Written by Kelle Salle
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Finding the right contraception that works for you can be overwhelming. Depending on your future plans, you might need to choose something that you can stop as soon as you’re ready to start a family. If starting a family is the last thing on your mind, then you’ll probably want to opt for contraception that best suits your lifestyle. Contraception is a simple and convenient way to prevent pregnancy, but it can be easy to overlook the impact it might be having on our health and wellbeing.
Everyone will respond differently to birth control and now that more open conversations are taking place about the side effects, being open to change is important, especially if you feel like your chosen method isn’t working for you. We’ve asked Dr Fran Yarlett, Medical Director at The Lowdown, to share some of the things you need to look out for.
In recent years, a number of studies have found a link between contraception and mood. While some people may find that contraception improves their mood, it can have a completely opposite effect on others. At the moment, healthcare professionals have been advised to tell patients that there is no clear evidence that hormonal contraception causes depression. If you suffer from depression or low mood and suspect that the contraception you’re on is making your symptoms worse, the best thing you can do is explore other options.
Low sex drive
While there are a number of things that can impact your sex drive from lifestyle to culture to illnesses and even certain medications, contraception might also have an effect on it. Low sex drive is a frequently reported side effect at The Lowdown, however, combined hormonal contraception taken continuously without a break may be better for your sex drive than having regular breaks. As sex drive is influenced by many different factors, switching contraceptives is only one part of addressing the issue. If your sex drive still doesn’t return to what was normal for you before you started contraception, then speak to your healthcare professional about switching your method.
Although our bodies tend to change with age, certain forms of hormonal contraception can cause weight gain. The injection is the only form of contraception where research has proven an association with weight gain, however, it’s important to note that this is more likely for those who start the injection under the age of 18 and have a BMI of over 30. While other factors could be the cause of weight gain, it is important to monitor your weight for the first 3 to 6 months when starting a new hormonal contraceptive. If you’re concerned about any changes, speak with a healthcare professional.
Headaches or migraines
According to research, one third of women using the contraceptive pill experience migraines, but the truth is that women are naturally more prone to headaches and migraines. Also, studies suggest that headaches are also one of the leading reasons why women have stopped using the pill. Different dosages and hormones may also have a part to play when it comes to the types of migraines and headaches you may experience. If you’re on the combined pill, then you may find that your headaches or migraines worsen during your pill free week due to the drop in oestrogen.
Many hormonal contraceptives list tiredness as a side effect. It’s important to note that there is a difference between tiredness and fatigue. Tiredness occurs when you haven’t had a great night’s sleep and fatigue occurs when you don’t feel refreshed after having a full night’s sleep. Both of these can result in low energy levels. If you have been on the pill or another method of contraception for a while and have been finding it hard to function throughout the day on more than occasion, speak to a healthcare professional.
Different forms of contraception have different formulations, so while some might not impact skin health, others can cause acne. It’s also important to note that some people get acne when they come off birth control, so you might want to consider taking medications that can help you treat it while your body gets back to normal. If you don’t want to take medications, then book an appointment with a qualified dermatologist or aesthetician to create a personalised skincare routine that will clear up your skin. If you have acne prone skin and you want to try a different form of contraception, have a look at the ingredients list on the package as you’ll need to avoid any contraception that contains androgens (male hormones). An increase in androgens triggers excessive sebum production and when excess sebum clogs pores, it can cause pimples to form.
For more information on contraception, visit The Lowdown’s website.