So, this is a little different to what I normally blog about. Unfortunately it will exclude the boys, which I do apologise for. Although, some guys might genuinely be interested in learning about the side effects of the pill and the hormone craziness! But generally, this is one for the girls.
Those who regularly read my posts will probably realise I am a natural health fan. My regular daily skin care, food, cosmetics and all that kind of stuff, I like to keep it natural and preferably organic. I’m still working towards all my cosmetic being natural, but thats the intention. I eat a whole foods plant based diet. Despite all this, for some strange reason I went back on the contraceptive pill last year after being off them for over 10 years. I heard so many great things about Yasmin, that I just thought it would be ‘easier’. It was a moment of madness that I am still paying for, 4 months after coming off it.
I decided to write this blog because I find it staggering that the very serious side effects of the Yasmin pill in particular, but also many other 3rd generation pills, are not more widely known or told to women before they start taking them. I am angry that women are far too often dismissed when they try to explain their symptoms to health professionals. I am also completely outraged that some of the key research into side effects of Yasmin is financed by the company that manufactures it. This is a major conflict of interest which should prevent them from being involved.
The main reason for sharing my story is I think the more women that share their experience, the more informed women will be and hopefully this actually instigates change. Through discussing my experience with friends, and researching and analysing the information I have been able to find, I am strongly opposed to this particular pill. I would actually go as far as saying that all of them fail women. I obviously know that without contraceptive pills, there would be a lot more unwanted pregnancies. And I understand that the medical community does not want to scare large numbers of women from coming off it. But I think that by ignoring the experiences of large numbers of women and allowing the manufacturers to conduct research and mislead women regarding side effects, our overall health and rights as patients are being sidelined in favour of a convenient and cheap way of controlling birth rates. Yes the pill has given women a certain amount of personal control and freedom, but withholding the real side effects means improvements won’t be made and women will suffer, and in some cases die, through lack of awareness. The other birth control options are also not fully pursued.
So, how did Yasmin affect me? Well, almost immediately after starting it I had side effects that even at the time I didn’t connect, which is so weird for me because I am really in touch with my health and my body. My only explanation is that I really wasn’t myself. I started to feel really over emotional, often weepy and crying for reasons I just couldn’t explain. I had no idea what the hell was wrong with me. I felt depressed and unhappy and could not figure out why. Some days I could not get out of bed, I would just cry most of the day, without actually knowing why. Yes, there were all sorts of things going on in my life, but thats life and I had never reacted this way before to stressful situations. In fact I am not someone who cries, ever. I am very together, very capable and after an initial freak out I calm down and chill out. So for a period of about 9 months, I felt my emotions were all over the place and my husband and close friends were really worried about me. I also had chest pain that I put down to hay fever or asthma, but have since found out is a common side effect. I can’t say for sure this was part of the side effects from Yasmin, because the pollen count was high in London last summer and I suffered terribly, but in a way that I never had before. My asthma too, always very mild without ever having a major bout of it. That summer I couldn’t exercise outside, something I have always done and enjoyed. I couldn’t run a mile without severe chest pain and problems breathing. Again, this could be really awful seasonal asthma badly timed, but these are, as I found out later, common side effects.
So after roughly 9 months on it, something in me told me it wasn’t working. That all the months of ill health were so unlike me, I decided to stop taking it. This wasn’t to be an end to my misery, unfortunately. In fact, for some time I felt worse.
Coming off the pill, I discovered, was almost as bad as being on it. I didn’t notice much the first month other than slightly more pain during my period. However, as I came up to my second cycle off the pill, I had sudden weight gain and fluid retention. When I say sudden, it was over a few days. And it was considerable. This is one of the side effects that is particularly common when coming off, and also largely dismissed by Doctors as women eating a bit too much cake and not realising it. Argh! Well, I am so into nutrition and fitness, I know when I have been naughty and slacked off. If anything, I had been particularly good. I have also maintained the same weight for a decade following childbirth. The weight was particularly significant in my breasts and butt! My hands and feet were swollen. I actually felt like I did when I first started breast feeding. It was alarming to say the least. And my period was painful, irregular and heavy, unlike anything I had ever had before. Normally I have very easy periods with no stomach cramps. This third cycle has been a bit better, and I have the supplements to thank for that, more on that later. I am still experiencing some pain and irregularity with my cycle, and not all the weight has come off. The fluid retention has pretty much gone thank god. Strangely, it just does not seem to be moving from my breasts at all?! WTF? I have gone up a cup size! It literally feels like when I was breastfeeding. I have also been tired, easily exhausted and suffered really dreadful headaches- although more recently they could be from the detox pills.
So when I started getting all this grief after coming off it, I do what I always do and started researching as much as I could. I was not alone. Women all over the world were having or had, the same experiences as myself. I consider I got off lightly in comparison. Many also suffer from very bad acne, on their face and back, after coming off this particular pill. Yasmin has a diuretic in it which stops the weight gain experienced by a lot of women on other pills, although denied as a side effect by the medical establishment. So, while you generally don’t get weight gain going on Yasmin, it is common to have some coming off it. Thanks for telling me. Hormonal weight gain is not something you can control easily, so it is particularly frustrating.
After being on the pill, your body now has to adjust and start making its own hormones again. This takes time. It is likely that I am experiencing estrogen dominance, but certainly an imbalance due to the fact my body hasn’t been producing its own hormones while I was on the pill. I read a lot about something called DIM, which is a natural compound found in cruciferous vegetables, helping to get rid of excess estrogen. Then I found an excellent website, The Holy Kale, that had a thorough explanation of DIM and many other natural solutions to this problem. Things which would help my body to rebalance, and things to avoid. I am so grateful I found it, it has literally saved me from going completely mad! I could go into a long explanation of how these things helped me, but the article on this blog does such a good job of it already. If you are experiencing the same problems as myself or plan to go off the pill, I thoroughly recommend you read it too. I will talk more about what helped me and exactly what remedies I have been taking in my next post on this, hopefully very soon when I am out the other side of it! But I pretty much followed Lauren’s advice on her blog, with the addition of a few teas and an extra couple of herbal remedies. I already had the diet recommended for those suffering hormonal imbalances which is basically plant based, lots of vegetables, fruit, water and exercise as always with yoga and any exercise which will help relax you being particularly beneficial- for me that’s swimming.
This has taken me weeks to write, trying to stick to the main points but include things I thought would be helpful. I will follow up with my progress so you get an idea of how long it took, although its different for everyone, and what I found worked best. I do want to say that despite this experience, it is absolutely worth coming off it. I know this was the right decision and I feel better now, a few months on, than I did last summer when I was utterly miserable. I just think we need to prepare ourselves well, be really informed and help our body as much as possible in finding balance again. You have to brace yourself for this! But I am not in any way sorry I came off it, the more I read about it, the happier I am with my decision. In fact, it has sparked an interest in learning more about hormone production and how it all works. Which I will also share when I have learnt a bit more.
I didn’t want to delve into the really serious side effects of the pill, particularly Yasmin or Yaz, just yet. But please do your research on them. One fact I will note here for your benefit. The risks of blood clots with these pills increases significantly when compared to pregnancy aged women not on the pill, and indeed when compared to women on other earlier contraceptive pills. Some do not think it is a significant increase, but please look into this yourself and decide if you think, like I do, that the risk is not just significant but wholly unacceptable.
For anyone wishing to share their story, please do add your comment! At the top of this post on the right there is a little speech bubble 🙂 And if you are still suffering, definitely visit ‘The Holy Kale’ blog, this woman is an absolute gem and I can’t say in words how grateful I am.