to assessing the situation. The medic should be much better placed to help, in that case.
sin - my GP this morning told me 'your friends are obviously right' when I told him what MN said.
So obviously it can help. I am not knocking all GPs, not at all.
'Risk of stroke' was the very side effect that stopped me taking the pill - and I am not in a high risk group. It just seemed mad to me to increase my risk of stroke when I didn't need to and could choose a barrier method instead.
I was able to reach this conclusion and act on it in my early 20s with no medical training. Honestly, sometimes I feel like I must be a different species to other women when I read these threads.... I am sure most women are more capable than you give them credit for - or I am a freak of nature.
I can totally understand choosing not to take something for fear of the risks.
But what you said upthread is not quite the same.
What you actually said was if you experience side effect, then you might make a decision. Obviously, this isn't easy if you're dead, stroked out, or busy sinking into depression.
It may be that you are very bright and aware - which is lovely, of course. You may very well be almost a different species from other women because of your abilities and your good fortune in finding GPs who were happy to accept your feelings.
But since other women are not entirely like you, perhaps it is worth taking our experiences into consideration too?
Just to add another anecdote of personal experience. I had the implant a few years ago (heavily pushed by my GP) I didn't like it because of constant low level bleeding plus total loss of libido. When I told my (female) GP about the libido thing she totally dismissed it, "Well you're a Mother with 2 children, what do you expect?" It took me ages to get the implant taken out because I couldn't get an appointment long enough with the only GP in the practice qualified to take them out.
In the end dh had the snip and I came off hormone contraception altogether, the difference is miraculous and has made a huge improvement to our relationship.
Loss of libido is seen as such a minor thing for a woman, specifically a Mother, but it's such a big factor in quality of life and relationships.
Agree, think there is a certain disregard, yes. Old fashioned notions of hysteria dominated early views on MH in women and don't believe they've entirely been eradicated.
Fact that medication is rarely tested on women of childbearing age, for understandable reasons, doesn't help overall.
That's crap, prof.
It reminds me of trying to explain to a GP (not my current one!) that the pill he'd put me on took away my sex drive. His response: 'but is your husband interested?'
LRD, I didn't need a GP to 'accept my feelings' - honestly, women can come of the pill without anyone's permission - barrier contraception is available from any supermarket, chemist and pub vending machine.
Obviously other women are not like me if they cannot act on their own agency & just come off the pill themselves. However, I am still firmly of the belief that there are many capable women out there, I cannot be alone.
Look at the trouble people have trying to get their Mirenas removed. You can't just yank it out yourself
Yes, women can come off the pill.
But in order to get a prescription for medicine, you need to convince a GP. Barrier contraception is not suitable or affordable for all women.
I didn't realize you were simply talking about coming off the pill. Of course, it's true that anyone can choose to do that. But it rather fudges the issue, because for most women, some form of proper, affordable contraception is still needed, isn't it?
No-one has suggested you are alone in being an intelligent, capable young woman, with as wide an experience of contraception as you have.
But it is fair enough to be concerned about the needs of women who perhaps aren't as well educated as you, a confident as you, as financially ok as you, who perhaps actually need some form of contraception when they come off the pill, other than condoms? Who perhaps do suffer the side effects you were fortunate enough not to suffer, and who could do with being told that these are not something they should simply suffer in silence?
I have no idea what a mirena is, as I haven't used hormonal contraception for over 20 years, but surely if you ask for it to be removed, it will be removed? Or do they make you keep it in against your will? How did it get there in the first place? It all sounds like an experience to be avoided.
Oh, I see, you are remarkably educated.
Condoms can be got free from most clinics - but they are pretty cheap from supermarkets and I am not sure why you would need another form of contraception? They are reliable & safe with no side effects. I suppose you could go for a cap - again, these are not hard to access, I got one at 17 but didn't like it. You don't need to be any more intelligent and capable than the average human being to get your hands on safe contraception. Why women don't is a mystery.
Condoms are not suitable for everyone, and have some side effects, although these are rare.
'Pretty cheap' is unfortunately not quite the same as free.
I understand that if you are well off, these are small considerations.
I don't really see why it is ok to write off people who're less intelligent or capable than 'the average human being'? You realize 50% of people are less intelligent or capable than 'average', right?
It's no mystery why women don't get decent contraception, though. It's also not really to do with being super-brilliant. It's to do with the fact that, as people have explained, it is often not the top priority of medicine to provide this to women.
Probably just a bit thick. Or maybe there is more to it? I vote the latter
ProfYaffle I had almost identical experience with implant. GP basically said that as a mother of 2 children it wasn't a surprise that I had no libido, and suggested it could be undiagnosed PND (youngest was 2.5yrs at the time.
Very interesting - at the end of school beginning of uni I knew so many pple affected badly by the pill - I decided never ti use it - I've always used condoms and it has been fine.
I'd also consider using the morning after pill if there was anything wrong with a condom.
Why don't more couples use condoms?
'Pretty cheap' is not the same as free, but you can get condoms free. I don't think condoms are any harder to access than the pill (or mirena or whatever), so you can't suggest that you need to be well off to get safe contraception because you don't.
Why don't more couples use condoms?
I have no idea - we've use them for years and reading this thread makes me very glad I have avoided all the hormone horror stories. It is a real mystery to me why women take potentially dangerous hormones they don't need.
Many people don't like the feel of condoms.
there's also something rather teenagerish about them, I think?
I mentioned above that giving up the condoms and switching to the pill is a bit of a rite of passage to show your relationship is getting serious. I see that quite a bit.
Of course women can take themselves off the pill. I did. That's not the point.
The point is I came off the pill for the final time because I linked it with a severe depression. I shared this with my Various GPs and the link was dismissed.
Yet clearly I'm not alone in making that connection so there isn't enough research being done and warnings about mental health risks.
I know you can get condoms free, ithaka, but you were suggesting before that this was about coming off the pill and onto something else, which - as I said - requires convincing your GP.
Of course, you may be able to drive around scouting out well-woman clinics for free condoms, but probably, if you are a normal person, what happens is that you're prescribed the bog-standard pill. And then you feel shit. And if you are lucky, you are able to realize there may be an issue here, and you go to the GP. Who may tell you it is simply to be expected. You may, if you're lucky and persuasive, get put on alternative contraception. Which may once again be shit.
You are assuming everyone is both fortunate, and almost psychically well informed about how the risks will play out in their own life.
That is the issue here.
You need to take into account the normal circumstances of peoples' lives, not the tiny percetage who are very lucky.
It is funny the teenagerish thing though - I don't really tell people we still use condoms.
Mind you as I'm bfing I don't really feel like sex
Oddly enough, I used condoms as a teenager because my mum refused to take me to the GP for a pill prescription, which in my social circle was the teenage rite of passage.
I was certainly made to feel, thereafter, that I'd been deeply irresponsible to use condoms.
I don't think that helps either.
As a previous poster has said, I tried Cerazette and it made me feel psychotic within 10 days of taking it. It was given to me to try to cure my post natal depression. Went from very down to violent. Doctor totally disbelieved me a s told me to persevere. So I stopped taking the pull, stopped talking to GP and luckily managed to slowly dig myself out of my hormonal hell.
I honestly don't think you have to be 'very lucky' to get hold of condoms - they are flinging them about free at my local college at the moment.
But why deeply irresponsible for using condoms.
What about stds - why not just telling kids to use condoms.
I really don't get it nor the rite of passage stuff....
Ah, well, you see, like a lot of adult women, I'm not at college.
vix, I've had a much milder, but similar, experience with cerazette. Horrible.
Sorry to hear what happened with you, that sounds really scary.
mot - god, I wish I knew!
It really pisses me off, in retrospect. Irresponsible message at best.
These replies are all really interesting and I would be really interested in getting involved with a MN campaign.
To those saying, just stop taking the pill, it isn't that simple. I used the Depo Provera injection and so I have to wait for that to leave my body for the side effects to ease. It doesn't just disappear the day after you're supposed to get the top-up, IYSWIM.
SinisterSal, the rite of passage thing is exactly how I would describe my experience. I think that it's something that so many teenage girls do in order to 'prove' how serious their relationship is and how they are becoming adults - which of course they are. But there doesn't seem to be adequate support from lots of GPs when it all goes tits up.
If I had £1 for every time I was told to 'wait and see if everything will settle down in six months', I wouldn't be a millionaire but I'd be significantly richer!
I'll always wonder if I lost part of my twenties to the pill, in a slow-burn kind of way. The full-blown depressive episodes I'm not sure about because mostly there were external triggers (though obviously the pill could have made me more susceptible). But that abiding sense of anxious fog I used to have the whole time, and being constantly tired and weak and unable to plan things. Almost ME like symptoms, but not as extreme.
It started to lift almost as soon as I came off the pill at the beginning of this year, after 15 years. Lots of people find they are happier in their 30s than their 20s, but I feel physically better and fitter and more in touch with the world as well, like my body's just woken up. I get a glimmer, these days, of what it would have felt like to be fit and strong and fearless like this - but ten years younger, with even more physical and mental capacity and a whole bunch of things in life still to play for.
That can't be right.
We use condoms now and it was weird at first I suppose but now I love them. The best part IMO is no 'mess' if you know what I mean. No idea why people don't see them as long term. It's a shame. The failure rate is actually very similar to the pill if used correctly and I think you are more likely to notice a split condom and take the MAP then a pill failure which you have no idea about until you are pregnant. We use Pasante condoms, they are half the price of Durex and free from family planning. Maybe the issue is GP's should prescribe condoms too? Can they? Then it might not be always just default to the pill.
We also use condoms now and haven't had any problems unlike microgynon which I took religiously in my early twenties and fell pregnant on
I'd also be interested if mn had a campaign on this issue.
Lots of men, and indeed quite a few women, dislike using condoms. Which is not a reason not to use them, but it's a factor in one's decision making.
Feeding all the different factors affecting contraception choice into a mental model is really complicated, even for highly educated and intelligent people. It would be nice if the medical profession recognised this, and if more research was done on the various side effects and their likelihood.
I don't think MN will do a campaign about this issue, though, it's too complex. Very understandably they like having a straightforward key message.
Ah, well, you see, like a lot of adult women, I'm not at college.
The point I was making is that condoms are easy to get hold of, not that you had to be at college to get them. Surely you understood that? So why make that comment?
You need to normalise condoms again I suppose. There is an idea they get in the way or spoil things which is not helpful. Showing them more in the media would help as would there use in porn (as much as I dislike porn). If condoms were the norm and hormonal methods were there for people who couldn't /didn't want to use them, that would really help I think.
Hmm, I agree, Mooncup, and I think that perhaps that's one of the reasons Vagenda weren't interested.
It's such a complex topic because everybody's experiences are different and so there are bound to be too many off-shoots to make it a straightforward, more 'streamlined' campaign.
Other than a couple of attempts at the pill (after the one linked to depression in my twenties, I was persuaded to give it another go in my thirties on the basis that pills had improved - they hadn't for me, I just got depressed again), I've used condoms or the diaphragm. The latter is good, but if my sister's experience and that of other women I know is anything to go by, I'd file it under "family size reduction methods" rather than "contraception". You seem to end up with an accidental pregnancy somewhere along the line if used for a long time (it's official failure rate when used correctly was 95% back when I was using it in the late 80s).
As far as I'm aware, getting free condoms where I live involves an appointment at the gruesome sexual health clinic, which is unpleasant and a major hassle if you work full time.
"There is an idea they [condoms] get in the way or spoil things which is not helpful." - but there is some truth to this idea, surely, at least from my experience. Condoms aren't great, but other forms of contraception aren't great either. It's a balancing act.
Perhaps we should all avoid PIV or become political lesbians.
I think normalising condoms is a good idea - judging by LRD's comments, who seems to think they are far harder to access for adult women than they are.
I am sure you can get free condoms from the GP surgery - ask your nurse.
They are not perfect - I wish DH would get the snip - but they are a least worse choice if you don't want to use hormones.
ithaka - but they're not that easy to get for free. That's the point I was making, which you surely understood?
Plus the point, which several of us have been making, that many women don't know to ask for condoms, and it mightn't be the right choice.
I think condoms are great, and there's much less need to worry about them than other forms of contraception.
But the issue isn't, 'condoms versus the pill', it is, why don't women have better access to decent advice and education on the effects of contraception on mental health? Why do so many of us have experience of being prescribed something that was bad for us, with our concerns dismissed? Why do so many doctors believe (and even get taught) that these 'side effects' are either unavoidable, or something women should really expect? Why are there not better options?
ithaka, forgive me, but a minute ago you didn't even know what one of the common contraceptives was. I don't really think you know what you're talking about with access to condoms. And you're not listening when people tell you, are you?
I think you are determined to argue with me LRD, when I thought this was a discussion. I won't forgive you, as you haven't actually apologised for anything. I don't think there is any need to be so combative when people are discussing their contraceptive choices - and I certainly don't feel that you have really listened to me, just tried to pick my posts apart and point score.
You even called me a 'young woman' in one post - patronising, much? I am probably older than you.
I don't need to apologize.
I disagree with you, and I think you're being a bit sly with your arguments, claiming one thing then pretending you claimed something else.
I'm sorry if it comes across as combative, but you come across as pretty rude yourself, belittling women who you don't deem to be as intelligent as you.
LRD, Mooncup and ithaka, I can second the 'gruesome sexual health' clinic. Absolutely grim experience - was a hormonal, anxious mess and, as the clinic only did drop-ins, I had to wait for two and a half hours to be seen, even though the waiting room was far from full and we could all see the staff doing nothing behind the desk. When I was eventually seen, I had to endure being patronised and talked down to, all in order to get 10 free condoms (which were banana flavoured, if that makes any difference).
Never again. I would much rather pay in a supermarket than set foot in that clinic, so making out that free condoms are so easy for every woman to come by is simply untrue, in my experience.
Not sure I fancy banana condoms!
But good point - I know loads of teenagers who would simply end up leaving in that situation. Of course we could berate them, imply they're a bit stupid and irresponsible - but what would that solve?
They smelt gross and DP loathes banana anyway, so the whole thing was pointless!
I must have been about 17 or 18 at the time and felt that I couldn't leave, even after being kept waiting so long because A, there was nowhere else that I knew of that provided the same service in my town and B, as you say, I felt that that would have been irresponsible.
So the whole contraception business is a pretty difficult thing for teenagers to negotiate, even if you do decide to go down the non-hormonal route.
LRD, I accept your apology for being combative - it is not appropriate when someone has opened up about their contraceptive choices, but I can forgive and move on.
I have never belittled women I didn't deem to be as intelligent as me - my very point was I did not understand why women, who I tend to assume are intelligent, make contraceptive choices that could damage their health.
Unpleasant clinics have now been suggested as a possible reason. Is that the only reason?
I can quite imagine, chaos. The sexual health clinic I visited (in an attempt to get a diaphragm, which they then lost before I could pick it up) seemed designed both aesthetically and organisationally to make us clients feel consumed with shame and regret at our wanton sex lives.
Generally I think that any argument condemning large sections of society for being stupid is misconceived. As a modern society we should be able to set up systems that work for people of all levels of intelligence and education.
I'm not sure some Doctors even know the pill has side effects. My GP for example, when I had a very scary experience whilst on the pill where one side of my face went numb and I couldn't speak, never suggested it might be the pill. Even though she prescribed it for me. Even though circulation problems are an acknowledged side effect. It's like the pill is seen as just normal - not even like a drug. It's just what you take, it can't be the problem. I wonder if you had side effects on any other drug would they listen too or just dismiss? The cavalier attitude to hormonal contraception is very scary.
I haven't touched hormones since that episode and thankfully haven't had another event. After I had DD I went to family planning, told nurse about numb face experience. She nodded, wrote it down and suggested .... the pill!. They don't seem to know the contraindications themselves.
That is gracious of you, and I'm grateful to you for recognizing you were being inappropriate too.
Your posts were most certainly belittling women, IMO. I and other actually had to point out to you the implications of your claims that 'everyone' could read a packet.
These things matter really quite a lot.
If you re-read the thread, you will see many suggestions other than unpleasant clinics have been made, so obviously they are not the only reason.
bubble - my mate has been training as a doctor (qualified a year ago), and it has been fascinating seeing what he is and isn't taught! He was really shocked at how brief some of their training was, when in other areas it was extremely detailed.
So yes, I can believe some doctors don't really have the side effects at the top of their mind when they prescribe.
I suffered horrible mood swings after going on the mini pill (some 25 years ago now) and it wasn't mentioned to me as a side effect. In fact (and I remember discussing this with some friends who were also discovering sex/contraception as we'd all been given the same message and we were all a bit puzzled by it) the Dr told me that 'the risks of NOT taking the pill are far more serious'. We came to the conclusion that they thought of getting pregnant is an absolute catastrophe (and to be fair at the time it wouldn't have been ideal) and no other kind of contraception could be as effective as the pill. I felt sooo much better when I came off it in TTC and have never gone back.
One thing re. the hideous grim clinics - in the late 80's many of my drama group friends were gay and I was rather jealous of the fact that in every bar in Old Compton Street there would be a huge basket of condoms on the bar, free for all, and people would come around promoting safe sex and handing them out to everyone. It seemed slightly unfair that heterosexuals had to go to the grim clinics/pay at the chemists...
as an absolute catastrophe, that should read...
I was just reading an article, maybe via mn ?, on how development of a male contraception was/would be rejected for this very reason.
It bothers me that woman are expected to carry the burden for 2 long. After 2 DC and wanting no more I asked my then P to consider a vasectomy. He was very upset. Bastard
I am with LRD here, ithaca. I've found your posts dismissive, insulting and blaming of women. The medical profession don't treat the symptoms seriously. How on earth are untrained women expected to assess the risks for themselves?
And when certain types of contraceptive are pushed and the considerable benefits (in the medical professionals eyes) explained to women, the choices they have are immediately loaded. The information out there isn't unbiased.
There is a thing here which is making me feel uncomfortable.
How many people read and digest the side-effects and warnings on things like aspirin, paracetamol, lemsip, ibuprofen. And read "risk of fits / seizures / death" or something else dire and think "oh well that sounds awful I won't be taking that ever".
Answer is of course very very few people, and the ones who do are arguably a bit neurotic. The contraceptive pill is in the same bracket as these - everyday drugs that are used in a very widespread way by huge amounts of people. And so no of course women don't read "risk of depression" and think Oh shit I won't take that in the same way they don't read "risk of death" on a packet of paracetamol and decide to do without.
Add to that the position in society - which has for decades been that the pill is THE easy, safe, effective way of preventing unwanted pregnancy.
AND that the doc dishes it out without a by your leave even when contra-indicated if this thread is anything to go by.
AND that many start taking the pill very young - 14 onwards - I started at 16 as did most girls I know - not a time of life when you have much awareness of your own mortality as you are still very young and positive.
AND the fact that many boys/men subtly or not so subtly pressure their partners into taking the pill.
And what have you got? You've got everyone on the pill and NOT because women are stupid and reckless and cavalier with their own health or whatever the accusation was.
This thread is about how medical professionals often dismiss women and girls who complain about side effects from the hormonal contraception they are on. About how they are not listened to and the drive towards more and more hormonal contraception seems to be going ahead without any real consideration or studies into all of these experiences that women are having. That is the conversation here, not whether women are thick.
I don't know I put it very well, but I certainly wasn't trying to argue that women are thick. I'm saying I don't think anyone should expect women will read and understand that info the way a medic will. I'm not even sure some GPs read it the way a person who specializes in depression might, because GPs are trained in a system that also tends to minimize the importance of women getting 'side effects' of contraception.
I rang my doctor today to make an appointment to have a copper coil fitted. "No problem," the doctor said, "but why don't you want the mirena?" This is bothering me, and I'm having trouble articulating precisely why. I was very clear and specific: "I'd like to make an appointment to have a copper coil fitted." If she'd questioned why the copper coil in particular, I'd have happily explained: microgynon's having a detrimental effect on my mental health; cerazette made me bleed for the entire nine months I was on it, and I was told this was something I simply had to persevere through; depo-provera was the same; my vagina is under the impression that thrush is the appropriate response to condoms. I'm just left with this vague idea that the mirena is the contraceptive I ought to be taking, and I'm deviating from the norm by wanting something non-hormonal.
Good posts LRD & NiceTabard.
I think there's been some deliberate misunderstandings / gaslighting going on
No I knew what you were saying.
Plenty of people are illiterate.
Plenty of people will accept a prescription from the GP and take the tablets and not read the insert, they will believe that the doc is acting in their best interests and trust them to tell them if there are any likely risks.
Plenty of people will have a look but not get far along with the tiny writing and the medical lingo. "Contra-indications" being a good example.
And there is nothing wrong with trusting your doctor, and not researching everything to the nth degree. That is actually normal behaviour.
The problem comes when the medical profession let people down as seems to be happening with this hormonal contraception issue.
Yeah, that's absolutely true.
I think there's the perception that we're terribly lucky to have contraception at all and should really feel grateful. And I do. But I don't usually have to spend 10 minutes in awed gratitude every time I pop a paracetamol for a headache, and I'd be expected to make a fuss if it didn't do the job for me, if only so that eventually the complaints would get back to the pharma companies who develop these things.
I experimented with a variety of rubbish contraception in my 20s and early 30s, then decided the only thing for me was celibacy. It's the least hassle and most effective of all. Obviously it's not for women that really love sex or need to hang onto their man, but is is an option for some. I don't miss sex at all. As a single mum the worst thing I could possibly do (in the eyes of many) is get pregnant again. Sex would never be worth the risks for me.
I had no idea the pill had these side effects! I have never taken any hormonal contraception, only ever used condoms as the idea of playing with my hormones, cycle etc feels wrong (this is absolutely NOT a judgement on anyone else BTW, purely a manifestation of my huge anxiety issues which often focus on health)
Further to NiceTabard's point, I remember reading the side effects list for Microgynon most attentively when I started taking it. It seemed to me to be like every other side effects list I'd ever read (including those for common painkillers), running the gamut from "Tired" to "Stroke/Death". I have an idea leaflets now rank side effects by likelihood, but I'm not sure they did then. The only one that really sticks in my mind was that my breasts might become tender and "might ooze a little milk" which to a 19yo student was just horrific
Anyway, I kept an eye out for the various symptoms. I wasn't aware of any particular changes (apart from weight gain, I think), but part of the nature of mental health problems is that they don't present like a broken leg. It may not be obvious until you look back on, say, several years of some periodically very odd moods, that you realize something may have been up.
And even so, I can't be sure. We can't run the counterfactual scenario in which I never go on the pill. It's only the coinciding of an improvement in my health with coming off the pill that made me think of it at all.
Like many on here, I first went on the pill at Uni, aged 18 - Ovranette - and suddenly became an emotional, blubbery, not quite complete wreck, but certainly seemed to have lost my fearless love for life. I went to the doc and she suggested I try a 'Tri-phasic' pill instead, which has now in fact been discontinued. I stayed on that one for a few years with no real problems, I seemed to have hit on a secret wonder pill, as I never met anyone else who was also on a tri-phasic, that varies the level of oestrogen you get thru the month to follow your own natural cycle.
i have wondered why weren't / aren't more people put on tri-phasic? It could be that there are other, awful side effects associated with it, or simply that it was untrendy.
I am utterly convinced that the pill is responsible for massively reducing my sex drive - it has never ever gone back to what it was before I started taking the pill. For this i would happily contribute to any articles on this topic!
I think this is a huge adverse effect on many women's lives that frankly the pharmaceutical industry / government have so far got away with.
I have now been completely clear of hormonal contraception for about 10 years, and I never intend to use any form of it again. When after the birth of DS the doc asked me the obligatory contraception question - me and DH just laughed!
Am appalled to read the stories of women having hormonal contraceptions all but forced on them.
We use condoms when we're not trying to conceive.
I think a Mumsnet Campaign on this would be a great idea. Much needed.
mad, I think that is so true. ANd so important.
coch - me too with sex drive. Annoying. On cerazette I had absolutely no libido, not at all.
How do we support the OP if she does do a MN campaign (if that's even how it works)? I would really like to. It sounds very important.
Just found this thread and finding it a really interesting read.
I have been on the pill a couple of times and found it made me feel very anxious and
as a plus lost loads of weight.
I had the injection once and it was horrendous, I bled constantly for about 3 months and got zero sympathy for any health professional. Felt generally awful and don't think my periods have ever really been the same.
As i'm now single its fine not to have to use any contraception but if I was to meet someone I would be really struggling to work out which contraception to use apart from condoms (which I like but have yet to find a man who doesn't object to them!)
My mother died of breast cancer in her late forties. She had taken the pill early in her marriage and was concerned that it might have been linked to her cancer. She thought I would be better off with non-hormonal contraception and consultants at various breast clinics agreed that was the wiser choice.
I had problems with very heavy painful periods from my early teens, later diagnosed as endometriosis. This means I have been under massive pressure from doctors and gynaecologists to go on the Pill/take some sort of hormonal treatment for my entire adult life. When I explained my family medical history, it was basically ignored and my preference for non-hormonal treatments was treated as a bizarre whim. (I was also told repeatedly that I should get pregnant despite being single - unsurprisingly as I was in too much pain for sex). I finally agreed to try a progesterone-based treatment as I was told that, unlike oestrogen, it wasn't linked to any increased risk to breast and ovarian cancers. In fact, I discovered from a breast clinic later that it was - my gynaecologist just didn't know about it. I was promised the moon on a stick if I would take it - it would cure the endometriosis, no more bleeding, pain free etc. None of which happened. What did happen was horrible side effects - basically having a bad case of PMT for over a year. When I complained I was told to increase the dose. I finally stopped taking it of my own accord because the consultant refused to accept that it wasn't working, although he admitted the scans showed the endo was coming back just as fast as ever.
Since then I have flatly refused any kind of hormonal treatment. I'm glad to say that I'm in much better health today but it's certainly not thanks to the Pill or Mirena, which were sold to me as the magic bullet.
I see two main problems here:
1. The medical profession take anything but a holistic approach. My impression is that they couldn't care less what the side effects of hormonal treatments are if the results will not be something they personally have to deal with. This ties in with the attitude to MH problems caused by the pill.
2. Gynaecologists really don't know much about contraception - perhaps because they spend their careers helping people get pregnant (or attempting to bully them into it in the case of my former consultant). I asked my present gynae about options for non-hormonal contraception - she could only suggest condoms. I would use condoms in a new relationship anyway but I wanted a backup too.
My conclusion is that the Pill is like the typewriter. In the 19th century clerical staff were male. Then women learned to type and made their living that way - only for future generations to be confined to admin roles because typing was seen as a female activity. In other words, it started out liberating and ended up confining.
Sorry for the long rant, this is an issue which has been on my mind for a long time.
angeletta that is so sad.
Your poor mum - and you would think, after that, they could have addressed your concerns properly! How horrible.
Thank you LRD. It's the insensitivity that astounds me - so many people seemed not to understand that the early death of a parent might be a traumatic event. I really just wanted someone to hear me and agree that I had a legitimate concern, but that never happened.
That is awful angeletta
I would definitely support an MN campaign on this.
I did actually consider having something like the implanon after DC2 and while we discussed the effect on breastmilk and weight gain nothing was mentioned about effects on mental health. This is despite my extensive history of depression including a four month stay in a psychiatric hospital 7 years before.
I feel like a freak for refusing it sometimes, it is so ingrained as 'what women are supposed to do'. I have only spoken to one other woman IRL who has the same stance as me.
I feel like a freak for refusing it sometimes, it is so ingrained as 'what women are supposed to do.'
Exactly. It's presented as an obligation not a choice.
In my quest for appropriate contraception I discovered a type of copper coil called the Gynefix which is supposed not to cause the heavy bleeding that traditional copper coils do (which is a problem for me because of the endo). Only it's pretty hard to get as almost no one in the UK is trained to fit it - one London hospital did but stopped because they didn't get enough funding. Why is there seemingly limitless funding and training for hormonal options and so little for the alternatives?
Of course you have a legitimate concern!
It is disturbing what you say about feeling like a freak, but I know exactly what you mean.
Sorry about your mum, angeletta.
That is an interesting statistic you just gave about Gynefix.
i don't know much about the pharma industry but would hormonal devices be more likely to be under patent than a purely 'mechanical' device that anyone could replicate? And therefore more likely to be heavily marketed all the way down the line
Thank you Sal. I don't know much about pharma either but I strongly suspect you're right. If so at present the needs of big business are being met, rather than those of women.
I have heard there is a clinic in Oxford which offers the Gynefix - that would be within travelling distance for me and I'm trying to muster courage to investigate further. I'm not actually in a relationship so one part of me would prefer to put off going through what would likely be a painful insertion for no immediate benefit. The other part thinks I should go ahead anyway because the next time I need contraception, this particular option may no longer be on offer anywhere. If Gynefix were more widely available, I wouldn't have to stress about it as I'd know I could try it any time I wanted.
found this article, not sure if it was already linked, apologies if so. www.telegraph.co.uk/women/sex/10168968/Is-the-contraceptive-pill-the-answer-for-women-anymore.html
I am so sorry about your mum Angeletta and your concerns are completely valid. I am sorry they weren't given the credence they deserve. It is shocking.
angeletta, if you ever want a hand to hold/the prospect of a nice cup of tea after the appointment in Oxford, PM me, I live round there.
I have used a diaphragm for most of my post-pubertal life; but you feel a right dinosaur if you say that to a doc. Yet it is a barrier method which is easily controlled by women and easy and pleasant to use.
As that article points out (thanks for the link), it's as if hormonal contraception were the only option these days. Women find it hard enough to negotiate with doctors without being made to feel like weirdos from the time of the ark. And yes, that is how I felt when I last discussed the diaphragm with a GP.
I am convinced the reason the pill/depro etc work is because no one has sex once they take them!
Thank you scallops and thanks LRD - I might well take you up on that!
Mama your GP's attitude is beyond unprofessional! I find it so hypocritical of the NHS that they will talk about many different forms of contraception on their website but in practice are clearly trying to steer women away from all but their preferred options.
Sure, just let me know.
Haven't RTFT yet I'm afraid but was just thinking - have been on the pill for last 4/5 years (with a break of a few months). I do have bad anxiety and I think a bit depressed (never been actually diagnosed). This thread has made me wonder if the two are related - however I've always been very anxious and wound up as long as I can remember although it has gotten worse in last few years - but I think it was getting worse anyway before I started on the pill (if that makes sense) due to stressful time in life a few years ago. Can't quite match up the timelines though.
So if I wanted to see if it was related to the pill, how long would I have to go off it before I noticed a difference do you think? (Obviously no straightforward answer there but any advice/shared experiences would be great!)
According to the BNF, the progesterone only pills and combined pills with certain progesterone like drugs are quite likely to cause mental health issues such as depression. There are some which are better, but these are more expensive (think up to 4 times more expensive) and leave you more at risk of DVT and stroke. I tried 3 different brands of HC and all of them made me insane, depressed or borderline psychotic. Depo-provera, which was sold to me as the best possible fit, given my medical history was probably the worst. The PIL's in your pill packet aren't deliberately misleading but.....
Big Pharma have a vested interest in NOT informing you properly of the risks of taking their pills. Partly because women might want to explore other forms of contraception, and partly, I suppose because if the general public was aware of ALL risks, then they'd stop taking their meds.
As an aside, I am allergic to latex, latex free condoms are really rather expensive, so I asked for a prescription for them. I was allowed 7 a month. So, between 5 and 7 sexual experiences a month, or pay for them, so no, not always easy to get condoms.
In the end, because of all the dramas with various forms of contraception, I was sterilised. This has proved to be a huge mistake since, but it was the only way to stop becoming pregnant (apart from abstinence, which didn't appeal).
Really interesting thread thanks.
Both my mum and sister have experienced mental health and weight issues plus cervical erosion whilst on hormonal contraception. So I decided not to go down that road. .. we use calendar/mucus natural planning techniques, sometimes with condoms. It's not ideal, less spontaneous and ocassionally more nerve-wracking as I don't want any more dcs. But for me is still a better option. But when asked about contraception by a number of gps (female) they look completely horrified. I have two planned dcs and am 40+ so clearly is not completely ineffective
I agree with many other posters in that women should as far as they're able to educate themselves better about their contraception. I too think it's outrageous that significant side effects eg major depression are seen as acceptable if it means easier baby-free sex for both sexes.
Interesting to hear about the historical perspective and also the current incentives for gps. Not good.
This is really interesting - I've had a mirena about six months with weight gain, bloating, random periods and horrific mood swings (proper crazy behaviour). Am actually off to gp tomorrow to discuss but I think it's time to come off the hormones and see what happens!
Yes it's awful
Nuggets - for me at any rate, the improvement happens very fast, over the course of a week. This is for the pill (and old fashioned ones at that, well over a decade since my last try).
Interestingly I had the same experience with breast feeding. For various complex reasons I won't go into, I went more or less cold turkey on this (stopped over 1 week rather than the 4 that's normally recommended) and it felt as if a fog lifted from my brain and I could think normally all of a sudden for the first time in ages. So I think my brain is unusually sensitive to hormones, whether natural or artificial.
Bizarrely, though, I was OK with IVF drugs (given past experiences with the pill, I had friends looking out for me, because as noted upthread, one of the problems with depression is you don't think rationally while suffering from it) - even the progesterone suppositories.
Coming late to this thread. I went on ovranette at uni aged almost 21. I took it until shortly after I was 25. As soon as I stopped I noticed an immediate change in how I felt. I hadn't been depressed or anything serious, but it was stopping taking it that made me realise that I had felt different in myself all that time. I suddenly felt 'lighter'. Really hard to explain, but as if something had been suppressed and I'd not quite felt like me, but now I did again.
I have never and would never take hormonal contraception again, including mirena. I too have been looked at strangely by various GPs and other over the years for this. I find contraceptive options enormously limited.
When I stopped the pill it was to ttc. After DC1 we were stumped as to what to do, as we both hate condoms, and dh is latex allergic, so that restricts choice. Breastfeeding was pretty effective in my case, and by the time it wasn't we were happy to go for dc2. I did go and get a diaphragm fitted, but we could never be bothered to use it . After dc2 I was much more clued up signs of fertility and lactation all amenorrhoea, and that lasted until we were happy to go for dc3, likewise for dc4, and then with our family complete dh sped off for a vasectomy .
Yes Kitten that is exactly how I felt! Not quite like me. It's so hard to separate the causality because women tend to go on it on the cusp of adulthood. I just assumed all that time that this was what my adult self was like. but I don't think it was.
I have just read this thread from beginning to end. I don't know how I missed it the first time around, but I do think it's important and needs to be brought up again.
I am shocked to see how so many women have been treated by their doctors, and shocked to see how so many people's experiences are dismissed and not recorded.
I emigrated years ago, but when I was younger and still living in the UK, I remember visiting the GP about a health issue and being asked about my contraception. The doc asked if I wanted to go on the Pill. I said "No, I'm happy with condoms", and that was that. It wasn't pushed on me at all.
Conversely, where I live now, no HCPs have asked me about contraception after birth. It seems to be assumed that it's my own responsibility. After the last birth, (dc3) I was handed a generic leaflet on the topic, along with a load of other leaflets, and that was as far as it went. In fact, the only reason I remember the leaflet at all is because the woman in the bed next to me, who had just had a horrendous delivery, said "I won't be needing this, as I am NEVER having sex ever again" and ripped it up. Perhaps it wasn't the best time to hand those leaflets out!
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