In news that was both disappointing and not at all unsurprising, my new doctor and I recently agreed that I will be going back on the pill. I’ve known for some time that the pill was likely to be the quickest source of relief for my dysmenorrhea (painful periods), menorrhagia (heavy periods), dyspareunia (painful sexual intercourse) and general pelvic pain, but it was an outcome I wanted to avoid given my experience with the pill in the past. For details read A Tale of Two Pills and #Periodically 13.
The decision, in the end, wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be. The quickest way for me to get some relief at the moment is to stop ovulating, and the combined pill does just that. Getting the prescription was thought-provoking though:
Having been on Rigevidon (combined) and Cerelle (mini) in the past my main qualm was that I wanted to try a different dosage or brand this time. Now, because of the sad old state of our NHS, my gynaecology appointment was outsourced privately, so when the doc said I could go on Microgynon I nearly fell off my chair. Microgynon is technically the same as Rigevidon, it’s made up of a synthetic oestrogen and a synthetic progesterone that you take 21 days in a row and then you have a withdrawal bleed for a week – standard pill talk. BUT, Microgynon is the pill many my friends and sisters started on, had no problems with but were unexpectedly taken off of. Many of them have been switched to Rigevidon for no apparent reason. Maybe it’s paranoia but I am very suspicious that Rigevidon is simply cheaper than Microgynon.
The gynae gave me a two month prescription of Microgynon but it was a private prescription. The doctor recommended I take it to my GP and ask them to refill it so I could get it free on the NHS, since it’s contraception. I am doing exactly this when my GP says, “I’m going to put you on something called Rigevidon, it’s basically the same thing” – I was furious. So I said, “no, it’s going to be Microgynon or nothing, that’s the only reason I agreed to go back on the pill. ” I was ready for a fight, but he quickly said, “OK” and printed out a prescription for six months of Microgynon. I was floored that it was so easy to get what I wanted, which only further makes me suspicious that the problem with Microgynon and Rigevidon is a price one – but, I should add, that is pure speculation (but still, #SaveOurNHS).
So now I have the prescription the real drama starts. Over two and a half years ago I decided to come off the pill for several reasons. They were mostly because I had ended a relationship and wasn’t looking to get giggy with it, I wanted to try and get my sex drive back and to also get my mind back to something I recognised. I got so much more than I bargained for coming off the pill, good and bad. I got a new lease of life and creativity, my boobs dropped two cup sizes (to my delight), the world literally smelt different, I rediscovered my libido and I started having periods again. But equally, my periods were more painful than I remembered them being before, my skin got worse, I started spending money on sanitary products again and I discovered PMS. At that point in time, the pros outweighed the cons. The psychological benefits I felt coming off the pill were huge, and being able to track all these changes on Clue meant I could exploit them.
All good things come to an end however, and the last year has offered fresh pre, peri and post menstrual and ovulation symptoms and complications. As I’ve mentioned (a lot, sorry) discovering that sex hurt when it didn’t used to, was a real blow to my relationship with my body (and romantic interests) – what good was it to have my libido back if I couldn’t use it? My periods have left me exhausted and even grumpier than normal because I’ve become anaemic, and I’ve grown at least one hemorrhagic cyst, though there’s a lot of evidence to suggest there have been a few cysts that have been and gone.
There are a couple of things people have said to me since I found out I would be going back on the pill that I would like to address. I stand by what I’ve said about hormonal birth control in the past – I think it’s shit. There has to be a better way and I am confident there will be soon – I’m talking to you FemTech engineers. Since I am currently the most single and unsexed I have been since adolescence, my reasons for going on the pill at the moment are not for birth control. I still think the pill is a sorry excuse for birth control, one that has brought about both hugely beneficial social changes and immense personal problems. It is a concept that demands lots of criticism. This time, I am going on the pill to deliberately mess with my menstrual cycle in the hope of getting some relief. It might fix my problems, it might just ease my symptoms for a while, it might do nothing, hell, it could even make things worse, but without having more potentially disappointing surgery, it is my only option for now.
The other thing I’ve been asked is “do you think you’ll be paranoid about the negatives of the pill this time round, and therefore never give it a fair chance?” I thought so at first, but I am actually feeling really open minded about it. December was a real toughie pain-wise and anything that offers relief is my friend at the moment – it is worth a shot.
The last two years and seven months have seen twenty-six cycles – something I know thanks to the wonders of Femtech, particularly Clue. I have gotten to know my body in crazy amounts of detail, which has been both a blessing and a curse. I am really sad to be leaving this period (punny) of time behind, but I am going to try and see it as an opportunity. Since I have been tracking my cycles in great detail all this time, I am really going to be able to see the changes, good and bad, that the pill brings – plus, I get to try out Clue’s pill tracking functions for the first time. See, I’m already seeing the bright side.
I won’t be starting the pill for a couple of weeks, and I have no doubt that the first few months will be a little wild, but in the mean time I’m going to relish the natural peaks and falls of my hormones and look forward to less-pain in the next few months.
And to end this long (sorry) love letter to my natural menstrual cycle, I would just like to acknowledge that although I have tracked over 100 days of pain medication consumption during the last year or so, I have also tracked over 200 days of feeling happy, so that’s nice.
Going on the pill means I will be cutting my trial of Natural Cycles short so my review will be coming sooner than planned. Let me know on Twitter what you would like to hear about my experience with Natural Cycles and I’ll try to fit my responses in.