My contraceptive journey: One injection, please

"The injection please?", is what Lili asked for for her next method of contraception after years of trying different pills that caused her to feel awful.

Despite being sure that the injection was the right method of birth control for her, the nurse at Lili’s GP practice was adamant she try other brands of contraceptive pills first.
Here, Lili Bunten tells The Lowdown her story.

The injection, please?

“Are you sure you don’t want to try the pill again?”, I was asked as I sat in the sexual health nurse’s office, asking for the Depo Provera injection for the third time.
Rewind five years to 15-year old me, sat in a different nurse’s office being prescribed the combined pill for the first time. I originally went on Rigevidon to try to regulate my highly irregular periods which, of course, decided to show their face at the most inconvenient of times. It felt like the best thing to go on at the time as I would be taking a pill with a week’s break each month. At first, I thought the pill was great, it was doing its job regulating my periods and I hadn’t encountered any unwanted effects so far.
Oh, how wrong was I. What followed was the eruption of acne and intense mood swings which started only two months into starting it. Of course, myself and everyone around me put it down to purely being a ‘moody teenager’ who was going through puberty. I continued taking the pill (in blissful ignorance to the effect it was having on my body) for around three years, trying different brands along the way. This was in the hope that I would just grow out of the effects stereotypically associated with being a teen. But that never happened.

“I put it down to being a moody teenager”

However, as much as I would love to sit here and say I had some great bodily epiphany by realising the pill was the cause of my poor skin and even poorer temperament, this was not the case. Realistically, I wasn’t consistent in taking the pill each day or at the right time and decided I needed a break from the daily forgetting and stressing. Not taking the pills probably exacerbated the negative effects, but hey, nobody’s perfect!

No pill, no problem

During the next few months on no contraception, I realised just how much of an impact the pill had on me and my body. My skin started to clear up, I was experiencing far fewer mood swings and I was feeling much happier in general. “This is great”, I thought, “I’m going to stick hormone-free forever!” But then life came along.
Age 20, I met my boyfriend and it just made sense to go back onto contraception. We used condoms for the first two months but I wanted to go onto something more long-term. My friend who also had similar problems like me on the combined pill recommended the Depo Provera injection. She said her periods stopped completely and she didn’t have any side effects compared to when she was on the pill. After some googling of my own, I decided it was perfect for me (mainly because it lasted three months but the no periods appealed to me too).
Side note: I absolutely don’t think getting into a relationship requires a woman to go on contraception, but for us, it worked (condoms aren’t cheap – especially for students!).

“The nurse was adamant I try more contraceptive pill first”

So, here I now am sat in the sexual health nurse’s office at my GP’s practice, insisting I go on the Depo Provera injection. For some reason, the nurse was adamant I try more contraceptive pills which I politely declined after explaining my past experience. She informed me my mood swings would be much worse on the injection and also suggested fitting a coil instead. I explained I wasn’t comfortable with having something physical in my uterus (but a cocktail of hormones being pumped into my body was completely fine; weird thought process, I know). I felt frustrated as I felt like she wasn’t listening to me at all. I think sometimes, medical professionals don’t take side effects as seriously and in general, have a more relaxed attitude towards prescribing contraception. Finally, she agreed to give me the injection; luckily for her, they were out of stock.
So I had to take a trip to my local sexual health clinic instead, who I must add were amazing. She, along with other nurses I have seen in clinics seem like they really listen and are more open to a discussion than when I’ve visited my GP. They also are very non-judgmental as all they see in clinics are people talking about sexual health so maybe they’re just more comfortable about talking about it.

No regrets

Fast forward a year on and I couldn’t be happier with the injection. I haven’t had any negative side effects and my periods have completely stopped! Plus, I only have to remember to get it done every three months. I do understand the main concern for taking the injection is thinning of the bones; so I was planning to take an ‘injection-holiday’ soon. Funnily enough, I didn’t have to worry about this as coronavirus and lockdown have provided me with this earlier than planned as I haven’t had another injection since my last one ran out in May.
I am planning on going back on it though as my skin has become quite bad, mainly on either side of my neck which, according to Google, is due to hormones. I don’t think I’d consider any other method; I don’t like the idea of an object/thing inside me such as the coil or the implant and the injection has worked so well for me. I think the only other one I’d be open to is the patch.
So, all in all, the pill wasn’t for me, but the injection definitely is. My main take-home message is: you know what’s right for your body! If a contraceptive hasn’t worked for you, don’t let anyone try to tell you otherwise or invalidate your experiences. Plus, it’s good to take a break when possible, especially if you’ve been on it for a long period of time. Doing this really helped me to understand my body better and how contraception changed me.

This guide was brought to you by The Lowdown. We are the world’s first contraception review platform, providing real-life experiences from thousands of reviews collected from our community of men and women.

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