Why I changed from the pill to the contraceptive bar

Ann talks about trying different types of contraceptives and talking to your GP about your options

Written by Ann McDonald


I first began taking the contraceptive pill in late 2017. Almost exactly three years later, I’m making the decision to change to the implant, or the bar.

Going on the pill

It was relatively easy to get a prescription for the pill. I simply went to my GP, got a general check-up and was told about the risks (specifically the increased risk of developing a blood clot compared to when not on the pill). I then got my prescription, which had to be renewed every 6 months, and I was good to go.

Mood swings and cramps

I began using the pill in the hopes of keeping my acne under control, to regulate my periods, and to ease my cramps, and the pill did all that – for a while. My acne definitely improved after using the pill, my periods were regulated, and my cramps were nowhere near as bad. All in all, in the beginning, it did what I hoped it would. However, a few days before my period was due to start, I suffered from mood swings and extreme fatigue.

Near the end of 2019, I noticed that my cramps were coming back at full strength, and the mood swings were getting worse. It was also difficult for me to remember to take the pill, as I had a lot going on in my life with college and family life.

Researching the bar

While researching the bar, I was shocked at how little information there is online about it. I could find very few articles written by people who are using it or have used it (which is why I decided to write this). All the information I could find was very vague, such as it may cause weight gain, loss of your period (or on the other hand, it may cause you to bleed near-constantly) and a possible rise in blood pressure. At this stage, I was tired of being doubled over in pain on the first day or two of my period, so I accepted the risks.

To get the bar, I called my GP, who then prescribed the implant to me. My GP informed me that I would have to go to another doctor to get it inserted. I was not entirely comfortable going to another doctor for this, as I have been going to my regular GP all my life, so it made me a bit anxious to go to a doctor who I had never been to before.

Learning about the side effects of the bar

The process of getting the implant fitted was relatively fine. At my appointment, the doctor explained the effects of the bar. They said it will take about three months for it to settle in, that some people just stop getting their period while using the bar, and that my periods may be a little all over the place until then. I asked whether I could continue taking the pill for a month or two to try to keep my period regulated, which he said is fine, but it may not do much. He said the bar would need to be removed in 3 years and that it will leave a little scar.

Getting the bar inserted

He numbed my arm (just above my elbow on the underside of my arm) with a local anaesthetic, and then inserted the bar. I had to keep it bandaged up overnight. Where the bar was inserted was numb for the rest of the day, and it was uncomfortable and bruised for the following week and a half. After it heals, it is not visible, but you can feel it if you touch where it was inserted.

I took the pill for the first two weeks but stopped as I hadn’t experienced any irregular bleeding or cramps. My period came a week and a half early, and it was definitely a big change. I experienced severe mood swings and the period lasted twice as long as normal (from four days to eight, with some spotting for a further two days). The length of my period didn’t particularly bother me, but as a person with mental health issues, the mood swings were difficult to deal with. My next two periods didn’t come at all, but I still got slight cramps, acne and fatigue.

Call your GP if you’re thinking about the bar

This brings us up to now. It has been three months since I had the bar inserted, and I honestly don’t regret it. My physical periods have stopped, the mood swings are nowhere near as intense, but I do still get some fatigue. I no longer have to worry about taking the pill every day, which is a big stress relief. While it’s a little daunting not getting my period, it’s well worth it considering I no longer have intense headaches or cramps. If you’re considering getting the bar, it’s well worth ringing your GP to find out more. It offers that bit more protection than the pill, and you don’t even need to think about it until it’s time for it to be removed.

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