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My Experiences With Hormonal Birth Control: Part 2

As I noted in a previous post, I decided to start trying birth control once I went away to college as a way to treat my painful, heavy, and irregular periods. Unfortunately, my first two tries– with Ortho-Tricyclen and then a progestin-only birth control pill, respectively– did not work out well due to a slew of unwelcome side effects that outweighed any benefits. So I decided to take a hiatus from birth control pill shopping and simply concentrate on college and my life.

But my period remained a problem. In fact, I experienced such bad GI issues the first semester of my junior year of college, that I lost over 20 pounds and had to take a medical leave of absence from college. I would later discover my GI were compounded by endo.

Another new birth control

During this leave of absence (during which time, I was still a virgin), I went on a very low-dose brand of hormones, known as Loestrin, to see if that might help my periods and in turn, my GI complaints. I had some success with these for awhile. My periods evened out and became much lighter and shorter–so light and short in fact, that only bled a couple of hours a month. I seemingly did not have any other side effects. My GI symptoms improved, though they were already getting better before I went on these pills. I remained on Loestrin for close to six months.

Feeling “off”

Why did I decide to quit them? It’s hard to explain. I gradually started to feel “off,” detached from myself somehow and from my emotions. I decided to go off the pill again to see if it was connected to this strange apathy that had started to seep in. It seemed it had, as within a few weeks of going off them, I felt normal again, interested in things, and socially engaged. It was too bad, though, because I enjoyed the shorter and less painful periods I had while on them. This is why a few years later in my early twenties, I decided to go back on Loestrin again to see if maybe I could again achieve lighter periods without the depressive side effects. This time around I was no longer a virgin and had finally had a lap that confirmed severe endometriosis.

Unwelcome side effects

Unfortunately, this time my body had a bad reaction almost immediately to the pills: within the first month of my taking it my calf began to mysteriously swell up and ache. When I consulted with the prescribing clinic, they were concerned it could be thrombosis (a potentially fatal conditions where blood clots begin to form in the veins; it is more likely to happen in the legs and is a possible side effect of hormonal contraception). I was told to stop taking the pill immediately and put on some mild blood thinning medications for a few days. The swelling went down and I got my period right away even though I only had it two weeks before (when you quit low dose pills, it basically brings on your period).

I still do not know to this day if it was thrombosis (they never officially tested me), but the scare was enough to make me permanently swear off of birth control pills or any other form of hormonal contraception as a treatment for endo (or even as my personal choice of contraception).

Everyone is different

Please know that this is a personal choice based on my own medical history and experiences. I know others with endo who have done well on birth control pills as a way to minimize their pain and bleeding (but also please note that hormonal birth control is not at all a cure for endo–it simply can treat successfully treat the symptoms for some patients). If you do have bad experiences with birth control, do not be afraid to go off of them. Don’t let your doctors pressure you into staying on them or trying more options if you feel you’ve exhausted yourself on them. Find a doctor who will work with you to find the right treatment for you and your body.

What have your experiences been on hormonal birth control?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.