Monday, 11 April 2016

Safe Space Talks Contraception

Deciding what kind of contraception to go on can be tricky and different women prefer different things. Today the Safe Space team are bringing you their contraception stories sharing what did and didn’t work for them so that you can make an informed decision about what you might like to try out and what might work best for your body. Please note that this is just our personal experiences, we aren’t medical professionals and it is always best to speak to a nurse or your GP before deciding on a contraception method.

Jo: I suffer with really severe period pains. After one type of medication failed to help, my doctor prescribed me the contraceptive pill Cerazette. Cerazette is a mini-pill, or a progestogen-only pill (POP), as opposed to a combined pill, which contains progestogen and oestrogen. I was prescribed a mini-pill because I also suffer with migraines, and my doctor believed a combined pill would affect them.

The mini-pill is a pill that you take every day, as opposed to stopping for a week with a combined pill to have your period. The mucus at the neck of the womb is thickened when taking the mini-pill, which makes it harder for sperm to make it’s way to the womb to fertilise an egg. Cerazette contains desogestrel, a synthetic progestogen, which stops ovulation in 97% of periods, meaning in most cases, an egg won’t be released, so my periods, for the most part, will stop. There may be some irregular spotting when you first start taking it, but this is perfectly normal. Although I’m not taking Cerazette for contraceptive reasons, it is a 12 hour pill; you’re supposed to take your pill around the same time every day, but if you forget to take a pill, you must take it within 12 hours of when you were due to take it. If you take it within that 12 hour period, you will still be protected and no other form of contraception will be required, including emergency contraception. However, if you don’t take your pill in the 12 hour window, you should take your pill as soon as you remember, and then as normal, but for two to seven days you won’t be protected, and should use a condom for that time, while using the pill.

I’ve now been taking Cerzette for five weeks. It’s around now, when my next period would have been due had I not been on the mini-pill, that it’s likely I’ll see some spotting, but this has yet to appear. Of the common side-effects of Cerzette, I’ve only really experienced getting a few spots. The leaflet that came with Cerzette actually says “acne” is a common side-effect, so I was thinking I’d get really bad skin with obvious, very sore spots, but that hasn’t been the case. My spots are very faint, more something I’d notice than anyone else, and they’re gone after about a day, with maybe some new ones in other areas of my face. I’ve not even had to bother with medicated concealer, the spots are really nothing to worry about.

It’s around now I would normally start suffering with PMS and sore, swollen boobs, but Cerzette has put a stop to both. So far, so good! I’m really happy with how Cerzette is working for me, and if I have a similar experience with it as Faye (see below), I’ll be a very happy lady!

Debbie: Like many of the others, I was first put on the mini-pill Cerazette when I was about 14. I’d just been diagnosed with polycystic ovaries (PCOS) and it was meant to help relieve some of the symptoms I’d been suffering with, such as period pain and body hair. Which it did, a little. But I dreaded having a period every 4th week, and it seemed to come around far too quickly.

I can’t remember exactly when or why my doctor suggested it, but about 4 and a half years ago they suggested having an implant. An implant is approximately 4cm long, and inserted into the back of the upper arm, and works by slowly releasing progesterone. It’s said to be more than 99% effective against pregnancy. The main bonus for me is not having to take a pill everyday. Thanks to my weird work hours and London life, it was getting harder to remember to take them, especially at the same time. Furthermore, I rarely get periods anymore, usually just under a lot of stress, which I guess causes a hormone imbalance. This is a side effect that a lot of people experience, though some may have heavier periods instead. This was a huge relief to me as period pain is the worst. The implant lasts for 3 years, and I didn’t hesitate at all in getting it replaced last year. While it’s not really an option if you are considering having kids, for me it is the perfect solution right now!

Ray: I was only on the mini-pill Cerazette that Jo’s already talked about for about 5-6 months so this’ll be rather a quick segment. I started taking Cerazette shortly after getting together with my current partner in June 2012 since I’d been single for 18 months prior to that so I thought if I was going to be sexually active again it might be worth giving it a try. The lack of a period break was also a nice incentive to try this pill. I didn’t used to be able to swallow pills but if I was going to be on a contraceptive pill it was kind of important that I did actually take it so I figured out how I could get the pill down (dry-swallow a la House with water to chase it) and phone alarms to remind me what time I should have it. I have to be honest my memory is pretty shoddy about how things were while I was on Cerazette but I vaguely recall that my periods never properly stopped and I spent a lot of time grumbling and cursing that I was bleeding longer and more randomly than when I wasn’t on the pill. Whether this would have eventually stopped I don’t know because unfortunately I ended up having what is probably an uncommon reaction to taking the mini-pill in December 2012.

I did already mention this in my Liveblog your Period post, but for anyone who might not have seen that - I had a bad reaction to Cerazette, my legs came up with a dozen or so weirdly swollen lumps which really flipping hurt. It was so painful to walk and bend my knees that I had to use crutches and in the end had about 6 days off work because I just would not have coped working at school all day. The doctor diagnosed me with having Erythema Nudosem and since I wasn’t on anything else which could have provoked a reaction my Cerazette pill was deemed the culprit and I came off it. I’d rather have the periods. Since then I’ve not tried any other form of contraceptive pill or implant partly from the worry that another method might still cause the same reaction. For me this isn’t too much of an issue as my periods are manageable but one day if I do decide to try some other form of contraceptive I would probably need to consult a doctor first to make sure I found an option that would work for me in the long-term.

Faye: I first started taking a pill when I got my first serious boyfriend at 17. It was only after I was on the pill that I realised how frustrating and irregular my periods were. I was put on Microgynon and sent on my way. This is just one of many combined pills and it is the first pill that doctors are likely to try you with. It has been so long with this pill that I don’t remember why I changed to something else but I know I did. The second combined pill I was on, I’ve already forgotten the name of but that also didn’t work. I was then put on Femodene. For a long time this pill worked for me. It regulated my periods for the first time ever and I had very little, if any pain. I was, in all honesty, over the moon. But then my body started to reject the pill. That’s the only way I can describe it. My periods became heavier, the pain came back tenfold and I started to have the worst mood-swings in history. On top of that, I had a three-week pain cycle and just one week of relief every single four-weeks. It was not a good way to live life. But when I came off the pill, it was still awful. Really painful, really heavy and completely irregular. After lots of trips to the gyno and some tests, the doctor finally prescribed me Cerazette, which as you know now is the mini-pill and I am back in heaven. I haven’t had a period in two years. I have had no pain in two years. I have had no mood-swings in two years. I feel like a normal human being every single day. There have been a few side effects, such as headaches, but I’m prone to them anyway, and I’ve had some “mini-periods” as I call them, when I miss pills (because I am super forgetful) at the wrong time in the cycle, but honestly, I cannot describe how pleased I am not to have periods and period pain anymore.

Joy: We never talk about what a “normal” period is, so it wasn’t until I was 21 that I knew I needed to do something. Every time my period came (which varied between every three and seven weeks), I was in agony to such an extent that I could do nothing. I bled so heavily that I would need to change sanitary towel every hour to begin with, I couldn’t get through the night without leakage and I would have to postpone any social activity that coincided, which was difficult given my periods were so irregular. As I was due to go to university, I needed something that would make my monthly experience tolerable and a Google search indicated a GP may prescribe the pill. After a short appointment where I explained my problem, that was indeed what happened.

The first pill I was put on was, like Faye, Microgynon. It was a miracle cure! I immediately went to four-weekly cycles, absolutely no pain and a manageable amount of bleeding. I only wished I had done something sooner. This pill worked for five years without a problem. Occasionally I would experience a little bleeding mid-cycle, but I was assured that this was okay. However, after those five years, Microgynon was no longer effective. I started to bleed a couple of weeks before I should have and for far longer than usual. My GP told me to keep an eye on it, but indicated that Microgynon is usually prescribed to people early on and it may be that I required something with a stronger dose of hormones. After three or so months of continued problems, I asked for my pill to be changed.

I can’t remember what the next pill I was prescribed was or, indeed, the one after that. Changing my pill a couple of times failed to ease the problem of bleeding too early and I was growing worried that there was something sinister happening in my body. However, I was then prescribed my current pill, which is Lucette. I take this for three weeks and then have a week’s break before starting again. It is in this break, theoretically, that I bleed. I have had a couple more occasions of bleeding early, though to a lesser degree than with previous pills. When I mentioned it to my GP she said that wasn’t the norm, but it does happen and it doesn’t mean that anything is wrong, which was a relief to hear. As long as my periods are fairly regular and lack the immense pain and heaviness of before, I’m grateful. Taking the pill really has made a difference.


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