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  • Sat, 17, Feb, 2018 - 5:00:AM

The pill messed up my mental health

I regret taking the pill. Not because I’m against contraception, or I didn’t like taking medication daily, but because my enjoyment of life was significantly reduced during the two and a half years that I was on it.

At the first appointment with my doctor about contraception, I wanted to a) not get pregnant and b) clear up my skin. “Simple,” the doctor said. “The pill is what you’re after.” I didn’t know then that my choice of contraception would have a significant effect on my mental wellbeing. While I was warned about possible side effects like weight gain, mental distress was never mentioned.

Only recently did I realise that the years in which I took the pill were not normal for me. It is not an exaggeration to say that I felt like a different person a month after stopping the pill (which is about the length of time it takes for your hormones to settle back down).

Looking back, I was probably depressed. I felt sad a lot of the time. I cried over small incidents (kinda like PMS, but permanent). I skipped social events because I was anxious. My self-esteem was very low, and I struggled to enjoy favourite activities such as swimming and music. I’m not a scientist, nor a doctor, so I can’t say that what I had was definitely caused by the pill. But if not, the coincidence is striking.

I’m not alone. A Danish study found a strong correlation between women on hormonal contraception and those taking antidepressants. The correlation was particularly marked when it came to adolescents.

The thing that scares me now is that I didn’t notice the changes in my mood at the time. They developed slowly. No one told me that I would feel sad more often, or lack motivation, or feel like others were against me.

When the side effects are in your head, they’re difficult to monitor. Although each doctor’s appointment would check for the physical side effects of the pill – measuring blood pressure, for example – there were no questions asked about how it affected my mind.

Women shouldn’t have to make a choice between happiness and sexual freedom, and they don’t have to. Alternative types of contraception should be widely recommended and considered by doctors, so that no one feels trapped in a situation where they forfeit their emotional wellbeing.

Choosing contraception is a personal decision that depends on a wide variety of factors. But the current “pill first, alternatives later” approach taken by New Zealand doctors leaves a lot to be desired.

If the pill seems like it’s affecting you, it might well be. The pill is fast, convenient contraception and that’s why doctors recommend it. But it doesn’t work for everyone. Finding the right form of contraception for your lifestyle is a personal choice, and you might have to test out a few different options, but it’s worth taking the time to do so.

Contraception is meant to make our lives easier, not cause suffering. 

TAGGED IN

  • Contraception /
  • Mental Health /
  • Depression /
  • Anxiety /
  • Medicine /
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Erin
Gourley

Regular Contributor All Articles