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For many young females, it is normal to trial and test contraceptive pills to find one that works for them. Usually, the reasons tend to be for moods or birth control and the symptoms can be mild. However, for Tesh Reyes, it took three pills, three scans and five years for doctors to find the right pill and the route cause of her stomach pain.
Here, she tells The Lowdown about her contraceptive journey.
Pain pain go away
At 19 years old, Tesh describes struggling with really bad period pain and stomach cramps. After visiting her GP and having her first ultrasound, which she describes as being pretty overwhelming for a teenager, the doctor diagnosed her with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS); a common condition that affects how a female’s ovaries work.
The pain, Tesh describes, was that it felt like your uterus was constantly going to fall out. “Period poo was a big part of my symptoms and even urinating was painful but not in a UTI kind of way,” she says. While she wasn’t much of a going out person, at the time, Tesh worked in a kitchen as a line cook and standing for that long was really difficult. “It’s like your ovaries are being squeezed.”
To help with her PCOS, the doctor prescribed her the pill Diane35. She says to her surprise, it worked really well in easing the pain, plus it cleared up her skin. However, she did gain a lot of weight but it wasn’t anything compared to the discomfort she was suffering before.
After a while and despite Diane35 helping with her pain, Tesh wanted to try different pills in the hope that her symptoms would subside even more. Eventually, it also started to stop working for her and so moving to different pills felt like the right option. “According to my scans, Diane did not do a significant change in my PCOS but it regulated my periods. It made my skin less oily and gave me bigger boobs (no complaints there).”
Tesh says she received mixed reactions from doctors when asking to change pills. “Some doctors were helpful and some just made me cry.” Because Diane35 made her gain weight, one doctor insisted that losing weight would help with her PCOS which really upset her. “She kept repeating and repeating that I should lose weight. It made my teary-eyed because it’s like she insisted there was no other way.” Tesh says she felt like her only option was either lose weight or stay on Diane35 and neither were ideal at the time.
The second pill Tesh tried was Althea. Unfortunately, Tesh found herself having an extreme allergic reaction to this pill which led her to suffer from urticaria. “I had to go to a dermatologist to get that sorted out. It was challenging because I needed the pill but it gave me negative reactions.”
She says, before the urticaria, Althea was not the best but it did the job. “It really cleared my skin and I was on it for three months before the urticaria started,”, so it was frustrating she had to come off it. The new condition was so bad that it kept her up at night, she kept scratching and scratching and eventually left dark marks over her skin.
After suddenly coming of Althea to stop the skin condition but needing something to help with her PCOS, Tesh (reluctantly) went back to Diane. Despite it not being great for her weight or for completely helping the pain, it helped slightly so it was better than nothing.
As time went by, Tesh was eager to find the right pill for her. She didn’t mind trying different ones as it was important to her physical and mental health that the pain stops. By now, and almost five years since she first started Diane35, the pain was extreme. “A hot water bottle couldn’t even relieve the pain. I took the tablets [too] but still, no relief.”
She adds, “I even vomited from the pain. I’d just stay in bed for the entire day and standing up was too much.” Another symptom to get worse was period poo. “I would dread going to the toilet. I get diarrhoea when I have my period. When I’m out with friends I would skip the salad (I love salads) and skip the coffee (I also adore coffee).” She says it definitely affected the days she would schedule meeting up with friends and going out. “I would always have tissues and wet wipes handy when I have my period.”
Even though she was so uncomfortable and conducting everyday tasks was difficult, Tesh was worried she was just being overdramatic. She had already had two ultrasounds, so it must just be normal PCOS and period pain? Was she just not handling it as well?
Third time lucky
Finally, the third time was a charm. Tesh managed to see a helpful doctor for the third and final doctor who assured her they would do everything they could to find the root of the cause. “One doctor was very helpful. She said she wouldn’t stop until we found the right one.”
To her relief, the third ultrasound found that Tesh had in fact been living with endometriosis – an often painful disorder in which tissue similar to the tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus — the endometrium — grows outside your uterus. While it’s not nice to hear that you have another health condition to tackle, Tesh was pretty relieved to know that she wasn’t overreacting. “I [now] know that it’s not all in my head. But knowing the diagnosis gave me an answer that no, it’s not normal.”
She says she had an inkling before when she had been researching it as a lot of her symptoms ticked all of the boxes. In addition, her mum also suffers from endometriosis and so she learnt a lot from her before being diagnosed.
In an attempt to find a pill that would help with her endometriosis, Tesh was prescribed Cerazette. “The first pack gave me a lighter period. The pain was still bad but not as much. The second pack changed my life. I didn’t have my period meaning, NO PAIN!”
She adds, “I could finally function. I could cook as much as I wanted to. Simply, I could finally move. I can go to the bathroom without any pain. I can sleep without waking up to vomit. I can live like a 25-year-old. I can stop counting the days and dreading the days before my period.”