The Contraception Diaries: 7 Women On How They Found The Right Birth Control

From the mini-pill to the coil, each woman talks about finding what's right for her.

Figuring out what contraception is best for your body and mind is often not an easy decision.

Factors such as recurring health problems or mental health play a huge part in finding out which contraception suits you best – we spoke to seven women who told us about the journey they took to find the right form of contraception for them.

“I had tried out a few different pills before I got the contraceptive implant, Implanon, which I had for the three year duration. This didn’t agree with me and I found myself spotting almost constantly.

I went back to trying a variety of pills but couldn’t find one which didn’t give me bad mood swings and other side effects. I also tend to worry a good bit and I always worried about taking the pill correctly. I had loved the security of a long term contraceptive where I didn’t have to worry about taking anything at the right time or antibiotics or the other things that effect the pill, but I couldn’t go back to Implanon.

I talked this over with my doctor and she suggested an IUS [intrauterine system] because the local acting hormone would be unlikely to cause the side effects I had with the pill or the implant. She recommended Kyleena which is relatively new, and lasts five years rather than the three years you get from other kinds. The fitting was not the most pleasant experience but I’ve had it for around three months now with no side effects and no stress!”

“For me, the pill has been an absolute life saver. I have suffered with chronic pelvic pain and vulvodynia [chronic pain around the opening of the vagina] for over a decade. Like most women with these conditions, periods are a huge trigger for pain flair-ups. A few years ago I was put on Loestrin and advised to run the packs (take one after the other) and take a break every 3-6 months.

This means I get, at most, four periods at year, but I usually aim for two. This has made a huge difference to my quality of life. I am no longer in fear every month, and I can plan to take a week out when I need to. I can make all my frequent medical appointments and can do my physical therapy. It can given me the consistency that I need to take control of my life, something that almost feels impossible to do when you have chronic pain. I am so grateful for that tiny pill.”

Several types of intrauterine devices

“I love my coil. I’m not going to lie, getting it inserted was the most painful experience of my life. I’ve never had a baby, and some doctors won’t perform the procedure on gals who aren’t mams because it’s definitely trickier. But after three or four days of pain, and six months of it settling in my body, I wouldn’t be without it.
I feel totally protected, don’t have to worry about remembering anything and my periods are really light and short. Still sore and PMS-y, but that’s all down to progesterone, which is the only hormone in my Mirena coil. Oestrogen in the Pill gave me migraines and horrible mood swings.
I will say though, when I got the coil my skin got really oily as oestrogen does help with sebum production. However, it settled after about three months and I’m not spotty anymore.”
“It took a long time to find something that worked for me. Cerazette is a progestogen-only pill, or a mini pill.  It does cause cystic acne, but unfortunately a lot of us have to put up with unpleasant side effects when using contraceptives. At 16, I was diagnosed with PCOS.  Though offered little to no information, I was told that the pill would help and a prescription for Dianette was issued ‘to help things along’.
Since then, I have tried almost every combination pill on the market. Doctors would hand me a new prescription to counteract each side effect caused by the previous attempt – crippling cramps, hair loss, depression, weight gain, acne, massive weight loss, five-week-long periods, the works.  Adverse reactions to oral contraceptives left me too afraid to attempt anything more permanent.
At 16 I also began to suffer from regular migraines.  I find it quite scary that I was 23 before a GP put two and two together, realising that a migraine sufferer should not have been prescribed a combination pill in the first place – she explained that it put me at high risk of a stroke and switched me to the mini pill instead.
In a way, I’m lucky that acne is the only negative side effect that Cerazette has had to date, as it is literally my last option. It’s important to remember contraceptives are used for more than just contraception.”

The implant

“Like most women, finding the right contraception has been the toughest battle of my teenage years and early twenties. My first experience with the pill came aged 14 after a dermatologist prescribed it alongside Roaccutane for my acne-ridden skin. I’d experienced irregular periods and severe pain up until I went on the pill. I carried on happily with the pill for a few years until one day I burst into uncontrollable tears and shakes.

This continued for a full week. I couldn’t stop crying. In between sobs of “What is wrong with me?”, it was my mammy who told me it might be a good idea to stop taking my pill. The change was almost instantaneous.

I’d mentioned my experience to friends who suggested the implant. My biggest fear with this was the “procedure”. It was actually pain-free as my arm was numbed but it was slightly sore for the first week. It shocks so many women when I tell them my periods have stopped. The main reaction to this is a horrified wide-eyed look and an “Oh my god, you’ll never have children if your period has stopped!” This isn’t something that bothers me as my GP told me it won’t impact my future fertility.

I recently got my implant changed which led to a few side affects at first such as breakouts, occasional bleeding and sore breasts. Despite the teething problems with my second implant, it has drastically changed my quality of life. I used to be bed bound with my period, armed with a hot water bottle and eating painkillers like nobody’s business. Since getting it, my period hasn’t been a debilitating time of the month.”

“I use the mini-pill as my method of contraception – I was first prescribed the pill aged 13 to control heavy and frequent periods, and was fortunate that the first pill I tried, Mercilon, suited me. When I was 27, I experienced my first migraine, and as the headache was accompanied by what my doctor calls “aura” (visual disturbance), I had to switch to the mini-pill (progestogen only, no oestrogen) as migraine sufferers with aura are slightly more susceptible to stroke and the oestrogen pill adds to that risk.
I chose a mini-pill called Cerazette. Most mini-pills need to be taken within a three-hour window each day to be effective, but Cerazette has a 12-hour window. The main difference from the regular pill is that it’s taken every day – there’s no pill-free week. It has made my periods stop completely, which is great. I’m tempted to say that I’d never use anything else, but I thought that before, and you never know when your body will decide your needs have changed.
I’ve been on one form of the pill or another for 21 years (I’m 34) – I’d be nervous to change to another form of contraception in case it didn’t regulate my periods well enough. I was extremely sick as a result of them when I was kid and the thought of risking that again is still quite scary!”

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