I DIDN'T REALISE HOW BAD IT WAS UNTIL IT GOT FIXED.
That could also read: I didn’t realise I was being poisoned until it stopped.
Melodramatic? Possibly, but not much.
About 18 months ago, after the arrival of the beautiful baby Cleo, a post-baby check up to the doctors yielded a prescription for a contraceptive implant. It’s great, I was told, you have it put in and then don’t need to think about it again for three years. There are no pills to remember, no repeat prescriptions or check ups to attend and its super-reliable. This was the sales pitch I was given - more or less - it was a while ago, the wording might be a little out, but this was the essential message.
A quick appointment with the practice nurse a few days later, and a little plastic matchstick of hormones was inserted in my arm. I confess I never liked the feeling of that little plastic rod, it was always there, and I never quite forgot about it. I can’t remember exactly when I had it put in, but it was pretty soon after I had the baby, so was firmly in the breast-feeding/not sleeping/trying to manage two other children as well haze. I wasn’t feeling my best. I didn’t really notice anything was wrong.
Last summer I nearly had it taken out. Possibly too much information, but the story doesn’t make sense if I leave it out - I was having super long and irregular bleeds. The nurse said, oh, that’s ok, I can just give you a pill to take as well. Double contraceptive hormones? She assured me it was fine.
It wasn’t. I felt like something was off when I started taking the pill. I felt distant and a bit depressed, but it sort of went away - or maybe I just got used to it. I’d stopped bleeding all the time, so yay?
The next bit, it seems a bit petty. The pill gave me acne. Not straight away, but a couple of months ago. Lovely teenage spots across my shoulders and a big lumpy one on my chin. Your turn husband. It is your turn because I was done.
I had the implant taken out on Christmas Eve. I bounced back home thinking I was having a slightly adrenaline fuelled reaction to the local anaesthetic and the decidedly odd feeling of it being ripped out.
But it didn’t stop. It was bright and sunny as I walked home and it stayed that way as I walked inside the house. The gloomy fog that had gradually settled on my brain was gone. My head was clear; I genuinely felt like a new person. No joking, I skipped around the house. I baked and sang and danced around the kitchen all day, I played with the children and I’m pretty sure I didn’t shout at them. Cleo was up loads in the night and it was the same for Christmas, I had energy, I was happy, it was fun.
I spent two days high, I chatted to the neighbours over the wall at one point - they must have thought I was on drugs as I bounced up and down, talked at a hundred miles an hour and then skipped back inside the house. I then got a horrid cold to balance things out again, but a week later and I feel like me again. Husband says it is like having a different person in the house and is slightly weirded out. At the moment Cleo is having her nap and instead of hiding with my computer and an episode of something daft, I’ve got the energy and brain space to write something - and this is after I’ve marked a couple of pieces of A-level coursework and polished all the dining room chairs.
I am so, so glad I got the bloody thing out; I am also pretty cross that I wasn’t warned this might happen. I trust my doctor and the practice nurse is also lovely - why did they not check I was ok? The NHS website does not list feeling constantly exhausted and drained with a propensity to snipe at your husband as side effect of this. You can find listed elsewhere if you go looking (although I think sniping at your husband is actually listed as ‘irritability’), but it’s not on the headlines. A couple of friends I mentioned this too said they had similar experiences - this is not just me.
So. Is this a slight oversight that hasn’t been caught yet, or this a feminist thing? Is it that women’s health and wellbeing just not really that important. I don’t know what an implant costs the NHS, but it’s sure as hell less than a baby. Three years without using up any medical time? Is that worth more than checking if the women this has been put into are actually fine? I think I seemed ok - small children not sleeping, a global pandemic and keeping a job do seem like reasons to be pretty exhausted this year - but I reckon a well worded and carefully researched set of questions from the nurse at a check up might have given enough clues that the implant was having a negative impact and needed to be removed. They used to check my blood pressure every six months when I was in my 20s and on the regular pill - so why is there no check up in place for this thing?
I don’t know the answer on this one - but it is one that I’m intending to ask my doctor.
I don’t have the answers or the medical training to suggest anything to anyone - but if you have one of these implants (or your partner does) maybe check in and see if you are really feeling ok. I thought I was doing ok, but I wasn’t looking very closely - and good god it is so very nice to be back again!