This is not who I am!
May 10, 2011 11:22 AM   Subscribe

My HBC is screwing me up. Help!

Over the past three months I've started taking LoestrinFe. Previously I was on Yaz for 2.5 years and I inadvertently stopped taking it last summer around August because it was making me suicidal and I couldn't deal with it anymore (ie I tried to kill myself. good times.) After I went off Yaz and dealt with two or three months of "normalizing", I suddenly felt vibrant and glorious and happy again, albeit slightly impaired physically when it came to painful periods and intense acne again.

Now I'm on Loestrin so I can have sex with my boyfriend and control the hormonal issues I have. Loestrin is making me feel dangerously dull again -- dull to the point where I no longer remember what it feels like to love my family or my boyfriend or feel high on life. I cannot differentiate between normal feelings and HBC-addled feelings. Once a month I have a serious freakout and my poor boyfriend has to put up with me thinking I don't love him enough to be with him (and then I go back to normal and like him plenty). I can't do that anymore. My doctor prescribed OrthoTriCyclin Lo for me to start next month when this last pack of Loestrin is done but that apparently has even worse side effects and I know that all HBC is like that.

I'm really at a loss here. I need some form of birth control to supplement my boyfriend's use of condoms, and I need something to help control my acne and painful periods. I don't want to have to take an SSRI plus birth control.

What can I do for the remainder of the month to help me cope with the personality changes I'm experiencing? I can't go off the Loestrin without finishing the pack per my doctor's request so I'm stuck till June 1st. This is very scary for me -- I was so unhappy on Yaz and I cannot stand being unhappy again, especially because it is harming my relationship with such a good and wonderful guy.
posted by iLoveTheRain to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
No offense to your doctor, but that sounds like bunk that you can't go off your prescriptive meds that are making you ill.

I was unhappy on Yaz, and I stopped immediately, and felt immediately like myself again. I now use a copper Paragard IUD and it's spectacular.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:30 AM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Not all HBC will be like that. The first type I tried turned me into a weepy, depressed mess. I had issues with other side effects with two others until I finally found what worked for me - Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo. Now I'm not saying it will work the same for you, seeing as all bodies differ, but that something out there can work and still leave you feeling completely normal. It can be real trial and error.

Now, that said, make sure your family and friends and guy know what's going on. Let him know that these are the side effects and you'll be changing pills soon. Rely on them a little bit but also yourself. Try some anti-anxiety breathing exercises to keep yourself mindful. Write things down. When you feel overwhelmed set an alarm and just write for five solid minutes. It doesn't matter what, but just the act can help. And it's a small enough time investment so it doesn't feel like it's adding to the overwhelmed feeling.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:31 AM on May 10, 2011

This is probably not the answer you want but I experienced similar symptoms to you and after trying 9 varieties of HBC I finally called it off. I haven't taken HBC in almost ten years, and I don't regret it one bit. You can pair your boyfriend's condom use with spermicides, or a diaphragm, or look into getting an IUD.
posted by annathea at 11:31 AM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

If your acne is hormonally motivated, spironolactone (which is an anti-androgen) might be a possibility for that part of the problem. Most doctors will want to accompany it with oral contraceptives because of its possibility to cause birth defects, but if you've had multiple bad experiences with OC and promise to use condoms and spermicide, they might approve it.

(I'm not a doctor, just another person who gave up on OCs because all of them I tried gave me awful side effects.)
posted by jocelmeow at 11:38 AM on May 10, 2011

Nthing that you can use a form of BC that's either non-hormonal (Paragard IUD) or low-dose hormones (NuvaRing). Hormonal BC isn't for everyone, and if it's a problem for you, think about alternatives. Having Googled, I see that Loestrin is a low-dose pill, which leads me to suspect that you really need a non-hormonal option. Find other ways to deal with your acne and painful periods-- is it really worth ruining your day-to-day quality of life to use HBC to deal with those issues?

And why on earth is your doctor asking you to finish the supply of pills if they're making you miserable? You could stop taking the Loestrin right now if you want too-- you'll just need to wait an extra cycle to start Ortho-Tri. The Today Sponge is readily available and hormone-free, and a reasonable backup to condoms for a month or two.
posted by Kpele at 11:44 AM on May 10, 2011

Response by poster: I would love to be able to use spermicides but I'm allergic to them. :( Instant yeast and bladder infections. Last time I used a condom with N9-laced lube on it my poor lady parts swelled up.

Jocelmeow, is spironolactone also a testosterone controller? I had bloodwork done recently and my results indicate that I somehow have a higher level of testosterone than normal for a girl in her early 20s.

I also feel like staying on the pack I'm on is crappy but based on what happened to me the last time I stopped mid-pack my doctor just wants me to stick it out.

Also, the weird thing with Loestrin is that as soon as I'm on the placebos I feel phenomenal and as soon as I go back on the regular stuff I'm a zombie. So ridiculous.
posted by iLoveTheRain at 11:47 AM on May 10, 2011

I would recommend seeing a new doctor and trying some methods besides just prescription medications to deal with your worst hormonal symptoms. There are tons of options for birth control, acne control and normalizing your mood besides just trying another prescription.

And I agree with roomthreeseventeen: stop taking the loestrin today and find other ways to enjoy your boyfriends naked company until a new method of BC is on board.
posted by Ranindaripley at 11:48 AM on May 10, 2011

I also had a really bad experience with Loestrin. I was determined to finish the pack, but it got to the point where I just couldn't, so I stopped. My period was a little heavier than it had been, but that was the only ill-effect, and even my heavy, painful periods were FAR better than feeling like hell all the time. At least get a second opinion.
posted by katillathehun at 12:03 PM on May 10, 2011

Have you thought about an IUD? There's lots of information over at the IUD Divas LJ community. The Mirena often has the side effect of drastically reducing periods or eradicating them altogether.
posted by Addlepated at 12:52 PM on May 10, 2011

Why do you 'need' something to supplement condoms? I've been using them for over ten years (although, ok, some of those years I wasn't having much sex) and had a total of two incidents of breakage (both with the same partner, both nine years ago, and I don't think you can even get that kind of condoms any more), and took emergency contraception following those incidents. Condoms work.

I really really wouldn't recommend a copper IUD if your periods are already painful. Yes, the mental relaxation from not having to be at all concerned about condom use is great, but the increased pain and mess (oh hai there, random spotting!) eventually knocked out the benefits for me.
posted by Lebannen at 1:02 PM on May 10, 2011

How bad are your painful periods?

I'm in a monogamous relationship and switched from HBC to condoms and have felt phenomenal. My periods are longer and crampier now, and yes, I have to deal with cyclical acne. But a dermatologist had no problem prescribing me non-hormonal zit meds to apply when the acne gets bad.

I was really afraid to rely on condoms alone initially, but we use them religiously and have not had a single scare in a year and a half. If you're really worried, there are other, non-spermicidal ways to back-up condoms, including IUDs, diaphragms, cervical caps, and sponges.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:09 PM on May 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Just as a counterpoint, I was ona low-dose before my curent pill and it caused problems. It may also be the makeup of hormones as they can differ. Perhaps the triphasic pill will be different than the Loestrin.
posted by cmgonzalez at 1:17 PM on May 10, 2011

I'd take acne and bad cramps over feeling depressed any day of the week. And I get super bad cramps sometimes.

I went off HBC because it was reducing my sex drive, and I now use the copper IUD, and I love it. My skin may be a little iffier, but my sense of self is so greatly improved that I hardly care.

I don't really see why you should stick it out if it's making you feel miserable. If the week of placebos improves your mood, that's a good indicator that it's the hormones that are fucking you up.
posted by rosa at 2:03 PM on May 10, 2011

Also, the weird thing with Loestrin is that as soon as I'm on the placebos I feel phenomenal and as soon as I go back on the regular stuff I'm a zombie. So ridiculous.

Of course you do, since the placebos don't have any hormones in them! That's a pretty clear indicator that you're not doing well on Loestrin.
posted by Violet Hour at 2:40 PM on May 10, 2011

Response by poster: That settles it, then -- off the Loestrin I go. I am tired of feeling so terrible.

Kpele, I looked at the sponge you suggested and it looks awesome -- but I'm allergic to sulfites, too, and the sponge is drenched in them. :( Thanks anyway!

A copper IUD sounds... Scary as all hell... But it might be an option.

I'm personally fine with just condoms; it's my boyfriend that's more paranoid and I know he'd rest easier knowing that there's a back up method in place to prevent conception.

What non-hormonal options are there that will manage really painful periods? Basically I spend the first day of my period retching non-stop and curled up in a ball because the nausea and diarrhea is unbearable.

Does anyone have any acne treatment recommendations? Yaz made my skin beautiful, but at such a price.
posted by iLoveTheRain at 4:51 PM on May 10, 2011

If your periods are already bad, I'd recommend against the copper IUD. I'm oh-so-happily on the progesterone Mirena IUD, which may not be great choice for you because it does contain some hormones -- you may be just fine with such a low dose and the particular combination, but it's rather a production to go through just to find out. If it's covered by your insurance, though, you could try it. It did minimize and then completely eliminate my periods, which is pretty awesome. If you're really desperate, you may want to consider it. It doesn't do anything for my acne, though, and I'm also taking spiranolactone for that. If you can find a good doctor, he or she might be able to help you work out a solution to your symptoms that doesn't involve HBC (mine recently suggested low-dose antibiotics to get the acne under control, then prescription topicals).

Best of luck!
posted by you're a kitty! at 6:56 PM on May 10, 2011

Yes, spironolactone is used to treat elevated testosterone. Testosterone is an androgen; spironolactone is an anti-androgen. Your gyno will know about it. It's used to treat polycystic ovary syndrome, which includes elevated androgens.
posted by jocelmeow at 1:47 PM on May 11, 2011

And lowering your testosterone with an anti-androgen, if your acne is hormonally motivated, will clear up your skin. I eventually had to stop taking the spiro b/c of extenuating circumstances, and Differin topical worked for me pretty well at that point.

Your gyno should also be able to help you find some non-hormonal methods to manage the nausea and GI symptoms. Don't let him/her tell you OCs are the only option for that. Don't know if it's an option where you are, but I know some women use marijuana to help manage nausea and cramps.
posted by jocelmeow at 1:55 PM on May 11, 2011

Response by poster: I met with my gyno and related my situation to her. She was furious that I had ever been on Yaz or Loestrin -- apparently the unpredictable mood swings are the most severe side effect of an allergy to progesterone one can have and since I had problems with Yaz, Loestrin should never have followed.

I am now on Demulen which is an estrogen-based pill. So far, so good. I even feel an upswing in my sex drive. We'll see how things go -- thanks all. I'll look into spironolactone and maybe ask my doctor for Differin again for my acne.
posted by iLoveTheRain at 2:48 PM on May 17, 2011

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