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Is there a disregard for the effects of contraception on women's mental health?

(195 Posts)
PinkFluffyJumper Mon 06-May-13 13:36:51

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?

FloraFox Mon 06-May-13 20:01:59

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).

tribpot Mon 06-May-13 20:02:15

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.

Manchesterhistorygirl Mon 06-May-13 20:03:47

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.

CunfuddledAlways Mon 06-May-13 20:04:02

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

NiceTabard Mon 06-May-13 20:07:16

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.

TunipTheVegedude Mon 06-May-13 20:08:59

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.

Manchesterhistorygirl Mon 06-May-13 21:36:46

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.

WoTmania Mon 06-May-13 22:55:37

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'

PinkFluffyJumper Tue 07-May-13 11:53:13

Wow, I wasn't expecting so many replies! Clearly it's a widespread problem. sad

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! shock

Surely patients' well-being has to come first!

BabyMakesTheYoniGoStretchy Tue 07-May-13 21:01:42

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.sad angry

TunipTheVegedude Wed 08-May-13 11:40:33

It's interesting.
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?

PinkFluffyJumper Wed 08-May-13 13:45:10

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. sad

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... hmm

Branleuse Fri 10-May-13 06:43:21

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

UltimaThule Fri 10-May-13 16:37:23

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?

chaoshayley Mon 02-Sep-13 01:52:38

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. sad (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?

chaoshayley Mon 02-Sep-13 02:11:45

(Just going to do a little bump because somebody else is bringing up a lot of zombie threads tonight as well - sorry!)

ElephantsAndMiasmas Mon 02-Sep-13 02:27:59

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 grin 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. hmm

OctopusPete8 Mon 02-Sep-13 09:26:17

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.

NiceTabard Mon 02-Sep-13 11:48:53

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.

NiceTabard Mon 02-Sep-13 11:54:23

mirena website US here

Includes "depressed mood" and "nervousness" which is anxiety I guess.

Between 5% and 10% of Mirena users may experience:
• Acne
• Depressed mood
•Heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding.

Less than 5% of Mirena users may experience:
• Vaginal discharge
• Breast pain or tenderness
• Nausea
• Nervousness
• Inflammation of cervix, vulva or vagina
• Pelvic pain during your period
• Back pain
• Weight increase
• Decreased sex drive
• Pain during intercourse
• Anemia
• Unusual hair growth or loss
• Skin irritations (such as hives, rash, eczema or itching)
• Feeling bloated
• Swelling of hands and feet
• Expulsion

NiceTabard Mon 02-Sep-13 11:56:04

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.

Manchesterhistorygirl Mon 02-Sep-13 11:56:25

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.

Auntfini Mon 02-Sep-13 12:02:09

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.

NiceTabard Mon 02-Sep-13 12:09:25

The pill side effects I have looked at (just a couple and not full as on things like 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.

scallopsrgreat Mon 02-Sep-13 13:01:47

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.

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