What has your personal journey with contraception been like?
Like most women, when I got to the stage of needing contraception, I went to the doctor and asked to go on the pill. It wasn’t so much a consultation, I simply asked for the pill, the doctor asked a few questions about my skin and whether I got migraines etc, took my blood pressure and that was that. I walked away with a script and started on the pill. This was about 20 years ago, so some of the ‘newer’ options like the injection and the implant weren’t available (or if they were, I certainly didn’t know about them). The pill seemed like the most obvious solution.
Unfortunately I never really got on with the pill and cycled through a number of different brands over the years. I put on weight which I wasn’t happy about it seemed like an ok trade off as not getting pregnant was more important than a few extra kilos.
The real turning point for me came when I realised that the hormones in the pill were having a real impact on my mood day to day. I was tearful, emotional and down all the time. I remember going to the doctor to talk about it and she offered me antidepressants to which I responded… could it be my pill? Can I try changing to a different one first and see if that’s the cause?! Again, I stayed with the pill and switched to a different brand. This helped a lot with my mood but I still didn’t feel quite myself.
I went back to the doctor (I’d moved house and was seeing a different doctor by this point) but this time I’d done my research and asked the doctor if I could have a hormonal IUD. I knew I needed to try something different to the pill which clearly wasn’t for me. Having done my research and seeing the positive reviews from other women online who had been using it, I wanted to give it a go.
My doctor was great and we talked through all my options to make sure it was the right decision and in the end I went for a hormonal IUD as planned. Many women think you can only have an IUD if you’ve had a baby but this just isn’t the case.
It was really easy to get fitted – I just took a couple of Pandol and went to the GP clinic and in a couple of minutes it was done. Kind of similar to a pap smear. I had a bit of cramping afterwards, like a dull period pain ache while my body got used to the IUD but this was only for a few days and then I didn’t think about it again.
It’s effective for 5 years so once it was in I didn’t need to worry about it again (and didn’t need to worry about remembering to take a pill at the same time every day). Given it only uses a very low dose of hormones released locally in your uterus, I didn’t have any mood issues and felt like myself again.
Another good thing about the hormonal IUD is that for some women, periods get lighter or stop altogether, and I was one of them. Some women don’t like this but I loved it! By this stage, I’d moved from London to Sydney and it was all about the beach life, so no periods was an absolute godsend. I didn’t have periods for over 10 years until I removed my IUD to try for a baby, and they came straight back.
My first hormonal IUD was fitted when I was about 24 and I’ve used it ever since, having it replaced every 5 years. I’ve always re-assessed my options at this point but I just couldn’t get past this option as I've found it's the best for me, my body and lifestyle. I love not having periods, knowing it is effective and not having to ever think about it.
What was your experience like falling pregnant after the IUD?
As I had been using a hormonal IUD, it was really easy. When we decided to start trying, I just went to the doctor, got the IUD removed, my period returned straight away and I was ready to go. I didn’t need to worry about hormones leaving my system etc. This was one of the things that I liked about the hormonal IUD – it was 99% effective but completely reversible. As I got older started to think about starting a family, I kept using it knowing that I could start trying for a baby as soon as I was ready to.
I struggled a bit with the process of trying to fall pregnant and the lack of control. You spend your whole life trying not to get pregnant, so it seems strange to suddenly be trying and for it not happen. I’m a very organised person and a bit of a control freak so suddenly I was faced with something that I couldn’t really control. Yes, I could stop drinking, take the prenatal supplements and track my ovulation, but really it comes down to fate! Luckily I fell pregnant after 6 months of trying.
How has your approach to contraception changed now?
I think I've become more confident. In my early 20s I was guided more by the doctor and defaulted to the pill because that’s what all my friends were using at the time. After my extremely negative experience with the pill, I chose to take the matter into my own hands so that I could feel more confident in my options. Doing my own research first and working through that decision with a doctor was a good approach for me. I’m so glad I did that and felt confident enough to ask the right questions and ultimately get what I wanted.
Honestly, I feel so thankful to have found a contraception that works for me. In a way, I feel thankful for the bad experience early on because it led me to find the hormonal IUD earlier than I might have otherwise. There are so many options available now, I honestly think that women shouldn’t be putting up with a contraception that isn’t right. If you’re not satisfied, don’t settle — try something new, and if your doctor isn’t supportive of that then go to a different doctor.
If you'd like to find out which contraception method is right for you, take this quiz at My Body My Way.