Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Sam: The Divorce Pill

The pill, it sparked a good round of conversation in a recent manbits and got me thinking about a couple of run-ins I’ve with those little bundles of oestrogen.

My first pill experience was when my girlfriend started to go bonkers. She started having severe mood swings, would cry at a moments notice and dipped into really quite bad depression. One day my mother was harping on about how rubbish the pills is (a pet topic of hers) and it occurred that there might be some sort of connection. My girlfriend and I switched back to condoms and in no time she was back to her perky normal self. The change was quite sudden and in retrospect, quite shocking.

Another girlfriend went on the pill briefly and the effect was different, but packed just as much punch. She suddenly pretty much completely lost interest in sex and just wanted to snuggle 24 hours a day. I completely lost my interest in snuggling her and suddenly started treating her like a portable rutting post – in the bad, wham bam thank you mam, 20 seconds, it’s all over and roll over for a snooze type way. Completely out of character for me. No, really. Again it all went back to normal once we ditched the pill.

What I found shocking was that neither of my girlfriends were told about any possible side-effects besides weight gain by their GP. And I, as a bloke, was completely in the dark. Let’s face it, anything that tricks your body into thinking it’s constantly pregnant is going to probably have a few side effects. Have a look on Wikipedia and negative side effects include weight gain, loss of libido and lubrication, a possible doubling of your chances of suffering depression oh and perhaps a bit of facial discolouration. Nice.

To add insult to injury a woman’s sense of smell is suppressed while on the pill actually making her attracted to a man with the wrong sort of immune system. You can guess what happens when she stops taking it – no wonder it’s been labelled the divorce pill.

I think pill packets should have the following branded on them: THIS MAY SEND YOU BONKERS, MAKE YOU CHOOSE THE WRONG SORT OF MAN, COMPLETELY KILL YOUR INTEREST IN SEX AND POSSIBLY WRECK YOU RELATIONSHIP. FOR GODS SAKE USE SOME OTHER FORM OF CONTRACEPTION. PLEASE.


 

26 comments:

thene said...

I think the 'wrong sort of immune system' story is being taken way out of proportion. C'mon, do you really think that an immune system is a good criteria for picking a partner? It wouldn't be in my top 5 most important qualities to look for in someone...

I use IUS rather than pill - different delivery method, same hormones. When I first went on it I didn't notice a difference, emotionally, but my partner reckoned there was one. I did notice the extra 25lbs. Next time I'm going back to the copper version.

Nai said...

Taking the pill affected my moods horribly. I was very easily angered, and became agitated about things that once wouldn't have bothered me. I also gained weight. I didn't actually notice any of this was out of the ordinary until I came off the pill and had this sense of peace and relief and dropped 5kg off my frame just like that.

Abs said...

I absolutely agree - the pill is an absolute nightmare. One kind was prescribed to help me with acne and too much facial hair... and it worked, but as soon as I came off it I turned into an acne-ridden yeti, and I'm still dealing with the consequences, three years of electrolysis later. Another kind of pill also covered me in acne, but also made me incredibly depressed and even broodier than I am normally, which is very. I was crying every day and absolutely consumed with longing for a baby, which was very disconcerting for both me and my partner, and kind of goes against the whole ethos of contraception.

I'm now the proud owner of an IUS. I've had it in for a year and it is wonderful. It still has hormones, but one tenth the dosage, and it's all delivered to your bits rather that swooshing around your body ravaging everything in sight. Much much better. I still have a spot of acne, and I'm still overweight, but I had those problems before anyway. I'll never go back to the oral pill.

Katy said...

I hated the pill as well - only went on it for the 3 month trial period and swore never again! I gained 5 lbs, had massive mood swings, and stopped wanting sex. (I guess the latter is a pretty effective form of contraception!)

If I end up with a steady partner I'm going to look at an IUD. I also don't believe that tricking my body into pretending it's pregnant for 20 years can possibly be healthy.

E said...

I had pretty much the same experience. I had horrible mood swings, put on weight and my blood pressure went up. I didn't ever make the connection between this happening and starting on the pill except a vague thought at the back of my mind.
I stopped taking it 3 years later and everything changed dramatically. I felt consitantly happy, I lost a lot of (although not all of) the extra weight and my blood pressure dropped to a healthier level.
My main problem is that I only went to the doctors to get the morning after pill after a scare with a spilt condom. I dont think there was any chance that I could have gotten pregnant, but the nurse reccomended the pill to me to stop any future incidences of needing the morning after pill(of which there has been one, with a different guy, 5 years later, again with a spilt condom) All she really told me was that I might put on a little weight, I would need to keep a check on my blood pressure and that I might experience some extra hair growth. Nothing about the all consuming depression was mentioned.
Anyone know what happened to Ovranette around 2005? I remeber it being impossible to get any, and chemists were being very vague about wha had happened to it.

Red said...

I'm another with major mood swings on the pill. The first pill I ever took made me horny as hell, ready to fuck any man who looked at me. The latest pill made me depressed. It took me a while to connect the crying-every-day with the birth control. I've switched to NuvaRing, which did wonders for my mood.

Trixie Firecracker said...

Am I the only person who's calm and normal when on hormonal birth control? I actually lost a little bit of weight because I stopped craving sweets. Then again, I'm on OrthoEvra, and I think the reason that works so much better is because the hormone levels stay constant (same with the NuvaRing, I suppose). The thing with the pills is that the concentration of synthetic estrogen in the body fluctuates over the course of a day and I think that's whats causing all those mood swings.

But even with the side effects, I think it's worth the 99% pregnancy prevention rate.

Pants said...

I'm with you Trixie! I've been on it for ten years and have never had any complaints. I've lately been thinking about getting a intra-utrine device though, because many of my doctor friends say it's much healthier for you (and it might help shrink my boobs to a more human size). But I've heard many horror stories about the placement (one of my friend actually went into labour!!!). Any advice from doctor Aryan?

fluffyhelen said...

I was put on the pill in July because we wanted to stop using condoms. It sent me WAPPY. I have never been so crazy. I cried nonstop for the entire week I was on them and it was a total nightmare.

I think they work by making you not want to have sex? :D

H said...

thene - about the "wrong sort of immune system" idea, I think the point is our partners' pheromones and whether we find them attractive. Immune system compatibility is not one of my partner-choosing priorities but an attractive smell is, and I don't want to find out that I've changed my mind about it the moment we start trying for a baby.

I know that the pill is great for many women. Like Trixie said, often the benefits outweigh the side effects, and that's cool... for me they didn't. I just really wish that I had been told about the side effects beforehand - it would have saved me from months of not understanding what the hell is wrong with me.

Sarah said...

I went on the pill young - 15 and apart from a break when i tried Depo Provera (tell you about that in a bit) i would have also said that i was totally fine on it too.

BUT, then my partner and I decided to try for a family and when i came off the pill all i could say was WOW, what a HUGE difference!! I lost weight, my skin improved, i was happier and best of all my libido went through the roof! The thing is, i'd been on it for so long, i didn't realise that it was having that effect on me. I'd literally grown up on it.

Now i definitely won't knock the pill because it prevents so many unwanted pregnancies, but i do wish it hadn't done that to me. Now i'm off it i am NEVER going back. Never ever! I'm pregnant at the moment, but after that we will use natural family planning (not the rhythm method) because that's what we've been doing the past 3 years since i stopped taking the pill, both to achieve and prevent pregnancy. It's a great method and very reliable, but not AS reliable as the pill or condoms and requires knowledge and discipline to use. Probably best used by couples who wouldn't be ruined by a pregnancy.

Now, the Depo Provera injection was AWFUL! I tried it for about a year and a half when i was about 20 and it did awful things. Think weight gain to the extreme, acne to the extreme and bad bad bad depression. Worst of all is that it's injected into you and lasts 3 months, so once you have it, it's a loooong wait for it to stop having an effect on you if it doesn't agree. YAK! Never again! I actually went to the doctors to get help for my clinical depression and he offered me pills, which i turned down that time, thinking if it didn't go away i would go back. I came off the Depo for a break because i hadn't had a period for a year and a half (wierd in itself) and bang! I was happy again! Easy as that! Even though i'd stopped the Depo and started the pill, i was still happier as the Depo left my system.

If anyone is reading this and is in a monogamous relationship, looking to learn about different contraception. I would highly recommend the book "Taking Charge Of Your Fertility" by Toni Weschler. It's about natural family planning and even if you don't want to use that method, what it teaches you about your own body is astounding. I had no idea about most of the stuff in there until i read it!

Misssy M said...

The contraceptive implant gave me horrific problems. I bled for seven months after having it put in and developed clinical depression which I had never suffered from before or since. It was bad enough when it was still in me, but the depression got markedly worse once it was removed.

I would never recommend that anyone go on it. It cost me nearly a year of being normal, and had quite negative consequences for me and my family.

Oh and it put me off sex- so what's the flippin' point?

gal africana said...

lets just say that after 8 years on the pill, I thought I was frigid! I was also lethargic, moody and overweight...thats how bad it got. Never going back to hormonal birth control again!

Anonymous said...

Wow, I'm suprised at so many people with such negative things about the pill. I found my hormones and moods not at all affected by it, and there is one HUGE plus - cramps. I had mind-numbingly bad cramps for 10 years before I finally went on the pill, and its like magic-they are so much reduced its like I have 12-24 more days in a year because I was pretty much out of commission for the first one to two days of each month... Maybe its not perfect, and if you notice major changes maybe looking for something else is a good idea, but i think its worth noting that it does have major benefits from some people.

suburbanhen said...

I'm with all the others and it is fantastic that Dr Sam has piped up and said something. Thank you, Dr Sam.
My experiences were with the pill and Depo. Both very bad, but the Depo experience was horrific and I did nearly die from the depression it induced. For me the Depo took about 2 years to 'get over' and for my body to settle down. I am not sure I will ever lose all the weight I put on, though.
While the copper IUD is fantastic, it comes with it's own set of risks. For me they are worth it, but perhaps not the best solution for someone who wants to absolutely guarantee their reproductive health for the future.

Abs said...

@ suburban hen - how does the copper IUD endanger future reproductive health? I've never heard of this (unless you're talking about the very small likelihood of perforation of the uterus).

I'm quite sickened by the way the medical profession pushes the pill on women in this country, and by the lack of information about other forms of contraception. Women are almost blinded to any other option. When I got my IUS people were astonished that I was doing something other than the Pill and I had to really fight the clinic to get them to agree to let me try something new. My guess is that the pill is cheap but really, that's no reason to keep so many women on a medication that's making them miserable and fat - surely that's more of a drain on the health service?

Milana said...

Great that you have posted an article about this. It is important that women understand the potential side effects of hormonal contraceptives, but it is equally important that men do too.

In my experience, men are pretty keen, to say the least, on getting their girlfriends to take the pill. I understand that it is an easy, reliable option, that is no hassle to men. I also understand that always using condoms does have its downsides for men, but guys should realise that good, regular sex with a condom can be a better option than irregular sex with someone who is just going through the motions because their libido has been killed!

Karen said...

My older sister and I never experienced any problems with the pill. I've been on it for about 7 years and have never noticed anything out of the ordinary. However, my sister became depressed as well and gained a massive amount of weighth when she went on the pill. She switched to a lighter one and has been just fine ever after... There are many light pills available nowadays which might work a lot better for anyone who suffers from the regular pill...

Karen said...

I meant my younger sister, of course.

Emily said...

I've been on the pill for a few months (mainly to regularise extremely random periods) and haven't really noticed any problems at all (blaming the slight weight gain on desperate panic eating during exams!)

I don't actually know that many people that have had problems with it although I suppose it's not something you talk about that much?

suburbanhen said...

hey abs. There are potential side effects from using the copper IUD, especially for long term users. There's a microorganism that will only present itself on the cervix of IUD (I don't know if this apparent in IUS users)users that can sometimes get out of hand and cause problems (like, er, death. But only in extreme circumstances...lol).
When your IUD or IUS is put in, there is a risk of infection in the first few days. It does happen sometimes, and if left unchecked can render the users bits a bit useless.
They can also fall out or dislodge and yes, perforate your bits.

There are plenty of statistics out there which cover the risk of this happening or that happening, but ultimately it's a personal choice. And I have found that I have had to educate myself of these risks. The information is there, it has just never been given to me (except the concerns for post insertion infection, and the lecture about ectopic pregnancy. Not that the IUD increses this risk, just that the pill removes the risk where the IUD does not), and I have had three IUD's now.

Having said all that, I am a proud user and have had little trouble. I did have to get one out early for a loop diathermy excision, but when it's that mild annoyance or cervical cancer, well...

Anna said...

I started the pill two weeks ago for cramps, and so far so good. I actually feel happier and much more balanced. I would normally have a lot less sexual energy, which is actually good because my need for sexual attention has ruined to many relationships. And I'm definately looking forward to regular periods that last half the days they normally would.
And I was doing the crying-constantly thing before anyway, so it could really only get better.

Daring said...

So, the sources here are a couple of maybe coincidental personal experiences, a user-regulated encyclopedia, and. your. mum.

Brilliant. Excellent research there.

Any hormonal method of contraception is going to carry the same risks, not just the pill. Which, incidentally, is a hideously misleading blanket term. There are a wide variety of ingestible, hormone-based contraceptives. They vary in the type of hormone utilized and the strength. Not every pill is right for every person.

Some pills even have anti-depressants and pain killers built in for the trouble spot right before meneses. You know, to keep you from going whacky.

A woman's prescription writer, be they GYN or GP *ought* to make the hormone risks known to her, and help her to find the right level of hormone for her.

What's more, I'm not 100% because I use the ring, another *fabulous* method of hormone-contraceptive, but I *think* all drugs do carry warnings of possible side effects. So sorry that some people don't bother reading them.

This post somewhat dangerously over-generalizes the issue, the solution, and responsibility. Perhaps it would have been better left to someone else to write.

Abs said...

@ suburban hen - wow, thanks for that. I didn't know anything about that risk - just about the potential for post-insertion infection and perforation.

Anonymous said...

I think the issue is more that doctors don't tell women how to monitor whether their pill is having horrible effects on them. And a lot of the time GPs don't like it when you go back and ask for a different pill. Obviously we read the side effects on the leaflet, but often if you go to your GP asking about feeling miserable they try to put you on antidepressants rather than admitting that a pill change could help. I've tried many different sorts of pills among other things, and am now on a pill that's fantastic for me. But no GP has ever supported me in changing brand - it's either been my dogged insistence or the intervention of nurses at family planning clinics, who if you ask me are a much better source of contraceptive advice than a regular GP.

NurseP said...

I'm a nurse in a GP/family planning practice and to be honest like all drugs the pill has its pros and cons. I always advise my patients of the awful side effects that the pill can have (I had awful side effects when I was on it as a teen, so I can fully empathise. I also believe that I have an ethical duty to fully inform my patients as do GPs- but that's an issue for another day.)

as anonymous states, what a lot of women don't realise is that they should read the drug leaflet in the box or go to a reliable online site (such as pubmed) and have a peep at the drug info- don't rely soley on what your GP/nurse says. And if you don't think you are getting an adequate contraceptive service form your GP and they are not forthcoming with an alternative, go to your well woman clinic or to a gynae clinic.

One more point, ALWAYS be aware of the risk of deep vein thrombosis (dvt) while on any hormonal treatment. This can be life threatening. When I was an A&E nurse this was the cause of a fair amount of young women coming into A&E. So if you feel any of the symptoms while on the pill, don't doubt yourself, go straight to casualty!!