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Birth control. A lot of women are on some form of birth control and after having a baby it is heavily pushed on you to get back on it as soon as possible. Of course, your body has just been through hell and who in their right mind would want to get pregnant again right away? If you do or have, more power to you. But for me, that wasn’t in the cards and still isn’t. I’ve been on birth control before, back when I lived in the States. The name escapes me, but it was a 3-month pill set with a placebo week. I didn’t take it to avoid pregnancy because I was in a long distance relationship, it was because of the crippling migraines I was starting to get every month. Went off it, then went back on it so I could avoid my period during my wedding and finished the course and that was that.
Fast forward to after having my first son. I was breastfeeding so my options were limited and I opted for the quick fix depo provera. I was on that for 3 months and swapped for the mini pill. I was suffering from vertigo, hot spells, dizzy spells the works. Turns out I was anemic, which isn't really a surprise since I suffered from it all throughout my pregnancy. Again, fast forward to after having my second. Unable to breastfeed I had more options but once again I decided to go for the depo provera thinking last time the issues were just because I was anemic. How wrong was I?
What is Depo Provera?
It’s a form of birth control in an injection. You get a shot every 3 months and that’s it. Your body is loaded with 3 months worth of hormones to trick your body into thinking it’s pregnant. No setting alarms for taking something daily. No fear of forgetting it. It was a quick fix for someone who was exhausted mentally, physically and emotionally. It sounds nice, it’s sold to you in a pretty package with the only warning that you can spot, that you should eat healthy and portion control because it’s known to cause some weight gain, and when you come off Depo it could take 9 months to a year for your cycle to go back to normal. But you don’t have a daily reminder, your period stops about a year into it and who doesn’t want that?!?!
I was on Depo Provera from October 2017 - June 26 2018. I had 3 shots and with each shot my side effects became worse. Apart from not getting pregnant, I have 0 good things to say about Depo. I am going to break this down into side effects.
As someone who is prone to being anemic, this is something my doctor should NEVER have suggested and after I mentioned bleeding for a month - yes a month of constant spotting between heavy and light - they should have switched me. That was the first injection. Second, I spotted heavily for 6 weeks. My last and final injection I started spotting 2 weeks after getting it and continued to do so until the last 2 weeks. Every time I mentioned this to my doctor I was told it was ‘taper off’, that by a year in it would stop completely.
Gain SOME weight? While my weight has gone down, it has been a very long, tedious process that involved being stuck at the same weight for 3 months. This is alongside working out 5-6 times a week and eating healthy. I am afraid to think of what my weight would look like if I hadn’t been doing my workouts and eating mostly clean.
I cannot stress this enough, you are hungry...all the time. It wasn’t something I really noticed with the first two injections, but looking back the amount of grazing and late night snacking was insane! When I started intermittent fasting that was when I noticed it and when I stopped the grazing and late night eating I finally broke past the 200 marker but got stuck at 187 and jumped between 190 for months.
All birth control have this marked as a side effect but for me and for many on depo it isn't a 'side effect', it hinders your life.
I’m usually a happy person. I’m easy going, understanding and patient to an extent. I don’t like fighting, I have mastered controlling my emotions and being out of control scares me (it’s why I don’t drink). I didn’t notice anything off until I was in the States visiting family and it was pointed out to me. I think the exact words my mother used was ‘you’re acting like a bitch - go be alone until you’re normal’.
I love my mother and she is honest when me or any of my siblings are out of line. She pointed out my snapping and short temperament. Fast forward to back at home in the UK. Hubby and I are fighting more, fights that I am picking and I don’t pick fights. I’m snapping at my oldest for tiny things. I have no patience and my thoughts are extremely dark. I am going from happy to depressed to raging psycho in minutes. This was after the first injection. With each injection things became worse. I was growing more depressed, more angry and hurtful with words. I would lash out at small things that normally I would roll my eyes or shrug at. I couldn't control it, couldn't stop it from happening.
I think the dawning moment for me was when me and my husband were in the middle of a fight that he said ‘this isn’t you? This isn’t who I married’ that it really hit me just how bad it was. It’s odd because I knew I was acting - I don’t want to say stupid but that or psycho comes to mind. I would hear myself and almost like out of body know how I was acting was wrong but I couldn’t stop it - I couldn’t reel it back in and that is terrifying, especially when I was snapping at my son and would get so angry I would have to lock myself in the bathroom to calm down. That shit is not normal.
The reason this con is so long is because this is the biggest negative for me and the most dangerous. In telling my doctor and almost breaking into tears about it, explaining that it’s like I’m manic bipolar I was told that mood swings aren’t that severe and if I had ever been tested for bipolar. Lets just say, that comment caused a swing and she got to experience first hand how quickly I could turn. Now normal Erica, the Erica who used to be a waitress and knew how to grit her teeth and smile would have done just that and replied kindly. But Depo Erica - yeah it’s the Jack Jack baby demon from the Incredibles.
HOLY CRAP! First off, let me just say that when I mentioned this to my doctor I was hit back with ‘you have two kids, what do you expect?’
Yes, I have two kids, two kids who thankfully sleep through the night. My youngest has slept through since he was born and I would wake up to feed him, not the other way around. My husband and I also split the weekends for who gets a lay-in, we each get one day. With all of that said, I shouldn’t have been so fatigued. I shouldn’t have big bags under my eyes that makes it look like my youngest is up all night. I shouldn’t get 8 hours of sleep and wake up exhausted. When you wake up exhausted, go through the day exhausted and then go to bed exhausted only to repeat it - something's the matter, especially when you are hitting 8 hours of sleep. I even napped (when both boys would nap at the same time) and by the time 8 pm would hit, I would struggle to keep my eyes open. Yeah, not normal.
Or lack of. My sex drive was basically non-existent. I had no interest, no desire, no anything. This isn’t one I thought too much about until other people said they experienced it as well. The first few months I put it down to having a new baby, 'I’m freakin’ exhausted so don’t touch me' which progressed into ‘my body looks disgusting, don’t touch me.’ They were excuses really. While I was exhausted and I wasn’t happy with my body it was just the fact I didn’t want to have sex and wasn’t interested in it but I didn’t want to admit that to my husband.
Bone loss while using depo is a thing. I was getting pain in my knees, my ankles, my feet, my wrists, my back, my neck. I was working out, so a part of it was down to the high impact moves I was doing. My back and arches in my feet were the biggest pains. It didn’t matter how I sat, perfect posture or slouched, on the sofa or a chair; my back hurt. I would walk hunched for a few minutes in pain until I could finally straighten. The aches in my feet killed! I used to play football (soccer) growing up, did insanity before my pregnancies and I never had issues with my feet. I began to notice it with PIIT 3.0 when doing cardio and it only got worse.
Acne/Oily Skin & Hair
I’ve blessedly never had issues with acne or oily skin prior but by the second injection, things were getting worse. My face, my back, my arms and even my legs were breaking out. My face was constantly oily. My hair - I know hair falling out is a massive complaint. I suffered from really bad hair loss but I’m not sure if it is down to the depo or the post-baby hair loss. My hair did progressively get more brittle. I don’t do much to my hair, I straighten it with one of those brushes every now and again but I don’t blow dry it or anything else for it to be as brittle as it was.
I was on depo for 9 months. 9 months of things progressively getting worse. I tried, with the advice of my doctor and talking with my husband, to ride out the last month before making a decision to get off. After 2 months I had enough and booked myself in to get the non-hormonal copper IUD. Now it’s a waiting game for Depo to get out of my system. I will update in a few months and report how things are getting on and if any of those side effects have worn off.
Until then, keep away from Depo. I know these side effects don’t affect everyone who goes on it, but I’ve seen far too many reviews of people with similar or worse experiences.
The quick fix isn't always the best fix.