Contraception and mental health can both be seen as taboo topics. So when it comes to mental health problems caused by contraception it can be difficult to talk about. And difficult for others to take seriously.
I’m not a doctor, nor will I ever be with my degree in English. But I (and my friends) know I was a complete different person when I was on the contraceptive implant. Described as the marmite of hormonal contraception, you’re either going to love it or hate it. Unfortunately, I was the latter.
I had the implant inserted just before university and taken out 6 months later. The 6 months with it inside my arm caused me to have a period every day, (yes, not just spotting, a light period every single day), severe mood swings and permanently feel low and irritable.
The pill is the most notorious contraception for having strong links with poor mental health. But it’s important to be wary of the mental health side effects that any hormonal contraception can have.
Be conscious of your mood
I took 6 months to get the implant taken out because it took me that long to realise things were bad. Since it was inserted at a pretty turbulent time of my life, starting university, I’d thought my mood was the result of change in environment.
Keeping a mood diary can actually really help with being consciously aware of your mental health. I saw someone show her mood diary on Snapchat and asked about it; on square paper she’d colour out a square at the end of each day in a colour that represented how she had felt. This enabled her to track her mood each month. I gave it a go myself, and when I saw the blue (sad) blocks build up for no discernible reason, I started to clock my problems might be internal rather than external.
Talk to someone
An obvious piece of advice from an outside perspective, but when you’re suffering it can sometimes feel impossible to talk to anyone. With something like this, I found myself embarrassed to talk about it because it seemed so silly. Contraception doesn’t cause other people problems, so why am I suffering?
The most relieving thing I found was a discussion forum with people talking about their struggles after they had the implant inserted. A woman had even said her mood swings had caused her and her husband to divorce. Although I took no happiness reading the sad stories people shared, it was good to see I wasn’t alone in facing these issues. People also discussed how much better they felt following its removal. This prompted me to get mine removed as soon as I could.
And of course, as always, a good friendship group helps so much. Especially if you don’t feel up to, or aren’t able to, go to counselling or therapy. I was extremely grateful for one of my best friends accompanying me to the clinic to get my implant removed.
Understand what the side effects are
It can be difficult to know if contraception is worsening problems if you don’t know what the side effects are to begin with.
I actually avoided the pill because of the side effects I’d been told about; having not heard much from people about the implant I thought it was a safer option. Definitely consult with your doctor or nurse and do your own research into the types of experiences people have had. This can help you recognise if you’re suffering from it yourself.
When ‘anxiety’ and ‘depression’ are listed as potential side effects it can be hard to pinpoint if your specific problems come under those umbrella terms. For example, I had a very specific issue of looking at myself in the mirror and crying because I hated the sight of my body. During the implant I developed body dysmorphia surrounding my weight. But that pretty much instantly ended as soon as I removed the implant. (I now see myself as hella fine).
Remember it’s your body
You have every right to stop or remove contraception that you think is causing problems. Some people can feel selfish for doing this, or worried about entrusting their partner with contraception. With the former, it’s important to remember that this choice is for your well-being and necessary; if your partner has an issue with this, then there’s more than contraception you should get rid of. With the latter, definitely discuss with your partner what will work best for you both, to ensure both of you are comfortable and happy.
Don’t get embarrassed
These things are personal and it can be embarrassing to openly talk about them, but you should never feel embarrassed seeking help.
Mental health problems linked to contraception are mental health problems nonetheless and should never be disregarded.
When I removed my implant I celebrated with a trip to
Revolución de Cuba (one of Nottingham’s best restaurants). Since my implant’s been out, my mood has been as it was before: happy. Except for the occasional irritability which, turns out, is actually just my personality.