I'm 34 years old. I've been running for 22 years. In that time, there's been two occasions where I've had bone problems. During both of those times I've been taking a progestin only contraceptive.
I want to share this with you not to spread fear but just to make you aware and prevent you from being in the same situation as me.
As someone that trains hard to maintain or improve their fitness and performance, injury is pretty much my worst nightmare. Nobody trains hard to have it all thrown away.
For the best part of the last year I've had a 'stress reaction' on my left tibia. I'd never even heard of this until recently. It's a precursor to a stress fracture and unfortunately is pretty hard to diagnose as I believe it only shows up on an MRI scan. The pain I felt was unpredictable. Sometimes at the beginning of my run, sometimes at the end and sometimes in the middle. Sometimes no pain at all and often pain when I was doing nothing.
I was treated in various ways by physiotherapists thinking it was muscular. I did so many rehab exercises it consumed a large part of my day. I had an x-ray which showed a perfectly healthy bone and an ultra-sound scan which showed nothing except a lump caused by a vein.
During the time that I've been struggling with this problem I've taken time off running hoping it would heal. Right at the beginning, I took two weeks off and had no improvement. Then, I took five weeks off and still no difference. I had three months of no running and just rode an elliptical bike, no improvement. Throughout this whole time I continued with my progestin only contraceptive.
Finally, after getting the results from the MRI scan I took time off again. After having three weeks off running I felt no improvement at all. After a visit to my specialist and then some intense googling about contraceptives, I decided to stop taking the pill. It still took another five weeks until I felt it had improved.
There is no way for me to scientifically prove that the contraceptives caused the injury or made it worse. Of course, if I wasn't a runner, I probably wouldn't have any problem. But I definitely feel it's had a part to play in the whole event.
When I was a lot younger and I had a full stress fracture. At the time this happened I was using the Depo Provera contraceptive injection. Now this one is quite clear how bad it is for bone health, there are warnings everywhere on the internet.
If you google the depo provera injection, this is the first thing that comes up...
During the past year whilst experiencing the stress reaction I've been using a combination of Noraday pill and Nexplanon implant (I changed a couple of times for personal reasons). There is very little information about the effects of these on bone density as very few studies have taken place. The guidance from the specialist I've been seeing for my injury, was that there is a correlation between progestin only contraceptives and bone injuries in female athletes.
It may be that I'm someone that's quite susceptible to these problems but so may be other women.
If I'd have known about this in advance, I may not have paid any attention. It's one of those things where you think 'oh poor you, but it wont ever happen to me'. Unfortunately, it did happen to me and I'll be definitely checking out any future medication I take.
I am not a doctor, scientist, bone specialist or anything even remotely like that. I'm just sharing my experience in the hope that others will at least think about the effects of their contraceptive they use and hopefully you won't end up in the same situation as me.
Training hard takes it's toll on the body, we don't need anything else making it worse.