I must say first and foremost, I am not a medical professional and therefore my thoughts and opinions should only be taken at face value. If you’re considering hormonal contraceptives, I would recommend completing thorough research beforehand and discussing with your GP.
What Is Cerelle (The Mini Pill)?
The NHS website explains that the progestogen-only pill (POP) prevents pregnancy by thickening the mucus in the cervix to stop sperm reaching an egg. The desogestrel progestogen-only pill can also stop ovulation.
Progestogen-only pills contain the hormone progestogen, but don’t contain oestrogen.
You can read the Cerelle desogestrel progestogen-only pill package leaflet, which explains:
- What Cerelle 75 microgram film-coated tablets is and what it is used for.
- What you need to know before you take Cerelle.
- How to take Cerelle.
- Possible side effects.
- How to store Cerelle.
- Contents of the pack and other information.
What are the commonly listed side effects of Cerelle?
There are a short number of commonly found side effects listed in the patient information leaflet included within the box itself, however for ease of information:
Common side effects (may affect up to 1 in 10 people):
- mood altered,
- decreased sexual drive (libido),
- breast pain,
- irregular or no menstruation,
- increased body weight.
Uncommon side effects (may affect up to 1 in 100 people):
- infection of the vagina,
- difficulties in wearing contact lenses,
- hair loss,
- painful menstruation,
- ovarian cyst,
Rare side effects (may affect up to 1 in 1,000 people):
- painful blue-red skin lumps (erythema nodosum) (these are skin conditions).
These side effects have been listed simply for ease of information and can be found in the medicines.org.uk patient information leaflet. This information leaflet was last revised in March 2019.
Why I started taking the POP pill
There are a collection of reasons why I specifically chose Cerelle (the POP pill) and overall why I decided hormonal contraception was a step I should take to protect myself.
I was 16 (a few months away from turning 17) and found myself in a committed, long-term relationship. Obviously we were teenagers, and having been dedicated boyfriend-and-girlfriend for 2 years it was time to find something more secure, easy to use and reliable than just a condom.
This isn’t to say condoms aren’t safe–we just wanted the additional backup.
Similarly, I had a rather important, exciting college excursion to New York coming up and I was due to begin my period on the flight over. I couldn’t risk just hoping that my predictions were wrong, because I was very regular.
A flight from London to New York takes about 8 hours and flying is an uncomfortable experience as it is. I didn’t want to make it worse than it had to be.
Also, specifically period-wise I was regular (the period app Clue must have loved how easy I was to predict) but my periods could often leave me struggling to move, struggling to find energy and extremely hormonal. On rare occasions, I would throw up because of the pain.
All these reasons culminated in a “pros” list for looking into hormonal contraception rather than just a period-delay pill for my trip.
How long was I taking Cerelle?
I have had a regular, repeat prescription for Cerelle since April 2016. This means I have been taking hormonal contraception for 4 years, daily.
I had always thought that while there was a large “trend” in women coming off of their contraception, I would be one of the few to stay taking it for a little while longer because it wasn’t affecting me too much. Oh how I wish I knew.
I haven’t came off of Cerelle for any major, life threatening reasons but the “pros” list started to shrink smaller and smaller until the “cons” list took over.
I will admit I haven’t been crazy great at taking the pill at times, and while my favourite side effect is that I didn’t get my period–I would often forget to bring the damn thing with me on holidays or even more recently, forget it exists completely which leads me onto why I decided to come off of Cerelle.
Why taking the mini pill is no longer for me.
The largest reason is that I am struggling, despite no major reason why, to remember to take my pill every day (despite trying different methods such as reminders on my phone and laptop, having it in easy reach, etc.). Routinely forgetting to take my pill and restarting didn’t feel like it was doing me any good and my hormones have been all over the place for months.
I haven’t yet been off my pill long enough to decide whether a couple of side effects can be attributed to Cerelle, or whether it’s just my own wonky brain but these are the side effects I’ve noticed:
- mood altered,
- decreased sexual drive,
- no menstruation,
- increased body weight,
- difficulties in wearing contact lenses,
There’s side effects which could also be connected to other parts of my life, but I’d like to find that out before I return to taking Cerelle (if ever).
My weight gain could be because I’m more sedentary compared to before I started taking the pill, my noticeable mood changes/”depression” could be because I’m just mentally ill. My contact lens difficulties could just be because I have slightly squished eyeballs and therefore contact lenses just aren’t suitable.
But how am I to know if these are because of who I am or because of the pill without experimenting a little?
I’ve not taken my pill since October 2020, and I’ve noticed some small changes since then. While my weight hasn’t changed much (I haven’t really done a lot to change it, honestly) I feel less bloated, less large and blubbery.
I have my period back (which isn’t a pro, but it is something to note). My boyfriend has noticed that although I get hormonally sad, angry and irritable the week before my period I’m overall a happier, nicer person to spend time with.
Similarly, my libido is back in full.
Energy-wise, I feel better. I’m walking more again and wanting to go out and about more. I’m more motivated with my work (although my own personal issues with procrastination need sorting). I’m feeling less stressed and I’m having less stress-based nightmares when I try to sleep.
I’m hoping, come 2021 and the New Year, I can take real steps to find out whether these things are actual side effects or whether I need to work on other parts of my life also.
Would I try other contraceptives?
The short answer would be no, probably not. Aside from condoms, and maybe monitoring my ovulation in the future, I don’t think I’d try any other form of contraception.
The implant (and I think, don’t quote me on this as I’m unsure, the injection too) is just the same type of hormone as what I have been taking in Cerelle, so there’s a chance I’d consider it depending on what the outcome is from me stopping taking the mini pill.
The coil and the copper coil horror stories have terrified me, and it is quite an invasive procedure (to me). This is one of the least likely routes I’ll take in the future.
As for other types of pill, there’s the “combined” pill and you take this for 3 weeks, take a week off and have a ‘bleed’. This wouldn’t be for me either, unless I find any pros to taking it.
I think my best bet in the future is for me to return to Cerelle at some point, after a discussion with my GP. But, for now I will be using condoms and if the worst comes to worst I’ll take the morning after pill. However I am in a committed long term relationship and if any issues come to light in the future we would discuss this.
This doesn’t mean that any of the above options aren’t for you–these are just things I personally have considered for myself.
Why I would return to Cerelle over other contraceptive options
I’ve spoken a lot about the negative effects of Cerelle, but there are a collection of good things too.
This is a positive for me but may not be for someone else, I didn’t have to suffer a period when taking Cerelle correctly. This relieved me of a lot of irregular hormone imbalances, a lot of pain and discomfort and overall saved me money because I wasn’t needing to buy pads or tampons.
The pill made me mentally stable. Regularly taking a hormone correctly (same time, every day) meant my hormones were stable and therefore so was my mood.
Cerelle protected me, I knew I was safe because I had a stable experience. While the thought of not having a period can make people think it’s difficult to tell if you’re pregnant or not, I quite liked it. I knew that I didn’t get periods, I knew that having a period meant something had gone wrong (i.e. I hadn’t taken my pill) and having a period meant I wasn’t protected.
What’s next now?
Over the next few months, maybe the next year, I will take a look to see what changes within me now I’m not taking Cerelle daily.
I’d like to see if my physical body changes at all, and I hope my mental state changes for the better.
If anyone has any previous experience coming off of long-term contraception, I’d love to hear from you.