Whilst I can’t remember the exact age a doctor first prescribed me the mini pill, I do know it was somewhere between the age of 11, when I first got my period and 13, when we moved towns. At the age of 30, after nearly 20 years of an array of contraception, I decided to cease any form of contraception. So what did that nearly 20 years of contraception teach me?
A little background
Let’s start with a little background as you may be wondering why in the hell was a pre-teen on the mini pill. Not long after my period started so did the heavy flow and long bleeding time. My mum saw a daughter who was uncomfortable and did what any mum would do, she took me to the doctor to see if anything could be done.
The solution was easy – the mini pill. So at the age of around 12 I was put onto the pill. At the time I thought it was amazing! My flow lightened and I was back to a bleeding length of 6 days. Skip forward a few years and the heavy long flows were back joined by some unbearable pain. The doctor took me off the mini pill and put me on the ‘full’ pill.
This was to be my relationship with contraception over the next 20 years. I have tried it all, different combination pills, the implant, the injections – they all worked for a time then bam my symptoms were back and with vengeance.
Ok back to what nearly 20 years on contraception has taught me.
NOTE: I do realise this can be a sensitive issue but one I feel needs to be discussed
1. Doctors don’t always have the answers. This is not doctor bashing. It is just fact. When it comes to conditions such as hormonal imbalances doctors have just not been taught how to ‘fix’ these. They can provide a small window of temporary symptom relief with the use of contraception. Sure not all symptom relief is temporary, Some women find contraception really helps. More often than not though when those women decide to come off contraception that’s when the ‘temporary’ nature really does become apparent. The problems that caused you to search out the pill in the first place are still there and more often than not others have also appeared.
2. Symptoms such as period pain, heavy and long flows, even absent flows and PMS, these are all point to a hormonal imbalance. As much as we are lead to believe that some women just have to put up with these symptoms being their story, it is actually not the case. These symptoms are NOT normal. They are our bodies way of telling us that something isn’t right.
3. Our period is in fact our fifth vital sign. What symptoms we are experiencing and when we are experiencing them in our cycle can give us very clear indications as to what is happening (or not happening) in our body. As females we are lucky to have this monthly check in on our health. And yet our period is something we just see as a hassle. If we can change this narrative and see it for the amazing source of knowledge it is, you will find it can tell you so much. For example that pain you get around ovulation time, that’s an excess in the hormone oestrogen. The bloaty puffy feeling, adolsterone. Not being able to sleep around ovulation and just before your period – you liver is having trouble processing the excess hormones. Honestly this kind of information is so useful.
4. The bleed you are experiencing whilst taking contraception – that is not a period, it is a withdrawal bleed as the synthetic hormones delivered by the contraception decrease. The ingredients in the pill mimic the hormones in your body as do other forms of contraception such as the implant or hormone injections. This is what causes the period. It can also result in you not having your period. It is not healthy to not have your period. (See number 6). And I get it – when your periods are the source of pain, fatigue, bloating, uncomfortableness it feels like the best thing in the world to not have one. But that is only short-lived. And from both personal and professional experience the result years down the track can be just as bad…
5. Ironically you take contraception to stop falling pregnant then there is a risk of infertility, particularly with the pill when you stop taking it. As I said above the synthetic hormones replace your natural hormones, this disrupts the natural cycle that occurs within you each month. The parts of your body – the pituitary gland, your ovaries – that a designed to release these hormones are switched off. It can take months, even years to correct this. And if you have taken contraception within 3-5years of getting your period, those pathways that tell your body how to be fertile haven’t even been established.
6. A healthy regular cycle is more than just the opportunity to fall pregnant. It allows you to feel happy, more mentally resilient, have more energy, improved immunity, an efficient working metabolism, healthy skin, hair and nails, have a healthy libido – it basically just makes life so much better.
7. Nutrient absorption is affected. Contraception is known to cause deficiencies in Vitamins B6, B12, C and E, magnesium, zinc, selenium and tyrosine. These nutrients are needed for so much in our bodies but if we look back to number 6 – our energy needs B6 and B12, our immunity needs zinc and vitamins C and E, our mood is affected by B6 and tyrosine, our resiliency is helped with magnesium – I could go on but the kicker for me is that I will give people B6 to treat PMS and yet here we have a large portion of women taking contraception and experiencing that exact thing… These nutrient deficiencies can lead to other health concerns. For me it was gut and skin health issues. For others I have seen thyroid, mood and bone conditions as the result of these nutrient deficiencies.
I do hope that a little of what I have learnt helps you or someone close to you. The upside is that with knowledge comes power – power over your health. You can now make a more informed choice when it comes to your choice of contraception.
If you are looking for contraception, there are other ways to practice this – please discuss this with your Nutritionist, Naturopath or other health professional. Just remember contraception does not treat the root cause of a problem.