My Experiences on Hormonal Contraception: Part 1
Last updated: February 2019
Several years before I ever had my first lap to confirm my suspicion of endometriosis, I broke down and decided I was going to go on the pill as a way to get some regularity in my cycle and ease my terrible cramps. I was a sophomore in college and only 18 when I first went on them, and I attained my prescription at Planned Parenthood. It’s worth mentioning I was not even sexually active at the time. In fact, I was still a virgin and would remain one for the next few years. I just wanted a way to control my painful and unpredictable periods.
At the time, my periods came every other month, or sometimes even every third month, and I could never tell when it was going to pop up again. So, while I enjoyed having the reprieve from my period for a couple of months or more at a time, I was always anxious it would arrive at an inopportune moment- like while taking midterms or while I was traveling. And when it did finally show up again, it was as if it were making up for lost time, causing enough pain and bleeding to compensate for all those missed months. I had had enough and taking the pill was my first autonomous decision to attempt to gain control of the situation.
The first pill...
Unfortunately, it didn’t work as well as I planned. I took Ortho-Tricyclen, which at the time, was "the hot new brand" of hormonal contraception. I didn’t know (and doctors didn’t yet either) that it was one of the worst ones to try for women with known or suspected endometriosis. I was on it for over five months, during which time I gained 25 pounds (which, for me, was somewhat welcome as I tended toward being underweight, but something others might not like), and I experienced insomnia worse than usual and dramatic mood swings. While I did start getting my period every month, it remained just as painful and almost as heavy as when I wasn’t on it- with the added con that now I had to endure it every month. I tried to stick with the pill for awhile hoping that after a few months my body would acclimate and my periods would become better, but when it was reaching the half-year mark and nothing was changing, I decided to go off of them.
The second pill...
A little over a year later, I decided to try another pill, this time progestin-only birth control. I figured the estrogen in the Ortho-Tricyclen might have been what had been contributing to my mood swings and why my periods weren’t improving. While I didn’t experience the same amount of mood swings or insomnia this time around, and my periods weren’t worse off (though I don’t recall them being any better), I did get one interesting symptom I couldn’t shake: my breasts became swollen with large cysts that endured all month long. They were tender to the point where I could not sleep on my stomach and touching them hurt. It was similar to a symptom I now get a few days or a week before my period with PMS, but that usually disappears as soon as I begin bleeding. But these never went away. I got off that pill and within a week, the cysts shrank and my breast were no longer tender to the touch.
I decided to wait awhile before I would try another brand of birth control.
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