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Contraception Conversations: I use The Pill to help with PCOS

Fri 13th March, 2020

Reviewed by: Dr. Vamsee Thalluri

Tidings was made to open up the conversation on women's health, and for many that involves a confusing journey around contraception. It's something a huge chunk of women use, but is often only talked about amongst friends or with the doctor. Contraceptive Conversations is a running series that aims to open up the chat around contraception and just how varied everyone's journey can be.

If you have a pitch for Contraceptive Conversations, please send an email to Tidings@kinfertility.com.au

When I was 11, I had my first period. For the first few months, my cycle was pretty normal. I would bleed every month for about seven days. Then my period suddenly stopped. Being a teenager who hadn’t yet had sex, I knew something wasn’t right.

As I got older, and the stress of high school and the growing pains of puberty began to settle in, my period became extremely irregular.

Everything I knew about a “normal” period went out the window and I was faced with a cycle that I couldn’t predict, shifting between periods that lasted for 30 days straight to not menstruating at all for six months at a time. When I graduated high school and became interested in exploring my sexuality, I realised just how much my irregular periods could impact my life.

At 17-years-old, I decided to seek a medical opinion from my local doctor who referred me to a gynecologist for the first time in my life. After a few blood tests and ultrasounds, my gynecologist told me that I had Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), a common hormonal condition that affects 1 in 10 women.

The diagnosis wasn’t too surprising, as I had come to the same solution from researching my symptoms online over the years. The specialist explained to me that common symptoms of the condition included irregular periods, alongside excess hair growth and weight gain – information that was somewhat relieving to me as I had long been suffering from all three symptoms without much explanation as to why.

The best solution the gynecologist offered to combat my irregular cycle, the main component of PCOS, was to go on the contraceptive pill. The doctor then suggested that I should take Yasmin, one of the strongest combined contraceptive pills, to try and correct my cycle that had been irregular for the last ten years.

Hopeful for a solution to my unpredictable cycle and interested in a reliable contraceptive method, I agreed.

Prior to the pill, doctors suggested that a way to try and manage my PCOS without medication was to adopt a healthier lifestyle. So I signed up to the gym and started eating better for the first few months, but my period remained irregular and unpredictable. I decided to combine my lifestyle changes with The Pill in hopes of some relief.

Today, I’ve been on Yasmin for seven years and have no real complaints. My body took a few months to adjust to Yasmin, and finally provide me with the regulated cycle I so desperately wanted. My new monthly periods were really heavy and painful for the first six months before my body fully adjusted to the change. But it was worth it because the combined pill gave me the freedom to conveniently “skip” my period whenever I felt the need.

Unfortunately, like with most things, Yasmin is not infallible nor is it cheap. When I first started taking the pill, the generic alternative was about $20 cheaper than Yasmin, at approximately $50 for a three-month dose. Today, I purchase Yasmin for $80 as the unbranded version basically costs the same.

Beyond the growing price of Yasmin and it’s generic alternative it’s hard to ignore the side effects of the pill. In particular, the increased chance of developing blood clots while on contraception concerns me, but I feel I have no other option.

It’s reported that the best way to treat PCOS, beyond lifestyle changes, is the use of combination contraceptive pills. These pills help combat the imbalance of androgen and estrogen levels, which can affect your ovulation and chances of falling pregnant.

While I know that the combined contraceptive pill won’t help me with my PCOS-related fertility issues when it’s time to have kids, as a 25-year-old woman it’s pretty perfect for right now.