Awhile ago, I wrote about my crazy hormones and battling lack of estrogen and amenorrhea for 5 years. After seeing an ND in 2015 and quitting my corporate job, I was finally able to get my stress and crazy hormones under control. Between work and life, I was under too much chronic psychological stress which caused my hormones to get out of wack and flare up my Hashimoto’s disease. To this day, stress management is a big deal for me.
Since then, I’ve been humming along fine. Last year I was able to drop some serious body fat before my hip replacement and everything was fine until this summer when I noticed I was putting on weight without doing anything different diet or exercise-wise. While I could pull the “I’m almost 40 card,” I know there’s nothing a healthy diet and exercise can’t fix. The exception to that is when your hormones are out of whack and I know all too well from what I learned in nutrition school how important hormone health is to weight loss.
Then it dawned on me. I went back on birth control 6 months ago.
It was then I put the picture together about how horrible I’d feeling these last months. Dragging through workouts, not hungry, bloated, fatigued and having serious breast swelling (sorry if that’s TMI). Some days the swelling’s so bad I feel like they’re going to explode.
My history with the pill is complicated. It started when I was 16. I had emergency surgery to remove a benign tumor on my right ovary. I was told it was the size of a cantaloupe. Doctors put me on Ortho Tri-Cyclen to prevent more tumors from forming which I happily took for years without blinking twice. My periods were regular, my acne went away and no more tumors.
Then at 26, I was diagnosed with hypertension and high blood pressure. My job was incredibly stressful. I reported to a VP, I was traveling all the time and had a team of 25 people across the world reporting to me. Did I mention I was 26? The stress of my job was catching up with me and I was also overweight. Because I was so stressed out, my doctor switched me to a progesterone only pill.
I stayed on this pill until I was 33 and began to notice weird things happening with my body. Chin hairs, horrible periods and acne. By then my blood pressure was down and under control (without medication ever) so my OBGYN switched me to Loestrin to get some estrogen back in my body.
When I started Loestrin, I felt much better. All the weird symptoms went away and I was even happier a few months later when my periods dwindled away. No periods? Time to celebrate! I didn’t realize it then, but this was a curse in disguise because now, 7 years later I’m dealing with polyps which are known to develop in a woman’s uterus from lack of periods. A side effect doctors don’t always tell you about.
For years I went without a period thinking all was well. I lost 80 pounds during that time and felt great until in January 2014 when I had a stress fracture in my foot, my ankle in October 2014, and then my tibia in 2015. The cycle of stress fractures caused my MD to do a DEXA scan to see what my bone density was and order blood work for my hormones. I knew the DEXA would be abnormal because of my avascular necrosis, but I had no idea I had osteopenia which is what it showed.
The blood tests showed I had zero reproductive hormones. I was taking Loestrin so my body should have had hormones, but it didn’t. After receiving the results, I was referred to an OBYN and endocrinologist at Mayo Clinic who put me on a high dose estrogen birth control pill to force my body to have a period which by the way I WOULD NEVER recommend to anyone. It was horrible. I had the worst periods, gained 15 pounds overnight, had horrible sugar cravings and fatigue. I was dragging to get through the day at work. I felt the worst I’d felt in my entire life. But according to the doctor, I was fine because I was having a period.
After 3 months, I took myself off the pill because I couldn’t deal with the crazy hormones and side effects. That’s when I saw my ND and she helped me balance my hormones. To be fully transparent, the treatment with her focused on getting my Hashimoto’s disease under control. What I understood from her was that thyroid and reproductive hormones play hand-in-hand when you have hypothyroidism so you have to fix the thyroid to get the reproductive hormones to play nice.
Fall 2015, I had the paragard (a non-hormonal IUD) implanted. The first 4 months I thought I was going to die from the cramping and heavy periods, but eventually things normalized and I felt fine despite having heavy periods. I was able to lose weight and felt for the first time in my life, like my body was working the way it was meant to be.
Until December 2016 when I had excruciating pain in my uterus. After an ultrasound, they determined the IUD slipped out of place and I just so happened to have a polyp in the place where an IUD should be. So the doctor removed the IUD and said I could’t have another until I had the polyp surgically removed. Funny thing is I’ve since switched doctors and he says I can have another IUD inserted without the surgery. Who do you believe?
Two months later my now boyfriend and I started dating. My only option was to go back on pill, and because of my family history of cardiovascular disease I chose to go back on Loestrin because of the lower estrogen. Now I feel like I’m back to square one, dealing with wacky things going on with my body and no one being able to tell me why. My recent blood work showed my thyroid antibodies higher than last year, but what I don’t know is if the pill has affected my thyroid or if it’s just the thyroid. There’s plenty of claims out there that the pill affects thyroid hormones. Is that the case for me? I don’t know. I see an endocrinologist (the 10th I’ve seen in the last 5 years) next month, but I’m not expecting I’ll hear anything I haven’t already heard.
As for the pill, I’m at a crossroads trying to determine whether to ditch it and try natural family planning. Personally, I don’t believe putting hormones in my body is good for my health. I wish I had more answers for those of you out there with the same questions, but I don’t. What I can tell you is thyroid and reproductive health are linked and hormone health is very important to weight management. Birth control is a personal decision but one you have to scrutinize when you’re dealing with medical issues.
UPDATE: Since writing this post, I went off birth control and do natural family planning. My Hashimoto’s antibodies have gone down, my periods are better and I feel better!
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