My Birth Control Almost Ruined My Life
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Health and Wellness

My Birth Control Almost Ruined My Life

Hormonal birth control was made to prevent pregnancy, but, instead, many women like myself experience anxiety, depression, depersonalization, and other physical and mental illnesses in the process.

My Birth Control Almost Ruined My Life

DISCLAIMER: While I had a horrible experience with the birth control implant (close chemical makeup to some forms of IUDs and the ring), there are many success stories and this is not written to take away from that. Do not be scared if you have just gotten this inserted or you currently have it, everyone reacts to synthetic hormones differently.

About a year ago, my life was in a sudden downward spiral. My physical and mental health was rapidly declining, and I could not pinpoint the cause. I was housebound, and sometimes even bed bound, for almost two months. Someone close to me suggested that it was from my birth control, the implant, but I was unsure. All of the doctors I spoke to said "no way" and my GYN was unconvinced but removed the implant anyways. Within weeks, I was on my way to feeling like myself again.

Finding myself in the aftermath of taking a semester off and without work for quite some time, I decided to create a blog and post an article about what my birth control did to my life and well being. There was no way that I could have imagined the enormous out pour of support and stories of women who suffered through a similar experience. I still receive emails monthly from women of all ages that are experiencing the same side effects and do not know where to turn.

I'm sure you have seen numerous horror stories about the birth control implant. Here is my story.

It all started when I heard about an 'awesome' contraceptive method called the implant. It's a small device that’s surgically inserted into the arm and is effective for three years. This was the answer, I thought, as one who was often forgetful about taking the pill. I quickly jumped at the opportunity to visit the GYN and have it inserted. Before the placement of the device, I was told the most common associated risks: irregular periods, migraines, and, as with many hormonal contraceptives, weight gain.

Fast forward to one year post-insertion. Not much has changed, so I thought, except maybe a few pounds of weight gain and a migraine or two a month. I had not realized that common thoughts such as “If I don’t study, I may do poorly on the exam” transitioned into “If I don’t study, I fail the exam, fail the class, and my life will be over”. I had so much going on at the time, as a rigorous college student, that there was little or no time to evaluate these changes.

Christmas break rolled around, and I could not have been more relieved. Unfortunately, at the beginning of the new year, I suffered from a terrible sinus infection before school started again which ignited crippling anxiety of which I had never experienced before. Everything looked different, everything looked “dream-like” in a way I could not explain. Both myself and my doctors accredited this feeling to a sinus infection. Three different courses of antibiotics and steroids later, I knew something was very wrong. Two ER trips, a CT scan, and an MRI scan revealed that not only had my sinus infection vanished but there was no physical reason for this “dream-like” feeling and anxiety.

For over a month, I was so psychically, mentally, and emotionally ill that I could not even leave my house except for doctors appointments. Unfortunately, my condition forced me to withdraw from school for the semester. I began to feel emotionless, lifeless, and, although I never once had any thought of suicide, I was okay if death found me. Depression, something that I had never experienced nor had family history of, consumed me.

I was running out of hope and reason. As a last ditch effort, because of advice from someone close to me, I decided to look up my birth control- Nexplanon (same chemical component of both Implanon and the IUD, Mirena). I was shocked, and horrified, to find story after story similar in nature to my own all that were attributed to the same contraceptive device. Upon further investigation, I found these additional side effects caused by Nexplanon (and many other hormonal contraceptives with estonogestrel):

Incidence: Between 1 in 10 and 1 in 100

Sinus Infection (Hmm.. imagine that)
Flu-like Symptoms
Upper Respiratory Tract Infection
AND the most surprising and relieving to me:
Depersonalization: a state in which one’s thought, feelings, and surroundings seem unreal or not to belong to oneself, or in which one loses all sense of identity.Source

These are just a few of a whole host of side effects that many people may not be aware of or were never told about. Now, a year from when the symptoms began, I am better than ever. I switched majors and schools and am thriving, established great friendships, and am engaged to the man of my dreams. The people around me express that they have seen a huge change in my demeanor- almost like a wave of calm emotion has washed over me.

After the removal, I visited Johns Hopkins to find both answers and validation. There I learned that as one who uses a normal level of anxiety to push myself and achieve aspirations, having the implant caused my anxiety to spike to an unsafe level. The doctors let me know that many hormonal contraceptives have the ability to effect one’s mental health, especially if someone is high strung or has a history of mental illness.

While this experience is not something that is easy to be so open about, if I can help one person or if I can give one person validation of their feelings, it will be well worth it. I’m also not writing this to bash the product itself or to worry those who use it as their current contraceptive. There are many people who have nothing but pleasant experiences with it. That being said, there are people suffering from various issues and not looking to their birth control as the cause.

I hope that those who read this article and are taking ANY form of hormonal birth control begin to watch for changes in mood or attitude. DO NOT be afraid to relay any problems to doctors and ALWAYS trust your instinct. Research on the correlation between mental illness and birth control is few and far between which is disheartening considering how vital the ability to prevent pregnancy is to women of all child-bearing ages.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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