Am I going crazy, or is it the pill?
July 19, 2007 9:17 AM   Subscribe

Near-manic episodes caused by the pill... or is it too soon?

I took Ortho-Tricyclen for a month and a half, or thereabouts. In that time, I gained 15lbs without changing a single aspect of my diet. My fingers were swollen all the time, I actually busted a strap on my shoes because my feet were so swollen, etc.

As this was a recap of a situation that sent me spiraling into obesity ten years ago, I stopped the pill(six pounds lost the following day, from what I assume was water retention), and went to the doctor to discuss any other options. I was given Tricyclen Lo, which I started not even a week ago.

The last few days have been brutal on the emotional side of things... unexplainable depression, random bouts of crying, irrational behaviour towards my best friend and husband, and severe mood swings in general. Seems kind of early to be noticing this level of side effects from a pill I only started Sunday night, but I guess the question is, is it normal to have/note these side effects so soon after starting a new pill?

Thanks in advance for your comments.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I experienced the same dramatic mood swings on Ortho Tri Cyclen that you describe. I talked to my doctor and she switched me to a low-hormone pill, and I've been using them for the past couple of years now with much better results. It's my understanding that finding the right pill can be somewhat of a crapshoot - so call your doctor and see if she or he can put you on something else. It's worth a try.
posted by AV at 9:28 AM on July 19, 2007

is it normal to have/note these side effects so soon after starting a new pill?

Anecdotally, yes. I know at least two people who started takinf low-hormone birth control pills and were experiencing incredibly unpleasant mood swings (depression, uncintrollable bouts of crying, etc.) in less than a week.

One of these people was told by her doctor that it was "impossible" for the pill to have such an effect on her.

The doctor, however, was clearly full of shit, because she stopped taking the pill and lo and behold, the mood swings stopped.
posted by dersins at 9:37 AM on July 19, 2007

takinf taking

uncintrollable uncontrollable

posted by dersins at 9:38 AM on July 19, 2007

Yep - I always notice side effects from the pill within a day of starting them. Low hormone pills still caused side effects, but they took three days to kick in. I've never NOT had side effects from the pill, both physical and emotional. My reaction to Tricyclen Lo was the opposite of yours, though - emotional numbness (no highs or lows) and nausea.

If it's necessary for you to continue hormonal birth control, you might keep a log of daily side effects, to see if they're worse at different phases of your cycle. Good luck - it's nice to have AskMeFi around for stuff like this; for years, I thought I was the only person in the entire universe who had such a severe reaction to the Pill.
posted by annathea at 10:08 AM on July 19, 2007


And for me, the psychotic episodes continued as long as i was on the pill (i took both ortho tricyclen and later, tricyclen lo). I gained weight, which i could deal with, but the depression and manic episodes were simply too much. It interfered with my relationships to friends, family and loved ones. I couldn't concentrate at work, at school, at anything. It was a lot of crying, yelling, apologizing, and unneeded bitchiness and mood swings.

I am now on Ortho Evra which is the patch. I've been much much much better. When i went to the doctor to switch to Ortho Evra, i mentioned that i had been on the pill previously and that it made me psycho and i hated all the crying and anger it made me feel. She told me that many women experience this and that Ortho Evra is less hormonal like that. Something about how the hormones are released to your body (i don't remember exactly what she said but it made sense-- i have a horrible brain for technical things so it went over my head i think).

Anyway, i would suggest talking to your dr about other methods of birth control. Its a horrible thing to have to deal with those mood swings and crying.
posted by modernsquid at 10:23 AM on July 19, 2007

I was scouring my apartment in the middle of the night looking for binge food by about the 4th day of my last try of the pill.

First time around, I gained 60 lbs in 6 months. I had become marginally more sedentary at the same time because I had just returned from a year in Europe without a car, so that was blamed (by my mother and my doctor, so I figured they knew best). But I was 17, my metabolism should have been up to the challenge.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:25 AM on July 19, 2007

The chart at the bottom of this page explains how the different birth control hormones relate to each other and which ones produce which side effects. It might help you next time.
posted by anaelith at 10:32 AM on July 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Again, anecdotally, when I went on the pill for various and sundry reasons in my early twenties, I had nothing but bad experiences. Any version of the lowest of the low hormonal dosages produced in me diarrhea, vomiting, dizzy spells, water retention, unceasing crying jags, etc. etc. etc. My gynecologist informed me that some women simply cannot take the pill, for all of the adverse effects it has, and for women like us, there is no safe dosage.
posted by msali at 12:01 PM on July 19, 2007

Only low grade stomach upset on the mini-pill but yes I'm guessing this is pill related and it is not the suitable BC method for you. I'd recommend an IUD.
posted by Wilder at 12:21 PM on July 19, 2007

That totally happened to me too. I had like every side effect that Alesse says you can get: mood swings (including uncontrollable public crying jags), horrible nausea, aching boobs, all of them. And it totally started within a week.

BUT because I was on the Pill due to hormone issues, I stuck with it, and after the first couple of months my body got used to it and I have been on the pill for years now. I don't know how typical I am, and I've heard that Tricyclen, with the different dosages in different times of the month, can be much worse.
posted by SoftRain at 12:31 PM on July 19, 2007

You can definitely experience side effects within a few days of starting. Also, I don't know how precise you are with taking your pills, but when I was late with my combined pill for more than about 4 hours, I had terrifying mood swings for the next day, even though I did get away with no spotting or breakthrough bleeding. (Desogen is not for me...)

I strongly recommend keeping a journal of symptoms. I'm on my third attempt with HBC, and I didn't notice patterns in my symptoms until I wrote them all down on a calendar. (Hey, why am I always crying about my relationship on exactly the 16th day of every cycle?)

Be careful with anxiety, depression, and mood swings that could be caused or exacerbated by the pill -- I had myself convinced for over two months that I was worthless until I switched pills, and it magically went away within days.
posted by scission at 1:36 PM on July 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

The last time I went on the pill I could actually feel myself lose my mind about the fourth day. It was interestingly like regressing to about the age of 15 when everything anyone said brought on, like, OMG Ihateyou crying jags.

I also felt like drinking two bottles of wine a day and smoking a pack of cigarettes until the hormones wore off. Starting at 9am.
posted by fshgrl at 6:35 PM on July 19, 2007

Yes (another anecdote follows).

I went on one brand of pill (Microgynon) and experienced those effects, but they came on gradually and overtook me by stealth - it was horrible.

I went to the doctor and she prescribed me another brand (this after I'd gone off the first kind of pill after my boss hauled me into her office and kindly interrogated me about why I was crying at my desk every day - I think she did me a favour, with hindsight). Within five days I was experiencing the same symptoms, and the thought of possibly having to do that again in order to find a brand that suits me was just too much, so I've never taken hormonal contraceptives since.

There might be a brand that does suit me, but I don't feel like trying, really. Your symptoms may or may not be caused by the pill, but just so you know that it can happen.
posted by altolinguistic at 3:12 AM on July 20, 2007

I've been a MeFi lurker for ages but after reading this, I was moved to pony up the $5 and tell you this:

I'm a 38 y/o woman who's been on HBC of and on for years (on through unmarried life, off while married and having kids, back on after). I've tried a few different kinds and, oh holy crap, Ortho-TriCyclen screwed with me something fierce. Everyone responds differently to these meds so YMMV but -- prior to starting them, I was a trim, fit, happy, peppy, reasonable person. In less than three months I was unhappy, miserable to be around, coping with horrible joint pain, had gained 25 - yes, 25! - pounds, laid in bed all day, cried hysterically. The list goes on. I saw an internist because I was sure I was dying. If I *wasn't* dying, I wanted to. He took me off them and less than a month later, I was perfectly fine and back to normal. Seriously, what fails me may be just peachy for someone else but... you asked if it was *possible* to have these side effect. Yes. God, yes. And it was worth the $5 just to tell you so. Best of luck.
posted by _Mona_ at 5:06 PM on July 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Try Yasmin. Each person reacts to birth control pills differently, but it was the one that finally worked for me (and I've tried 4 or 5 different pills over 8 years).
posted by jenne at 9:51 PM on July 20, 2007

I agree with Jenne about Yasmin. I have a family history of migraines and certain birth control labels have made it worse. I have been on Loestrin, Ortho, Juneil, you name it, I have probably been on it (pill-wise). Yasmin still makes me moody, but not as bad as the others and I have not gained any weight since being on it. I remember my first pill, Loestrin, I gained about 12 pounds and that made me more depressed.

Any kind of hormonal additions we put in our bodies will have an adverse affect and since each person is different, we cannot really tell, nor should we trust doctors. And unfortunately, you cannot tell if a pill is truly effective in the mood and weight department until you have been on it for about 3-4 months. So testing a new label to see which one is successful could take a year or so. But for me, Yasmin has worked and I have found that any birth control that has a low dose of Estrogen helps with preventing major weight gain and extreme moodiness and depression.
posted by dnthomps at 4:34 AM on August 3, 2007

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