I recently went through some medical complications that I wanted to share with you today. I’m putting the takeaways at the beginning because I know this post is really long, and people may not care to read everything.
I didn’t write this to be discouraging – I wrote it to be real and to focus more on a larger picture for two reasons:
1) What I am about to describe is a bunch of birth control-related stuff that you can’t know could happen to you, until it happens to you. Whether you’re thinking of switching up your birth control to skip a period, or for other reasons, it’s important to understand what may happen, so you can decide earlier on than I did just how long you want to hang in there.
2) Even if you read this and you aren’t messing with your birth control, it’s still worth taking a minute to read the “Creating My Own Action Plan” section. The moral of that story is that, when you’re overwhelmed and being pressured to make an important decision, that decision is YOURS to make, and that means you chose what’s right for you, even if it’s unconventional and takes you an extra minute to come up with.
I’m not by any means a medical expert. These are my experiences only, and they are not meant to be taken as any guarantee that you will have the same experiences. I do not mention the medications that I took specifically, as in my opinion, they are irrelevant. What I went through could happen with any form of birth control that uses hormones.
My Birth Control and I Go Way Back
Ever since the day a friend drove me to Planned Parenthood to get it (Mom said no) about 11 years ago, I’ve always taken the same birth control pill. Taking that little pill at the same time every day has been part of my routine for over a decade, along with having a period every month.
Now that I’m older, having a monthly period has become a real, literal, pain. So as my annual appointment at the gynecologist’s office crept up, I decided that I wanted, no – I deserved to have fewer periods. Fewer periods meant less PMS (I get super irritable), and what could be better?
If your thought process is the same as what I just mentioned – read this before you make your final decision. Understanding how the process works and that there are potential side effects is important to keep in mind when weighing the pros and cons of switching up such an important part of your routine.
A Period Every 3 Months? More like a Period For 5 months Straight
I met with my gynecologist, and we decided on a birth control pill meant to give you a period every 3 months instead of every month. Great, right? The gyno let me know that I may experience some breakthrough bleeding – as is normal when switching between any birth control – but that it should taper off within the first 3 months. Okay – annoying, but worth it.
Welp, I pretty much had my period every day for 3 months, with no end in sight. A quick call to my gyno, and she switched the type of pill again, hoping a slightly different combo of hormones would level things out. One month later – still the same. Another phone call, another prescription change, yet still I had my period.
The next time that I called, my gyno recommended taking 3 pills for 3 days, 2 pills for 2 days, then going back to one pill a day. Doing this DID stop the breakthrough bleeding, but then a couple days later, I got the worst headache of my life.
Into the Darkness
For the next 4 days, the headache built up and progressed. On Friday I left work early because whenever I moved I would get horrible throbbing pains in my head. My eyeballs were aching, the sides of my heads hurt, and my neck was stiff to a point where it sounded like I had thunder going on inside my head every time I moved. On top of that, I felt nauseous and lethargic. On Saturday I went to an Urgent Care Center, and received an IV of pain meds that were supposed to resolve the issue long term but didn’t. I returned home and had to keep the lights off, blinds drawn, AND sunglasses on in order to make the pain manageable (great way to save on the ol’ electric bill though!).
According to the Urgent Care Center, the spike in estrogen from when I took more than 1 pill for an extended period of time set off the headache. MISERABLE.
Sunday morning I was up at 2:30am because of the discomfort. My husband found me on the couch staring into space around 6:30am. I immediately called my gyno’s office as soon as it opened at 8am, and they referred me to a different Urgent Care facility. Yayyy (not!)
“The Worst Headache I’ve Ever Had”
This was definitely the worst headache I’ve ever had. Was I correct in voicing that opinion to a medical professional? Yes. But do I regret saying it? Oh, yes.
According to the doctor at the second Urgent Care facility – when a patient claims to have the “worst headache I’ve ever had” – that essentially triggers a need for lots of testing to rule out more serious conditions like blood clots in the brain, a brain tumor, menangitis – all the scary stuff. So here I am, alone, at a place I’ve never been to before, hearing that I should go to the emergency room (in a different hospital) to get a full MRI, CAT scan and lumbar puncture (those scary spinal fluid extractions you see on hard core medical shows like “House” – UGH). At this point I am freaking out because a) I just thought I had a migraine, and now some lady is telling me I may have something wrong with my brain, b) I am alone and couldn’t drive myself home after a procedure like a lumbar puncture, and c) those tests are freaking EXPENSIVE.
I let them do a routine blood test for things like anemia, and to test the condition of my liver and kidneys. Everything came back perfectly normal.
The normal results paired with the rest of my medical history indicated to the doctor that I didn’t have a more serious condition, but because I had said those magic words – “worst headache I’ve ever had” – she still recommended that I do at least the MRI, along with a prescription for a steroid medication that was known for helping break intractable headaches like mine.
Okay – I know this has been long – but this brings me to one of the major points I want to make in this post – if you’re in a situation that you’re unsure of, especially a medical one, TAKE YOUR TIME! Don’t feel like you need to make a rash decision – in my case getting shipped off for super expensive medical tests right away.
I took a few minutes to get my head straight, I was so overwhelmed. Aside from wishing my husband was there to work through things with me, the hospital was a particularly iffy place for me, having just gone through the loss of my mom. The thought that something could be wrong with me outside of just a headache was not something I was prepared for. But this is the real world – shit happens. On one hand, I wanted to be thorough. I’m not a teenager anymore, plenty of people my age get serious illnesses. On the other hand, I really didn’t think anything serious was wrong, and I couldn’t afford the tests.
In the end, I decided to try the prescription for a day or two, and if I saw no improvement, I would come back for the MRI. One step at a time. While this was different than what the doctor recommended, they said it as okay and discharged me from the hospital. Phew.
Finally, some luck. Within an hour of taking the first dose of my prescribed medication, my headache started to rapidly get better. I went home, rested up, and a couple days later returned to my gynecologist’s office. I decided to go back to my original birth control pill, and to say screw trying to skip periods. At this point, I’ve had my period for 5 months and just want it to stop – even if it’s only until next month’s cycle. My gyno told me that whenever you start a new type of birth control pill there’s a risk of breakthrough bleeding, so I need to give my pill a little over a month until the breakthrough bleeding stops. At that point, if things don’t change, I will have had my period for 6 months straight. That’s HALF A YEAR, people!
As of today I’m feeling 95% better, and 100% sure that having a monthly period isn’t so bad after all.
Thanks for Reading,