I suspect most people reading this will have come over from Instagram (hello!) and therefore don’t need a big background intro but for the sake of people who find this post through late night frantic google searches in a similarly desperate situation, let’s re-wind a bit.
At the beginning of the year I decided I was quite possibly losing my mind. I knew the peaks and troughs in my mood (ahem “rage”) were related to my menstrual cycle and that my abdomen hurt for a good half of every month but I had done what too many women do and just put up with it. I was a mum of twins! Of course I was tired and cross sometimes! And so what if I am nearly fainting as I stand up because my right side hurts so much? It’s FINE!
Of course I wasn’t fine and, as I wrote in my last blog post where I first addressed this demonic postpartum PMS, I realised I needed help (or at the very least professional advice) so I booked a GP appointment.
Now I’ve already shared on Instagram what happened at that appointment and there have been more than 100 comments on that post so it’s worth a read if you’re in a similar boat as lots of women kindly shared their experiences, but essentially I was told that I didn’t sound depressed and that this all sounded like PMS. The GP confirmed what I had read online that a lot of women’s PMS becomes substantially worse after having children (and also that for many women, it gets a lot better!) and given that I had identified a tangible link in my symptoms by tracking my cycles in the years pre and post childbirth, she thought I should try a hormonal contraceptive as a first step.
I really didn’t want to be on a hormonal contraceptive again (I’ve written about previous experiences on the pill and coming off Microgynon here and here) but I was also feeling lousy enough to try anything, plus I had to be level headed about it and remember there are heaps of different hormonal contraceptives I could try and that my body was different now. (Clearly, hence bloody being in this mess in the first place).
Due to not wanting a coil or implant and my history of visual migraines, I was put on the progestogen only pill (mini pill or POP pill) Cerazette. I was nervous because I’d read a LOT of mixed feedback on Cerazette. I had to try to take my Googling with a pinch of salt, remembering that forum posts would naturally skew towards negative experiences as nobody logs onto Mumsnet at 3am to say they love their contraceptive method, but it did feel a bit scary to be entering the unknown again.
I was told to give it three months to settle in unless I *really* couldn’t bear it, then after that three months the GP would review again.
Well that three months is up now and I am so so SO relieved to tell you that I feel mostly marvellous. I say “mostly” because I am still a knackered SAHM to toddler twin boys who think I’m a piece of playground equipment, no magical pill will stop toddlers being their own special kind of exhausting, but I feel so considerably better that I have to be kind to myself when questioning why I didn’t get help sooner.
I don’t feel angry. I don’t feel like I’m at someone else’s mercy. I don’t feel like everything is a massive conspiracy to make my life as hard as possible. Importantly, I don’t feel like I’m “numb” or have morphed into somebody else either. I just feel….fine? I FEEL NORMAL. I feel annoyed when someone cuts me up on a roundabout rather than like I might commit murder because someone is breathing too close to me. My reactions feel like they’re fair. I seem positively reasonable!
I have to address the physical side too as I knew I was suffering a lot of pain relating to my cycle but it wasn’t until said cycle was tinkered with, that I realised just how much pain I’d learnt to put up with. I have had some random bleeding (for a lot of people, this unpredictability is the main negative of Cerazette) but I haven’t had any pain. It’s brilliant!
My adjustment to Cerazette was HARD in the first few weeks though, with the exception of SPD it was like all the worst bits of pregnancy thrown at me at once. I was nauseous, I was hot, my breasts were agonising and the headaches were ridiculous. I had to go back to elasticated nursing bras and I was rubbing 4head stick all over my face for a good two weeks before I started to slowly feel more human again. I wasn’t sure I could get through that adjustment period (especially as I’d been told to brace myself for three months of it!) but I’d say the nausea, breast pain and crushing headaches had completely gone by three weeks in.
I feared skin breakouts but thankfully my skin stayed clear, although I really upped my game skincare-wise and went a bit acid crazy during the first few weeks of adjusting just in case.
During the pill trial I also tried to make a conscious effort to do more “for me”, be it spritzing on a favourite perfume purely for my own benefit (the boys don’t seem particularly interested in Escentric Molecules?) or going for a walk or making a nicer lunch than burnt toast. I’m doing a lot more things for me now and I could attribute my increased happiness to that, but I know I couldn’t have been doing these things before going on the pill because I didn’t have the energy and my womb ached. I was too angry to exercise! Too cross to pluck my eyebrows! I was putting up barriers to all the nice stuff before.
There are some things Cerazette hasn’t helped me so much with and I am still suffering from occasional insomnia although at least it’s not every night. I’d say my insomnia probably is better than it was though. I also have REALLY red gums at the moment (a new symptom) despite having the all clear from the dentist that my teeth are fine. Apparently inflamed gums can be linked to the pill so I don’t know if there’s much I can do about that other than get used to looking like a gummy horse whenever I open my gob. A small price to pay?!
I’ve kept a vague cycle diary for years but when I first started Cerazette I wrote a really detailed daily symptom diary and I’d definitely recommend this to anyone trying any new contraceptive (or coming off contraceptives!) as it’s just too difficult to see patterns otherwise. Sometimes you think things are going ok when actually on paper it looks a bit shitty, similarly I can be good at thinking I “always” have a headache then looking back and seeing I had quite a few pain-free days and that actually there’s a pattern. Diaries def help!
I’m trying to think if there was anything else I wanted to cover? My boys will be waking up shortly so I might come back to this post later but I think that’s basically it. I picked up another six months worth of pills this week and I’m happy to continue taking them.
As always, this is just my experience and I’m acutely aware that my body might decide it hates Cerazette soon enough. Hopefully this post will encourage those of you struggling with PMS to get some help though. I was pretty adamant I didn’t want to be on hormonal contraceptives ever again yet I’m here now extremely grateful to have found one I liked. I’ve had a really tough few months for completely unrelated reasons, but Cerazette has definitely helped me take on the day to day challenges of normal life and helped me feel “level” despite some really difficult stuff in the background.
There’s often a lot of trial and error (grrrrr) with medication and what works for one woman won’t for someone else, but I’d like to think there’s hope for all of us. I mean it *IS* 2019 you’d think science would have our backs (wombs) by now.
Good luck if you’re suffering and I hope you can find a kind GP who can help.
I’ll update if there are any major changes!