At no point does this post become unpleasantly detailed.
Four months ago, I started Nuvaring after more than five years of abstinence. After researching other forms of birth control, this one was the obvious choice for me. Not only would I not have to worry about taking a pill every day, but I’d been on it five years earlier, with no side effects. The only catch was that, with two months until my insurance kicked in, I would have to pay out-of-pocket for this name brand prescription, because drug patents last for 20 years before generics can be produced.* Not wanting to risk the potential consequences of switching my hormonal birth control in such a short period, I bit the bullet and paid approximately $140 for Nuvaring, two months in a row.
Over the next four months, I experienced all of the perks of Nuvaring. I didn’t have to remember to take a pill every day. I had less extreme periods in every way. Neither Jake, nor I, ever felt the ring and it never slipped out. Most importantly, I never got pregnant. It seemed like the dream birth control. Why wasn’t everyone on this?!?
I told you all about my kidney infection in March, when I discussed the perils of life without health insurance. What started as a bladder infection that I couldn’t afford to treat, eventually led to my waking up alone on the bedroom floor with a fever too high to reach for my phone and call for help. Eventually, the antibiotics took hold, and I got better. Finally, in April, I was officially insured… just in time for my new gynecologist to tell me I had another infection and treat me with yet more antibiotics, despite my lack of symptoms. I thought it was strange, that I’d get two UTI’s in one month. I, of course, looked up preventative measures and took action. So, it was much to my dismay when I recognized the same bladder infection symptoms I’d had two months prior, in the middle of May. This time, I was able to see a doctor for just $20, which seemed worth it to avoid missing more work. Jake just bought the Trojan multipack, because each time I was on antibiotics, we couldn’t count on hormonal birth control. It was becoming frustrating that I was even on birth control, if we were using condoms, anyway. I mean, I knew different forms of birth control came with their side effects, so why was I even taking the risk? Hmmm. On that thought…
Where were these problems coming from, when I’d never had any similar issues, in my life? Could Nuvaring be the culprit? None of my doctors had suggested there could be any connection between the two. So, I took to the Internet and read all about Nuvaring side effects, only to find nothing relevant listed, even in the rarer cases. Over the course of the next week, I drank my water and waited for the antibiotics to take hold… and then called the doctor’s office to ask if I should’ve seen results, one week later. They verified that I did have an infection, but seeemed surprised that the antibiotics I’d been given hadn’t helped. I wasn’t to worry, though, because the antibiotics they prescribed this time would surely do the trick… until they didn’t and I was told that, at this point, a UTI couldn’t be the problem.
I took to the Internet again. If it wasn’t a UTI, why was I experiencing so much pain? For a moment, I feared bladder cancer, only to calm myself when I discovered this is a diagnosis usually reserved for the elderly. Upon further research, I found that UTI symptoms can be attributed to chlamydia and gonorrhea, both. No part of me suspected Jake of cheating, but I knew he’d been with women before me and that neither of these STI’s necessarily caused any symptoms in men. So, I made an appointment to get tested. Any frustration I had for Jake, I’d reserve for after I found out I had anything and even then, it would just be for the fact that he hadn’t made sure he was clean. I’ll be honest. At this point, I hoped I had chlamydia. I’d have caught it in time to avoid any long term damage and the treatment was just another antibiotic. Sure, we’d have to use condoms again, but we’d mostly been doing that anyway.
On the Tuesday after Memorial Day, I got the call. I was clean of all STI’s and UTI’s… and I was devastated by this news. Over the next week, I became convinced that I’d never feel better, again. This was just how I’d live my life. Further research had told me that the remaining likely diagnosis was interstitial cystitis, a chronic disorder that may or may not respond to different kinds of treatment. The probiotics my doctor recommended seemed to have helped a bit, but I was still in so much pain, I was trying not to cry in frustration and discomfort in the bathroom at work. I longed for the last time I felt well and started to wonder when that even was. I counted back and made a surprising realization: the last time I felt better was the last time I took my Nuvaring out to have a period. I’d skipped the one before that, after being told by my gynecologist that this was okay, but Jake had disapproved. It didn’t sound healthy to him for me to be stacking my birth control without a break. Since my fertility directly effects him, I complied and took it out… and by the end of the week, the pain was mostly gone. My prayers had been answered, but only briefly, because it quickly returned. At this point, however, I’d just stopped complaining and was suffering in silence.
For one final bout of research, I Googled “Nuvaring and UTI”… only to find numerous mentions of women who’d experienced both UTI’s and general urinary problems without diagnosis of an infection. Over and over again, I read stories on medical forums of women being in such pain that they couldn’t function or having multiple UTI’s in just a few months, only to find that discontinuing their usage of Nuvaring almost immediately relieved the symptoms. I was torn. If I’d had these problems and there was even a chance they could be related to my birth control, surely my doctor would tell me. I’d just wait until my current Nuvaring was finished and then try something else.
That night, as I lay in bed crying, knowing my symptoms would keep me up all night, again, I texted Jake to inform him that we’d be using condoms for awhile. I was sorry I hadn’t discussed it with him beforehand, but I couldn’t do it anymore and was willing to try taking out my Nuvraing on the hopes that my symptoms would clear up. I’d have taken an unplanned pregnancy over the pain, at that point. After sending that text, I trashed my $140 value birth control, that I’d only had in for two weeks. The next day, I called my gynecologist, requesting a different prescription. When I told the nurses my symptoms, however, they scoffed at the idea that my Nuvaring could be the culprit. The most I was able to get anyone to admit, was that women had complained of increased discharge and there was a possibility that that might cause an infection. When I picked up the new birth control, I got a more reasonable response from the pharmacist, with a bit less eye rolling. She said she hadn’t heard of these symptoms, but it made perfect sense to her.
It has been one week since I tearfully trashed my Nuvaring and I thank God numerous times a day that the pain is gone. I finally feel well, for the first time in over a month. I can go hours without having to pee, only getting up once or twice in the night. I no longer experience any pain. The only time I’ve had any such persistent symptoms in the last several days was when I tried to use my menstrual cup, because taking out my ring started my period. I am not a doctor. I cannot substantiate my claims that there is a connection between my urinary problems and my use of Nuvaring. I cannot say that this is even common enough that Nuvaring should say so, when it might be a dream contraceptive for other women. What I can say is that Nuvaring and the menstrual cup are both held in by pressing against the walls of the vagina and both caused me pain. I can tell you that I have had three substantiated UTI’s since March. I can tell you that I have never had any problems, such as these, until one month after starting Nuvaring. I can tell you that my doctors, the people I am supposed to trust with my health, never even suggested that the new prescription I was on might be the cause of the sudden problems I was experiencing, in a related area. When I suggested this, I was gaslighted and treated as another obnoxious Web-MD reader. What I can tell you is that I will forever take my doctors’ opinions with a grain of salt, after this miserable experience. What I can tell you is that the pain is gone and I will no longer be using my vagina as a pocket for my birth control.