Hormone based contraception when you’re over 35

I’ve been on the pill since I was 17. I’ve been happily taking Microgynon, which is an oestrogen and progesterone pill for 21 days in a row, then having a 7 day break and repeat.

During a recent check up I asked a nurse when it would need to be reviewed, because I’m aware of my advancing years (ick). She told me I would be fine until I reach 40. As I have no intention of reaching 40 (at 39 I’ll start counting backwards) I worried my little head not.

When I put my last repeat prescription request in, only 1 month was returned instead of the usual 3, with a note that I needed to see the nurse. Assuming this was for a standard blood pressure test I thought no more about it.

Arriving at my appointment, the nurse said “I assume you know why you’re here, we need to change your contraception”. Cough, splutter, what? Why? I don’t want to! “Well, you’re over 35 now, and that’s the boundary we set on combined pill taking.” And off she set in outlining the alternatives.

The most straightforward swap is onto a progesterone only pill – the “mini” pill. This is taken every day with no break. You probably don’t get a period and only have a 12 hour window in which to take it (with Microgynon it’s 24 hours). Now, call me bonkers, but I’m quite fond of having a period every month. It lets me know that nothing untoward is going on in the womb region, and no little critters have been fertilised and implanted themselves (I know there are the odd exceptions to this, but generally it’s peace of mind). I’m incredibly lucky to have never suffered with my periods, they’re very light, very pain free and I don’t get PMT (unless the P stands for Permanent, in which case the husband may disagree). Plus my Mom reckons it’s healthy for your body to do it’s natural thing (albeit unnaturally as forced by hormones but, y’know). And, to my shame, I’m sometimes a little bit tardy with my pill taking. Maybe I’ll forget to take it in the evening and do it next morning. But perhaps its the weekend and I have a lie in. A new pill needs a new regime. What if I forget and then don’t have a period to set my mind at rest? And then, horror of horrors, what if I end up like one of those women in Take a Break magazine who think they need the loo and a baby drops out? No, no, noooooo!

Alternative one is a contraceptive implant. I’m not sure about this. The concept behind it seems pretty wishy washy (although I’m sure it’s not) plus they have to cut your skin to get it underneath. I’m not squeamish with things like needles and ops, but they like to put it in the opposite arm to the one you write with, and no way am I having my tattoo cut in anyway! Plus I’m a picker and a messer and I know if there’s something I can feel under my skin then I’ll play with it. Yes I’m a 38 year old child.

Alternative two is an IUD (the coil). My initial reaction to this was absolutely not, as I know my Mom had lots of issues and complications when I was young. But the nurse said problems were generally associated with the copper coil, and there are very few issues with the new plastic one.

So, I leave the surgery with a 3 month mini pill prescription and a couple of leaflets.After a quick perusal I decide I’m going to make an appointment for an IUD, which I share with the husband. “Really?” he asks. “You know that you can feel the strings, don’t you?” This is news to me. I’m not sure how he knows this, since he was quite obviously a virgin at the age of 34 when we got together but he assures me that sometimes the man is able to feel the strings during shenanigans. Google research confirms this and I’m shocked. This seems like a rather odd state of affairs (is it just me that didn’t know this and think it’s incredibly odd that women all over the world are tickling their sexual partners from the inside?)

My Mom further adds to the anti IUD argument. “They’re not very reliable, people get pregnant on them”. So I look at the reliability statistics on the leaflets that I’ve so far only given a cursory glance, and the difference is staggering. There’s a less than 1 in 500 chance over 5 years of getting pregnant if you have a coil. Say what? Those odds still seem pretty high to me. What if I was the 1 in 500?

Unwillingly, and somewhat uneasily, I’ve switched to the mini pill as suggested.


I’m assured there are less mood altering side effects than the combined pill, which is a good job, because I really value my marriage and I’m not sure it could stand a change in my mental welfare, as things get pretty horrible when that happens.

I’ll let you know how I get on!

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

14 thoughts on “Hormone based contraception when you’re over 35

  1. danniijane says:

    Contraceptions the worst. They need to invent something that isn’t such a pain or has side effects. I’m on the injection, but I’m aware you’re not meant to be on it longer than 10 years x

      • whatellenwrote says:

        WTF?! Don’t women have enough to deal with already by having periods in the first place? Can’t men man up and take some responsibility for some goddamn thing other than DIY??!?!?!?!?!?!?

        • This, tatt and the other says:

          Of course there is the old age argument about whether you would trust a man to be responsible for birth control. After all birth control is not 100% successful, and if the unthinkable happened I know I’d swear blind that the husband hadn’t been taking it properly!

      • Mrs Strawberry Blonde says:

        That male contraception thing was a complete joke. I remember the 3 ‘unacceptable’ side effects: Weight gain, acne/bad skin, mood swings/depression. I wish the pill for women only had these 3 side effects!

        Like you, I’ve been on the pill for 20 years. I’ve been on Yasmin for over 10 years and I love this pill. Before that I was on Microgynon. I’m glad to hear you got along with it, but it didn’t work for me at all. And before that I was on a pill whose name I don’t remember.

        I’m 35 now, and the last time I saw the nurse she tried to ‘sell’ me the progesterone-only pill. I made it clear I have no interest in switching pills, I love Yasmin. And I have alopecia areata which is an auto-immune hair loss condition. In my twenties I lost 80% of the hair on my head and 95% of all other hair on my body (eyelashes included) in under two months. And back then I hadn’t had any regrowth for almost 3 years. Yes, 3 years. My hair did grow back, and I haven’t had any issues with hair loss in years. But it can happen again at any time, and I still make my husband check my scalp regularly. Just to be sure there aren’t any bald patches…

        I know Yasmin makes no difference to alopecia areata, but it’s a combined pill with a ton of estrogen. Since progesterone-only pills don’t contain estrogen, I don’t want to switch. I’m pretty sure my body has forgotten how to make estrogen… But hair needs estrogen. Skin needs estrogen. And unfortunately it’s not uncommon for women who switch from a combined pill to a progesterone-only pill to lose hair. A lot of hair. And don’t get me started on horror-stories about adult-onset acne which is often related to switching pills or coming off the pill… unfortunately most doctors or nurses don’t seem to care because hair and skin issues are ‘just cosmetic’.

        All in all… I often think I should never have started to take the pill. But what did I know in 1996?

        Now I think I will buy my pill online if the nurse gives me trouble. We could now discuss whether the nurse only wants my best or not. But how can I trust a nurse (or a doctor) who wouldn’t tell me about the common side effects of swiching pills? I do know these side effects, and I know not everyone suffers from them. But it’s a fact that there is a difference in the hormonal make-up of different pills and the body will have to learn to adjust to the change. And considering my bad luck when it comes to health stuff, I’m not confident I’m one of the lucky few who won’t notice any difference at all. So yeah, last time I got my prescription for Yasmin. But I have to admit I also told the nurse that if she won’t give me the prescription, I’ll just have to order it online. By the way, Yasmin is considered safe until the age of 49. And I intend to take this pill until I’m 49. And whatever happens then, I’ll deal with it then.

        Oh, I also know Yasmin has a bad reputation because, unfortunately, a few younger ladies died from DVTs related to Yasmin. All of them were teenagers. Very, very tragic. But I often wonder if these deaths could have been prevented if the doctors / nurses had explained how Yasmin works. It’s common knowledge that Yasmin has a duiretic effect (which is why many women choose it in the first place), so I wonder if the doctors or nurses ever made it clear to their patients that they need to drink their 2-3 litres of water to keep their blood thin, and that it’s nowhere near OK to pack a single 200ml juice box for an entire school day…

        Anyway, I’m sorry about the rant. I had a recent discussion with a nurse, and I hated it that she wouldn’t even mention the common side effects from switching from Yasmin to, let’s say, Cerazette. Sure, I didn’t really need the information because I know almost everything about hair loss, different kinds, different causes, triggers, prevention… that’s because I spent almost 3 years googling, reading, learning, joining forums, discussing things, seeing dermatologists, rheumatologists, endocrinologists, arguing with doctors and so on. But still, the nurse should have mentioned it to me. I’m sure she doesn’t mention common side effects to other women either. Maybe she doesn’t know. Maybe she doesn’t care. Who knows?

        Again, sorry about the rant! And I hope I didn’t worry you. I’m sure you’ll be fine. You didn’t switch from an estrogen-bomb (like Yasmin), so I’m really sure you’ll be fine. ♥

        And in regards to the other options they offered… implant? I wouldn’t have it. It would be a foreign body under my skin. I’d play with it too. I can even picture myself scratching the skin open and pulling the thing out of my arm in my sleep. (I have eczema. Scratching in my sleep is kind of a hobby for me anyway… ) IUD? No way! I’d never have opted for it anyway – but now that I know that it’s possible for the man to feel the strings… No. F#cking. Way. Injections? See the nurse every 8 weeks? What a waste of time and NHS resources. I’m sure there are lots of mums with small kids who’d appreciate an appointment with the nurse more… In addition, when you opt for injections, you might as well just take Cerazette… oh, and I looked up the side effects… not great.

        So yeah, that’s it from me for today. Finally!

        I hope your body tolerates the new pill just fine. If you’re worried about the hormonal changes, there are a few things you can do, like switching to iodized salt. It’s more expensive than regular cheap salt, but it’s worth it and it’s not really that expensive. I’ve only bought iodized salt for the past 15 years and despite my auto-immune issues my thyroid tests always come back as perfectly average. 🙂 And everyone’s thyroid needs iodine to function, so iodized salt is an easy way to boost thyroid function.

        • This, tatt and the other says:

          Crikey, You’ve been through the mill. I love that you’re so empowered and knowledgeable about your body and the effect that hormones and other foreign bodies can have. I didn’t actually know you can buy the pill online. I don’t honestly think that nurses are completely clued up; I certainly felt railroaded by mine. She did explain the different options to me but not in any detail.

          Luckily so far I seem to be fine. I’ve changed the time I take it each day, which is working better for me and I haven’t forgotten one yet! (what a grown up I am) It’s hard to tell whether it’s having any real effect on my emotions as I’m still dealing with losing my Dad so it’s not a level playing field to test on. I certainly don’t feel any different mentally, thank god.

          Thanks so much for such a long and informative response. I think as women we forget that we have the right to say no to things that are going in our body. The belief seems to be that if you choose to be on the pill (i.e choose not to get pregnant!) then you just have to do as you’re told. I love your “fuck you” attitude!

          • Mrs Strawberry Blonde says:

            Yes, you can buy the pill online. There are online doctor services. They ask you basic questions. Then your prescription gets approved. Then you pay, and then you get your pill sent by post or courier. There are a few legit online doc services in the UK, and their medication is 100% legit. I’ve never ordered meds online, but I used to work for one of those online doc services a while ago. I only worked there for a few weeks but I can tell you the doctors are real, they’re registered with the General Medical Council, the meds are the real deal… you just have to pay for the meds.

            I hope you’ll be OK with your current pill. You mentioned you haven’t forgotten to take it yet. Please don’t forget it! Those mini-pills aren’t very forgiving…

            About your dad… I know it’s only been a few weeks. I hope it’ll get easier. xx

          • This, tatt and the other says:

            No, I’m definitely not forgetting to take it! With that comes not only the obvious risk, but spotting as well. Ugh. No-one needs that. All is good so far.

            The nurse actually mentioned the idea of sterilisation to me, which I’m not adverse to, but recovery is worse for women than men (yet again we get the contraception short straw!)

    • This, tatt and the other says:

      I didn’t know the injection had a time limit. It’s the fact that every option available has a side effect and we’re just expected to put up with that if we want to enjoy sex. And contraception is still seen as a very female responsibility (I know this is something of a sweeping generalisation but the fact there are so many more options for women than men proves that.)

      • danniijane says:

        It does. I hated the sound of all of them due to the side effects. And it is very one sided for women. Women go through a lot with our bodies anyway and then we have to suffer contraceptives x

  2. raven avery says:

    I think you’ve definitely made the right choice!! I was on the pill and then came off because I was unreliable about taking them and I didn’t like my moods on them, the nurse advised that the implant would be good so I had it done. Unfortunately (I won’t go into too much detail) I had a medical condition that came to light and made me have a very adverse reaction to it, pretty sure they would have locked me up for hysteria had I been born a few centuries ago. So I then in my ultimate wisdom (sarcasm all the way) decided along with my nurse to get the copper coil because it’s the only contraception that doesn’t alter hormones. Whilst my moods and personality are back to “normal” I would never ever recommend anyone getting the coil (don’t know if the Mirena is the same but…), much heavier and longer periods and it might be in my head but I swear I feel twinges from it sometimes. The male can feel the strings but actually after a few months they aren’t as noticeable as a lot of people make out (he did say the first few months it was a tiny bit uncomfortable). The only reason I’m not getting it taken out is because I genuinely don’t know what I would be able to take contraception wise and also because it was unbearably painful getting it in and that’s not an experience I’m reliving until I absolutely need to! 🙂

    • This, tatt and the other says:

      Thanks so much for sharing. Wow, as women we really do suffer don’t we? I can’t imagine men putting up with such side effects or going through what we’re expected to. There’s such a gender imbalance, and that makes me really unhappy.

      Your coil experience sounds absolutely awful. My Mom actually fell pregnant while she had a coil, which is another thing that puts the fear into me. There just doesn’t seem to be a lot of great options open to us.

      I think I’m doing OK on the new pill so far. I’ve never suffered with heavy or prolonged periods (in fact quite the opposite) but it’s rather nice not having them at all. I do get quite irritable and short tempered at the mo but it’s hard to know whether it’s the pill, life, or the husband that makes me that way!

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