I’ve been wanting to write this post for some time now; in fact, it’s been on my mind literally every day for the past two weeks. I need to write the birth control post, I’d remind myself every morning. Alas, life happens – and my motivation to write the post fell by the wayside. However, in light of the recent media coverage in Canada about Yaz and Yasmin birth control pills, I figured that maybe it was time to bump this post to the top of my “to-do” list.
Health Canada has received reports of at least 23 young Canadian women who have died while taking one of two commonly prescribed birth control pills, Yaz and Yasmin. More than half the reported deaths were in women younger than 26, including one who was 14.
Here’s my disclaimer: I’ve never taken Yaz or Yasmin, and clearly, I am alive and well – hence, have not suffered any lasting or debilitating effects of taking birth control pills. However, I was on the pill for exactly half my life – 17.5 years – with breaks in between for pregnancies and breast feeding. For the most part, it was a wonderful relationship… but when the pill became a pain, I knew I had to stop.
It all started when I was 18 years old. I had a boyfriend… use your imagination… I went on the pill. << I actually feel incredibly awkward writing that because my Mom reads my blog every day. But I was EIGHTEEN, Mom! An adult who was capable of making informed decisions. And when faced with the choice between teen pregnancy or popping a tiny pill once per day, it was an easy one for me.
I’ll never forget the little informational booklet that came with the pack of pills. I was quite certain I had never seen anything so intense in my entire life. The health precautions, the instructions for use, the dedicated section to Oh sh*t I forgot to take a pill now what do I do?. I had that pack of pills for three months before I felt comfortable taking my first – always contemplating if the benefits outweighed the risks.
And for the most part, they did. My body loved the birth control pill (good old Marvelon back in 1996!) and I honestly can’t say I experienced any detrimental side effects at all. My periods – previously highly irregular and crampy as hell – were now on a perfect 28-day cycle, manipulated to start every fourth Monday so I never lost out on a weekend of fun ;) If I had a big event, no biggie – I’d just take the pill straight through to avoid menstruating that month. My periods were lighter, I knew when to expect them, and most importantly, I was fully protected from an unwanted pregnancy.
Life was a bowl of cherries!
Somewhere along the way, I was switched from Marvelon to Alesse. I didn’t question the substitution because a healthy, non-smoker in her twenties had no reason to. However, when I was 26 years old, I experienced my first migraine. I’ll never forget that day; sitting at my computer, trying to put together a slide presentation, I suddenly couldn’t focus on the screen. Bright, jagged, zig-zag lines appeared in my line of vision and suddenly, an overwhelming feeling of malaise took over. I was nauseous, felt a wringing in my ears and was utterly disoriented. Thankfully, a caring co-worker instantly recognized the signs of a migraine “aura” and asked to drive me home. As we waited at a red light just before my street, I jumped out of her car and threw up on the side of the road….