Steph was part of the latest Sassy Event, Mentioning Menstruation, where women came together to talk openly about their periods. Here, Steph shares her own history of using contraception and the questions she’s asking herself since hearing other women’s stories.
‘I was on the phone to someone yesterday and they asked me what medication I was taking. So I listed off asthma and allergies. A few minutes later I realised that I’ve become so used to taking contraception that I don’t even think about it as a form of medication. I stopped the conversation and said “Hold up, I’m on the progestogen only pill”.
This led me down the path of thinking how it’s become so normalised for girls to take oral contraception, yet you’re changing the whole chemistry of your body. I’ve been on oral contraception for such a long time and it was talking with other women at the Sassy Event that I’ve suddenly become more aware of this.
So I’m thinking about changing this. I hadn’t heard of the Marina coil before, I’m interested in that because it could be removed myself, but still, do I want to change the hormone levels in my body. I’ve definitely been more prone to spots on my face since taking the progesterone only pill, but changing it could cause other side effects! You just don’t know how you might react, no one can tell you that. Will your boobs get big, will you put on weight?
At the event women spoke of accepting their periods as part of our bodies. My current pill stops my period. Is this my way of saying “I don’t have to deal with that”? I’m quite happy not to have one and avoid all the things that go with having a period, especially the pain and sleepless nights. I’m quite happy to save the money as well! Although I did buy three of my friends and myself a Mooncup for Christmas! But the conversation made me ask “What am I happy about?”.
For me the fact that I don’t have a period so don’t have to deal with it came secondary. I’m not in a point of my life where I want children but I do want to have sex. We all know condoms can break. I want to protect myself.
First I tried different pills, all with various side effects. I then tried the injection and I had the worst migraines which lasted for the whole three months. As a result, I was put on beta blockers and I remember my Dad would say to me I looked really spaced out when I took the medication. It was such a horrible time from about age 13 to 16 trying to sort it out.
After trying many different oral contraceptives, I found Marvelon. It worked so well, the headaches stopped and I stayed on this pill from when I was 16 –22.
Until at 22, I started having these migraines, they are called migraine with auras. My vision would go flashy and then gradually I would loose my sight, the pain was very intense. It was scary. I had three or four before I went to the Doctors. Straight away they said I couldn’t be on the combined pill because it would highly increase my risk of blood clots. I therefore stopped taking the combined pill and I haven’t had a migraine with aura since.
It just shows you the impact it can have on your body. And that is only one part of it.
When I first started going on these pills, I went from being really flat chested to having huge boobs (Bethany! they were out here!). I was so tiny and I had these massive boobs! What is going inside your body to make these things happen, that’s the worrying thing.
Last year, they found three lumps in my breast. They’re not cancerous, they’re fibrocystic lumps. When I researched it a bit, guess what came up…?
Side effect of Oral Contraception. I only found out by doing my own research that apparently quite a few women have these lumps. And here’s the worrying thing; they could be caused by oral contraception but you just don’t know. I went back for a scan this year and one of them has got a bit bigger. So they’ll keep monitoring it. And it’s nothing to worry about but still, the more I read about it, the more it’s pointing towards oral contraception.
I’ve said a lot of physical things that I have experienced potentially from taking the oral contraceptive. Would those changes to my body have happened if I hadn’t been?
You wonder how studies and research is undertaken, how this stuff is recorded. You’d have to do really long studies in order to find out the long term physical and mental risks and effects of all of the different types of contraception for females.’
Told by Steph Reed
Illustrated and edited by Bethany Burgoyne