Girls are finally ditching Rigevidon: The contraceptive pill screwing them over
It was fun while it lasted but it’s over, bye x
Post about contraception, or specifically the pill, on Facebook and you’ll be inundated with girls commenting and wanting to share their experience. Everyone has a story to tell of their relationship with the pill, whether the experience was good, “it cleared my acne”, “my periods are now like clockwork”, or bad “I gained 5kg”, “it impacted my mental health”, “I lost my sex drive”.
But girls are now breaking up with one pill in particular: Rigevidon. It’s one of the cheapest combined-pills for the NHS to give out, and like all contraception has its side effects. In the UK, over 3.5 million women take hormonal contraception, but because of how many girls start on Rigevidon it’s one of the most controversial pills, with petitions calling for it to be taken off the market, to viral posts claiming Rigevidon to be unsafe. Last year research found the combined contraceptive pill has links to depression.
Contraception is different for everyone, and what can work for one woman might be a completely different story for another. However after requesting testimonials from girls who have had bad experiences on Rigevidon, my notifications on Twitter and Facebook still haven’t stopped. Here’s their stories of how Rigevidon truly fucked them over:
Helena, 21, Edinburgh
I was on Rigevidon as my first type of contraception. I get migraines, and the doctor was just like “yeah you’ll be fine your migraines aren’t proper migraines”. Cut to three months later I had a migraine so bad – I had blinding pain, tunnel vision, pins and needles and numbness down the left side of my body, to the point where I called NHS 24 as it was in the evening. Eventually they just told me to go straight to A&E and told me to stop taking Rigevidon straight away.
Tammy, 20, Cardiff
The main problem for me was periods. My periods were so heavy and my cramps were so bad that I used to have heat pads on me. Like I’d be okay for three weeks and then the forth week would come and I’d be on my period for like two to three weeks.
Anna, 21, Liverpool
I became exhausted with going to the GP and insisting something was wrong (I bled for eight months straight), only to be shut down and told the regular “it’s just hormones! Nothing is seriously wrong”. Finally, after eight months of persistence somebody ran a set of blood tests. One of the blood tests came back saying I had a blood clotting disorder, something which is life-threatening when mixed with combined pills like Rigevidon. At 20 (with this disorder and off hormonal contraception) I had a stroke. I can’t even imagine the risk I was at whilst on the pill.
Katie, 20, Brighton
As soon as I went on it I became massively fatigued within a week or so and started sleeping roughly 13 hours a day most days? Even then I would have still felt tired and felt as though I was on my period constantly in terms of general sensitivity. It also gave me a few mega periods that lasted a few weeks (but were relatively painless) before finally I lost them all together. Also went through a massive depressive phase so eventually came off it. Now on a different pill and the difference is incredible.
Daisy, 21, Birmingham
I was put onto the pill because my periods were really really heavy and irregular – and for about a year it seemed to work just fine.
Then out of the blue in my second year at uni my periods began to get unbearable. I couldn’t leave the house when I was on, and it was beginning to affect my uni work because I’d be in so much pain and so conscious that I would leak that I would skip lectures and couldn’t concentrate. I had one seminar where I had been in uni for an hour – I stood up and leaked through my jeans and a coat, there was blood everywhere and I had to run home in tears.
I had botox medically injected into my arm for an existing medical condition, and the next day I noticed a wet patch in my bra, something that had never happened before. After a few months, it was still happening and I clicked that it was only when I was on my period. I went to the doctors and they said it was a side effect of the hormones in my pill.
It was only after about six months of heavy periods, unbearable pain and leaking boobs causing me the worst and most embarrassing discomfort, and having to go out and buy breast pads for new mums – which I thought was ridiculous – that I told my doctor that I was changing my pill – and there was no two ways about it.
Daisy, 20, Bristol
I was on Rigevidon for about 1.5 years as my first contraceptive pill. At first I vaguely noticed that I was much moodier and little things upset me much more. I’d always been a very rational person and wasn’t easily upset by unimportant things but I became very easily upset, before being on the pill I rarely cried but I’d find myself crying over ridiculous things at least once a week. I mainly found that I’d feel fine in the day, really enjoying uni and my new friends but then at night I would begin to feel really low.
As I’ve never been someone who’s been unlucky and suffered side effects of medication, even though I’d heard of people having bad experiences of being on the pill I never really thought I’d be one of those people.
So I asked my doctor to change it just out of interest and within a few months I felt like a completely different person, it wasn’t until I was off Rigevidon that I realised how scarily different I had felt whilst being on it.
Sarah, 21, Reading
I was on it for two years and in that time I gained 10kg. I was doing everything I could to lose weight but nothing worked. I went to my GP and he told me that it probably was Rigevidon making me gain weight so he put me on Loestrin 20 which is still a combined pill but is a very low dose – since then I am almost back to my original weight.
Siobhân, 21, Sheffield
If I’m late with one pill I’ll start spotting a few days later. I’ve been so tired all the time, and super emotional as well. I was in bed all day Friday because I didn’t sleep on Thursday night because of the bloating and cramps. I’ve been on Rigevidon for six months if that and I can feel the difference.
Robyn, 21, Leeds
I was on Rigevidon for over four years. I didn’t realise how loopy the pill had sent me until I stopped taking it. When they prescribe contraception, the phrase “hormone regulation” but for me his just meant I spent the entirety of my time on the pill in a near-constant state of meh. The extent of my mood swings was going from meh to not-so-meh.
I’ve been off it for less than four months and I remain astounded at how much better I feel. I can’t believe we still give this to girls as young as I was without stopping to consider the negative impact it can have on someone’s entire outlook.
I came off it last year during one of those pill assessment appointments at the GP. They asked me if I was having any headaches so I told them I had migraines now and again. And they were like “…why are you on this pill?” So essentially I’d been on it for eight years having severe headaches but it just had never been addressed at the GP. It was really scary to think I “shouldn’t” have been on Rigevidon for eight years.
Lily, 22, Reading
I never had periods when I was on Rigevidon even though I was taking it as the doctors and instructions said, so I was letting things build up to then have it all happen at once. It sort of changed my life – I had to go have a medically forced menopause to try and fix things.
Kaia, 19, Cambridge
I came off Rigevidon because not only did it make my boobs go from a C to an E cup but it made me chubbier generally. Plus I suffered from serious mood swings that even got diagnosed as something called “distress intolerance disorder”, which I think is an unnecessary label for something all women go through but still was a pretty big thing at the time. I would also wake up in the middle of the night with awfully painful cramps in my muscles.
Hollie, 24, London
I came off it because of weight gain and mental health. I’d been on it for 10 years so I was genuinely concerned about what it was doing to my body. I put on about two stone over 18 months. I’ve always struggled with anxiety and depression in varying degrees since around 15 (coincidentally the time I went on the pill), but I put it down to things that were happening around me. Then I started reading up and wondered if the anxiety actually was heightened by the pill, or maybe even caused a lot of it. I felt really out of control with my emotions. I came off it literally about five weeks ago, and who knows if placebo effect but feel less tired, more energy and more positive and proactive about things.
Victoria, 23, Durham
I stopped being on Rigevidon a year ago. I’m like 5kg lighter since stopping it. I didn’t realise at the time but I reckon I’m happier off it, and pretty sure I had decreased sexual desire on it.
Alex, 23, London
I started taking it in May. I was so anxious and it made me feel extremely sad all the time. I would overthink everything. I’m usually pretty chilled out but the smallest thing would stress me out, like I remember people not texting me back and I would get really worked up in my head thinking I’d done something wrong. The week it was the worst I would just cry for no reason and I felt nervous all day unless I was at home. I noticed it fairly quickly and stopped taking it after about six weeks with thankfully no lasting effect.
Phoebe, 23, London
I found Rigevidon made me really sensitive, and definitely affected my sex drive. I felt bloated and was spotting all the time – it was like having constant PMS for the whole month rather than just one or two days.
Lauren, 21, Shropshire
I’ve recently come off it after using it for about three years. I had horrendous acne since using it, even though I had never really had spots before, my face was so angry and every product I used wouldn’t get rid of my spots. Since coming off it my skin has completely cleared up and I only get the odd spot now. I think the worst thing was my mood swings, I’m usually so calm and understanding but I would get these mood swings that would make me so aggressive and nasty towards my parents and my boyfriend for no reason at all and within minutes my mood would change again and I’d have to apologise for all the horrible things I had said.
I was on the Rigevidon pill for a year and a half and came off it in April. I went up two dress sizes and from a size 34C to a 34F in those 18 months. Having a history of an eating disorder and body image issues, the pill caused so many issues for me. I was much more impatient and emotional when on the pill. I didn’t realise the extent of the side effects until I came off of the pill and noticed such a change.
The manufacturers of Rigevidon, Gedeon Richter, were contacted for comment.
A spokesperson commented: “Our company is collecting safety data of Rigevidon according to the pharmacovigilance regulation. Data collected from all sources have been continuously analysed, assessed and interpreted since the product has been on the market. The results have been reported to relevant authorities as required. Moreover a bi-annual monitoring has been started with this year, which includes all data reported to the Eudravigilance – European database for suspected adverse reactions – related to levonorgestrel and ethinylestradiol containing contraceptive products.
“Based on all available post-marketing safety data it can be stated, that no additional risk or an increase in incidence or severity of the known risks have been detected. No pharmacovigilance action – additionally to the routine activities – has been found to be necessary related to this product. The safety profile is considered to be in line with the established safety profile of products containing this components (contains 150 micrograms levonorgestrel and 30 micrograms ethinylestradiol).”