This is a tricky situation but I guess we are a lucky generation because there are many forms of contraception available to us today. But which one do you pick? Why? And what are the side effects? Well, I have tried several forms of contraception but whenever I asked the doctors/nurses of the side effects, they would give me a general explanation and would always say ‘well, its your choice really’.
In my experience, doctors/nurses expect you to have researched and have made a decision on what you want. But I always want a detailed answer, so that I can make an informed decision! The problem is, with contraception, everyone is different! If you haven’t tried it before, you wouldn’t know of the side effects until you have. So here are some of my experiences with some forms of contraception and I hope that this will help you make better informed decisions when choosing a preferred method of contraception.
Basics contraception methods
Natural Family planning
You have to know your body to do this, by plotting when in the month you’re fertile and not, to have sex without contraception. It worked for year, but I got really agitated as my menstrual cycle wasn’t stable.
Perfect. After months of dating and both of us getting tested for STIs and we got the all clear. Well…whadya waiting for… I just didn’t know they expire! There is a stash of expired ones somewhere in my wardrobe in different flavours and colours.
Emergency/ Morning after pill
As it says, Emergency!! This is taken 72hours after the deed and in the UK you have to sit through a talk with a consultant before they give it to you. I would imagine that things are a bit different in Tanzania. I think that you can just buy it over the counter. Anyway, so you sit with the consultant and they tell you things that you already know. So I sat through it, nodded and vowed never to be in that position again…so embarrassing!
There are two kinds of pills, the combined pill and progestogen pill. I took the combined pill to help treat my period pains. They get so bad sometimes! It really did help, however, I often forgot to take the pills. Imagine my shock to find Monday’s, Tuesday’s, Wednesday’s, Thursday’s and Saturday’s pills still in there!
Imagine my shock looking at the stick as two bright red lines appeared! Hahahaha! And please ask your doctor or nurse before taking the pill, I once asked a friend and she said, “You’re pretty much covered as soon as you take it!” No you are not! The only effect I experienced with the is forgetting to take it…oh boy…some women have reported feeling dizzy, breast tenderness, headaches, mood swings and weight gain.
Well, 9 months later, after the arrival of my beautiful baby girl, I decided to try the depo injection. I definitely was not going to forget to get a shot… one shot lasts 12 weeks. This was perfect! The nurse explained the side effects but what happened was far more than what I had thought would happen.
I was on depo injection for a year. In that year, I had regular back aches, kissed goodbye my periods and went from size 14/16 to size 20! Yes, the nurse did mention weight gain but I did not expect ‘kuwa kipipa’! As in round from e-v-e-r-y angle! From my face, my arms, my belly, my hips. I tried dieting but it didn’t work. I would lose a few kilos and gain it all back and then some. I noticed a change in my appetite as well, something I thought I could control but I was quickly losing control over.
I know a friend who went from size 12 to size 22 on these injections. I told the nurse about my weight gain. She suggested that I exercise and eat a balanced diet and that it wasn’t the injection! I admit, I am not good at exercising and going to the gym, it’s just too much for me and too confusing in there but I tried really hard to eat well and always walked but it’s a no brainer gaining 30kg in a year while on these injections. Others have had different side effects e.g. heavy periods, irregular, loss of sex drive, acne and abdominal discomfort/pain. A year later, I stopped the injections.
This was the next option. Another long term solution to my forgetfulness. It lasts for 3 years and is more than 99% effective! I thought it was amazing. I got the nexplanon implant fitted under my arm. My periods were still MIA (something I didn’t mind, awful business this is). I also lost a little bit of weight on this but nowhere near my original size, but at least my face and body had a definition of a person!!
The bad news was that I had mood swings that I could not explain. I was always angry at anything! And my libido was gone…as in gone girl gone, lost somewhere in the Amazon or the Australian outback.
I thought I was just stressed with university and working. 2-4 jobs might to do that to ya! I was on this the longest, 4 years. Yes, that’s 4 years of unexplainable mood swings and constantly looking for a sex drive. I even resulted to eating those kashatas (if you attended a kitchen party you know what am talking about) nada…nothing! After I had enough of my weight, mood swings, loss of libido, I finally decided to have it taken out. Having the implant taken out was somewhat painful even though you get anaesthesia, it did leave scaring and bruising for a while. There is also a risk of infection in the arm which can be treated easily.
The Copper coil
So, I decided to see a doctor and explain all what I had been through, especially, with my weight and fiiinally the doctor agreed with me that yes, the depo and implant methods do cause weight gain, mood swings, loss of sex drive due to the hormones they release to your body. It was a relief to hear that. I now wanted a non-hormonal method of contraception, having used most of them, I definitely did not want any synthetic hormones in me! So I opted for the copper coil that’s inserted in your womb and lasts for up to 10 years. I did some online research and many women complained about this had side effects of heavier periods, really painful cramps, risk of pelvic infection, risk of the womb rejecting it or even being damaged by it and a risk of an ectopic pregnancy. But I decided to go for it anyway, had long chat with the nurse and she agreed but insisted everyone is different and if you cannot cope with the pain or heavy bleeding, you should have it removed by a professional doctor/nurse.
My experience with the coil
It is rare for the severe complications to happen but they can happen. The insertion of this coil was very uncomfortable (note: this is an understatement), painful and intrusive, I would not advice to go for this method, if you haven’t had any children. The procedure took about 5 minutes, very uncomfortable 5 minutes, it reminded me of the labour delivery room. The copper coil works immediately after insertion which is awesome because you can take it for a ride sooner! But that was not the case for me. As soon as I stood up from the bed where I had the procedure done, I got painful abdominal cramps that lasted about 3 days on and off. The only thing that kept me going was that I had no synthetic hormones in me!
Well, 6 weeks later, I feel very good, I can safely say I do not have mood swings, no heavy periods or painful cramps, no infections, my eating habits have totally changed and my libido? Lemme just say it’s back with a vengeance! I am finding it easier to diet and feel in control of what I eat. I have lost a few inches around my belly and chest, however, I can’t avoid the gym and exercising much longer, the weight’s got to go.
Why I wrote this piece about contraception
I decided to write this because not many women talk about contraception and their experiences. I have also learned that some people will mislead you, so keep asking questions, your doctors, nurses, friends, do online research, so you know. I had a hard time getting clear cut information and it took me years to find what works for me. I find that hormonal contraception cause significant weight gain, mood swings, loss of sex drive, headaches, back aches, irregular or missed periods which are common side effects. On the other hand, the non-hormonal copper coil has even more scarier side effects even though they rarely occur.
If you feel that a contraception method is not working for you, raise your concerns with your doctor. This is my experience with contraception, it is not to say that this is what will happen to you. As it is said, everyone is different, you may or may not experience all/some side effects mentioned. Lastly, I am not a doctor or a nurse. Before you decide on what you want, ask and be informed.
Guest Post by Lydia Mwakyambiki