So last week I left off hinting at an absolutely terrible, horrible, no good, very bad weekend. My excursion with Planned Parenthood (PP) resulted in the removal of my barely one-year-old Nexplanon implant, a pap-smear, and new combination hormone birth control pills to help me combat my atrocious, no good, very bad periods. If you’d like to do a thorough catch-up, you can read my first installment here and the second here.
The transition to CHC, or combination hormone contraception, pills was hard. It wasn’t as bad as waking up with purple stretch marks like I did with Nexplanon, but emotionally I was on a trapeze, a Cirque du Soleil performer whose act was swinging from joy to anger to neutral to sad in a never ending cycle.
Slowly over the first week of being on the pills, though, I leveled out and felt like myself again. I felt really good those first 10 weeks of being on the pill. I wasn’t having any mid-cycle spotting or cramps anymore and I wasn’t dreading my period coming because the PP clinician had told me to multicycle in order to skip my period.
Indefinitely. She did not have me do a few regular cycles to get used to the pill or set me on a 9 or 12 week schedule to regulate my body. No, she said take the active pills and be on your way.
This was all the way back in September of 2021. Only now have I learned that it is quite normal to acclimate to the hormones by doing two or three regular cycles where you take the placebo week before skipping off into your multicycling sunset. It is even more common to be put on a schedule where you only take the placebos three or four times a year.
Alas, I was instructed to take active pills like nobody’s business and at that 10 week mark, it caught up with me. While the clinician likely chose this because I had already spent a year on Nexplanon, it obviously was the wrong choice. This seemingly random, normal November morning all of a sudden became a day of cramps, back pain, nausea, spotting, and hot flashes.
This completely ruined the trip to Target that I had been looking forward to all week.
The next day, Saturday, was much better. It was relatively normal; the cramps, spotting, and other symptoms went away. But, they didn’t stay away.
Early Sunday morning, we’re talking 2-3am early, I woke up because my bladder was full. As I’m settling back into my cozy bed after a trip to the bathroom, the dreadful cramps made their comeback. They weren’t playing. This was a Jonas Brothers level comeback.
As any other uterus owner might do, I went back to the bathroom for a tampon. Upon reentering my room was when this comeback tour really kicked it up a notch. Suddenly, I felt faint.
And faint, I did. Luckily, I was right next to my bed and was able to lay down before briefly losing consciousness—unlike the time I fainted from a flu in highschool and had to resort to bonking my head on the hard physics classroom floor. I very narrowly avoided fainting a second time and tried to go back to bed.
This was completely new to me, I had never had cramps so painful that I fainted. I laid there in my bed in shock and quietly crying, unable to fall back to sleep. I was anxious and unsure if this called for an ER trip. I had heard of other people fainting because of their cramps, but never really learned what to do in that situation. I didn’t want to wake my roommate, Ashti, up and make her drive me to the ER if it wasn’t necessary; I would’ve felt like an inconvenience.
I felt so alone laying in my bed, still shaking from my fainting spell. I needed support, so who do I call? Trusty boyfriend. By that point it was probably 4:30am but he of course answered and lent a sleepy ear to let me work through my traumatic experience. Of course he had no idea if I should go to the ER either, but after talking it through with someone who loves me, I was able to fall back asleep.
I felt woozy and nauseous for a few more days after that. The symptoms from Friday all came back and had set up shop with no intention of going away despite my dutiful efforts to take my daily hormone pills. My parents urged me to go to the ER if I fainted again; I was fortunate enough to not have to make the trip.
Finally I was able to get back in touch with a new PP clinician the next day. So, spotting began Friday, I fainted Sunday, and called PP on Monday. The nurse that I spoke to advised me to finish out the pack (two weeks worth of pills) and then take a placebo week. It was her belief that since “periods” on the pill are not real periods and are actually withdrawal from the hormones, I should be safe from my regularly no good, very bad period. I didn’t believe that for a second, I worried she was wrong.
And wrong, she was.
Not only did I have to experience spotting, cramps, back pain, nausea, and hot flashes for two more entire weeks, but these symptoms leveled up like a Power Rangers villain for the third week, which was my period. It was so bad that I was taking 800mg of ibuprofen and still having to take a heating pad to work with me to bear it. Another major symptom I feel on and around my period is fatigue; by the end of these three weeks I had nothing left in my tank.
The nurse had given me a private line to call her on to let her know how my period went so we could make a plan for how to move forward. I left a voicemail and had to wait a week and a half for her to call back. In that time she did not refer to any notes about our initial phone call or my chart, so I had to re-explain EVERYTHING. All of it. Most frustrating call of my life.
She asked if I had tried just taking the pills indefinitely.
Really. She asked that, as if I hadn’t just re-explained to her that’s what had caused the spotting and fainting.
And so, after a very annoying discussion of her suggesting solutions that I had already tried, not liked, and explained to her just moments ago (such as Nexplanon), I finally got her to give me the following plan: take the placebo weeks.
So, I of course had to re-explain, again, that the goal was for me to have less periods or none at all. Her revised plan was then to take the pills until I spotted again.
I hung up feeling incredibly frustrated. It felt as if this phone call was a waste of time and there was no real attempt to help me in any way. I was back on my own, having to resolve my medical issues all by myself because the professionals were of no help to me.
It was, at this point, December. The new year was coming, and with that new insurance was also on the way. Come January 1, 2022 I would be reunited with Kaiser and I was actually excited about it, lol. Mostly because I would actually get to see a licensed OBGYN.
So far, Kaiser has been a relief. Shocked? You and me, both. But, I have finally had a doctor do what I needed which was listen to me and create an action plan and it felt amazing. I can’t wait to share it with you next week.