Two of my most popular series on this blog are my discussions about birth control and natural alternatives, and my experiences with abnormal pap smears.  Unfortunately, it’s time for an update on the latter topic.  That being said, I know this can be a squeamish topic for some.  In fact, I wanted to call this post “Let’s Talk About My Vagina Some More” but thought that might scare some of you away.  Heh. 


As awkward as these topics can be, I think it’s really important to be open and honest about reproductive health, and I learn a LOT from your comments on the subject – so here we go!


A little history:


  • Part I: In October 2009, after having an abnormal pap smear that revealed “pre-pre-cancerous” cells, I had a colposcopy.  A colposcopy is a biopsy of the cervix.  In my case, the doctor removed four samples, each as small as a pinhead. 


  • Part II:  I got the test results back and was devastated to learn I had high-risk lesions, known as moderate dysplasia.  These lesions were “pre-cancerous” and more serious than the initial results.


  • Part III: After speaking to several holistic doctors to get their opinion on my options, I decided to go with my gyno’s recommendation and have the loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) in November of 2009.  LEEP involves cutting off the outer layer of your cervix.


Now, the most common cause of abnormal pap smears is HPV, the human papillomavirus.  I would totally own up to having HPV if I did – it’s quite common! 50% of sexually active individuals will have HPV at some point in their lives.  But test results show that I do not have HPV, which was confusing to my first doctor.  Why was I have abnormal paps?  No one knew!


After getting the LEEP procedure done, I had to come back in for a pap smear every three months.  They even held my birth control prescription hostage to ensure that I’d actually come back!  After five or six clean paps, I went in for my annual exam last week and expected another normal test result, which would free me from the requirement of constant paps. 


(You can tell where this story is heading, can’t you?)


The nurse called yesterday and informed me that my pap came back abnormal, indicating low-grade dysplasia consistent with HPV (even though the test also says I’m still clean for HPV).  The nurse told me the doctor recommends that I come back in for another biopsy to confirm the pap’s results.  I told her I’d have to think about it.


Since then, I’ve been furiously researching abnormal paps on the Internet.  Turns out there are a lot of reasons why a pap smear can come back abnormal:


  • Having sex too close to the pap smear
  • Smoking cigarettes, as it weakens the immune system and creates inflammation in the body
  • Bacterial or yeast infections
  • Build-up of synthetic estrogen hormones (xenoestrogens)
  • Using a cervical cap or diaphragm
  • Using birth control pills


Of course, I jumped all over that last point!  Although I choose to use birth control pills currently because it works best for our family planning goals, I am not a fan of ingesting hormones on a daily basis for years on end.  So many doctors and commenters have told me that most research indicates birth control is ‘harmless’ and can actually reduce the risk of certain cancers, but I just don’t believe it.  Call me paranoid.  Call me a skeptic.  But I just don’t see how artificially regulating your hormones can be free of side effects.


In case you’re interested, here’s a quick summary of the Birth Control posts (the comments on all of these posts are really great!):


  • Part I: I discuss my concerns with not getting my period if I were to go off birth control.
  • Part II: I wrote about our discussion to go off period control and try the Fertility Awareness Method.
  • Part III: I talked about my experiences with birth control withdrawal (which doctors assured me wouldn’t happen, but trust me – it did!) and how FAM worked for me.
  • Part IV:  I discussed my decision to go back on birth control after my period disappeared during marathon training, making it impossible for me to rely on the FAM method.


So – back to birth control pills and abnormal paps.  Some studies have shown that women who use birth control pills for many years may have an increased risk of cervical cancer (Source).  In fact, one study determined that women who used the pill for 5 years or less had a 10% greater risk of cervical cancer compared to those who don’t use the pill; users of the pill for 5 or more years had a 50% – 60% greater risk of cervical cancer compared to the control group.  When I read that, I was like “WHAAAAAAAAAT?”  But then I read the conclusion:  Researchers think that women who use birth control are less likely to use condoms, which therefore increases the odds they’ll get HPV.  Hmm.


However, other doctors say that there IS a definite link between taking hormones and an increase in cervical cancer, especially when taking a combined estrogen pill.  Studies suggest that birth control pill users’ cervical cancer risk drops back to normal A DECADE after going off the pill (Source).


Where does all this information leave me?


  • I’m not ready to have a biopsy. It’s expensive and painful.


  • Instead, I asked my doctor to consider recommending that I get a follow-up pap in two months to see if I still have abnormal cells.  She is thinking it over.


  • The Husband is putting me back on a protocol of natural supplements and vitamins to help reduce cell abnormality in the cervix.  Folic acid, for example, has been shown to reduce the risk of abnormal paps.


  • Mainly, I am concerned about jumping the gun and get the LEEP procedure again.  If the biopsy was bad, the LEEP is worse (not trying to scare anyone, that’s just how it is).  Also, LEEP can create scar tissue, making it harder to get pregnant.


  • I’ve decided to go back off birth control pills and try the FAM method again.  Hopefully, my period will stay regular, and we won’t get surprised by a baby.


So – that’s Part IV of the very crazy pap smear story.   Mostly, I wanted to tell this story to reiterate my belief that we should trust our doctors BUT we should also weigh that information carefully.  Don’t do something just because you’re scared.  Get educated. I really think it’s important to be your own health advocate.  For example, no one talked to me about the birth control-cervical cancer connection or told me that I should take folic acid supplements!  Obviously, I don’t want cervical cancer, but I always don’t want unnecessary medical procedures that might make it difficult to get pregnant down the road. 


On a lighter note, I searched Google images for “abnormal pap smears” and these gems showed up:

abnormal_carcinoma_cellimages (3)

images (2)images (1)


images (4)

imagesTensed neck left

I don’t know why pap smears make your shoulders hurt, but apparently, they do. Heh.


Can you relate to my pap smear fiasco?  What are your thoughts on birth control pills?



  • Kate (What Kate is Cooking) June 8, 2011, 5:38 pm

    Ugh- pap smears! I’ve only had one, but I’m not looking forward to the next one.

    I was put on birth control after taking 10 days of some kind of hormone to jump start my period when I lost it, and I never want to take it again! It made me absolutely crazy, and I STILL didn’t get my period.

    • chelsey @ clean eating chelsey June 8, 2011, 6:31 pm

      Thanks for saying this – only one more reason why I feel good about my decision not to take those pills to “jump start” my period!

    • Amber K June 9, 2011, 11:50 am

      I took that pill just recently and still haven’t gotten my period. The pill didn’t seem to affect my mood though, I would definitely be frustrated if it did!

  • Leanne (Bride to Mrs,) June 8, 2011, 5:44 pm

    I think the biggest thing that should jump off the page of this post to all your readers is that: “I really think it’s important to be your own health advocate.”

    ..I agree with this statement with my whole heart. I think it’s so important to work with your doctor, not just think that everything she/he says is the right solution. It’s okay to ask lots of questions, ask for a second opinion, or ask for a different solution!

    I went off birth control over a year ago and I feel so much better knowing that I’m not putting artificial hormones into my body every single day. My doctor always says that birth control is wonderful and can actually prevent certain cancers, but I just don’t feel it’s right for me.

    I like these posts! 🙂

    • Leanne (Bride to Mrs,) June 8, 2011, 5:44 pm

      Ps. I hope that your next pap-smear goes well. 🙂

    • Allison @ Happy Tales June 9, 2011, 9:24 pm

      I agree with EVERYTHING you said here, Leanne. Being your own advocate is *the* best and most important thing you can do for yourself, especially when it comes to something as fragile as your own reproductive health! So many women “wait” to have kids that they don’t realize there is an issue until way down the road… often times past the “peak” fertility years.

  • Marissa @ HealthyNOLA June 8, 2011, 5:46 pm

    i’m so sorry to hear this news. i’ve been in this situation and continue to get nervous each time i go for a pap. i totally agree with you that abnormal paps are not only due to hpv, like so many believe. there are so many possibilities and it’s great that you are taking charge of your own health and staying informed so you can make the best decisions! i’ll keep you in my thoughts/prayers as you go through this…

    • Jenny June 9, 2011, 8:49 am

      I have a girlfriend who has been through this situtaion before. Multiple abnormal paps that turned out to be tied to frequent YI’s. It took her and her doctor 2 years to get everything under control.
      Fingers crossed for you Caitlin!

    • jessika June 11, 2011, 12:13 am

      Don’t you love how HPV is the ONLY answer! My doctor told me I must of had HPV, even though I had never tested positive for it, and I was fanatical about getting tested. I did the LEEP, and got off birth control. TMI alert- we used the withfrawl method, and it worked fantastic. We didn’t get pregnant until we ment to.
      And since I’ve gotten off birth control, no abnormal paps.

  • Chelsea @ Go Chelsea Go! June 8, 2011, 5:46 pm

    I’ve been on birth control pills for over 9 years now (crazy!), and I’ve had an abnormal pap once (which was normal the next year). However, I didn’t realize the risks that birth control pills could have in the long term! This is something I’m definitely going to research more and talk to my doctor about at my next annual appointment!!

  • Brittany (a healthy slice of life) June 8, 2011, 5:48 pm

    I had an abnormal pap and a colposcopy several years back. The biopsies cleared the margins, which was good, but I had to follow up every 6 months instead of 12. After 2 gets of normal paps, I’m back to going annually, but still hold my breath while awaiting results.

    It’s amazing to me how little doctors actually know about women’s health (especially reproductive), and have been even more shocked at the lack of knowledge as I go through pregnancy. I agree that it is so important to be your own health advocate.

    Ps- can I secretly hope that you ARE surprised with a baby?

  • Kamaile June 8, 2011, 5:48 pm

    I’ve had an abnormal pap and did what you suggested to your doctor, the next pap two months later was normal. Depending on when you plan to try to conceive, have you ever thought of an IUD? I’ve had the Paraguard (no horhomes) for 7 years now and I love it. It’s good for 10 years, maybe that’s an option for you?

    • Kamaile June 8, 2011, 5:50 pm

      that would be no hormones!

      • Erin June 8, 2011, 6:06 pm

        I was just thinking of suggesting the IUD too. I have one for a year and I love it. Not a fan of hormones.

      • Caitlin June 8, 2011, 6:07 pm

        Don’t you have to keep IUDs in for years? Hopefully I won’t have to wait that long for a bebe!

        • Leanne (Bride to Mrs,) June 8, 2011, 6:25 pm

          I think you can keep it up to 3 or 4 years but they can take it out when you are ready for baby making 😉

        • Allison @ Will Run For Candy June 8, 2011, 6:25 pm

          I was debating the IUD for a while. My college roommate got two – the one that has no hormones, then the regular one. The hormone free one she kept in for a year, then began having horrible pain – turned out the IUD was making it’s way OUT of her uterus. That meant it wasn’t working as effective BC, so she could have gotten pregnant with it in there, which could kill or damage the baby and cause all sorts of complication.

          Next she tried the hormone (Minera?) IUD. She had a horrible reaction to the hormones and ended up going to the ER.

          Obviously, this is just one person and there’s tons of people who have had great experiences with them. it totally put me off getting one though!

        • Rachel June 8, 2011, 8:34 pm

          I’ve heard it’s really no big deal to get them out – I have a few friends who have the Mirena IUD and plan on getting it removed before the 5 year mark.

        • Luv What You Do June 8, 2011, 10:29 pm

          You can keep it in for 1-10 years. I know people who have used them after having a baby because it is more effective than the mini pill. Every plan is different, but mine only cost the regular $10 copay. $10 for 10 years equals BEST DEAL EVER!

        • Julie June 9, 2011, 12:51 am

          You can have the IUD removed at any time, but you can keep the Mirena IUD in up to 5 years. Just a word of caution for women who haven’t had a baby: there’s a higher “rejection” rate of the device.

          Just a month ago I decided to get it inserted since I was having issues with the pill and was so excited my insurance covered it. I felt fine the day it was inserted (just a little crampy) and great the next day. The following day I was woken up with SEVERE cramps. They wouldn’t go away for hours, even after taking 3 advil. The doctor removed it because he was concerned about infection (and put me on antibiotics just in case). I’m not sure if my uterus was just unhappy with a foreign object in it (being as it’s smaller since I haven’t had a baby) or I really did have an infection, but either way it was a sucky situation.

          I know several people who LOVE it, but just want you to know it’s not ideal for anyone. I was so bummed it didn’t work out for me. I’m not on anything now but may go back to the pill.

        • CH June 10, 2011, 6:09 pm

          No! You can get the IUD removed whenever you want! I have had one about 7 or 8 months and it is AWESOME. I have not had a single problem with it, and mine (ParaGard) is completely hormone free. At first I missed birth control because I have way more hormone-y problems now (swollen breasts, cramps, moodiness, etc.), but the symptoms have really evened out by this point. And the IUD can come out whenever I want it to come out, whether that be in a month or in ten years!!!!!! I am serious, it has been an incredible solution for me, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. Like Mary said, it is the most effective, and it’s cheap ($25 for ten years of BC, this is not a joke). I say do it, if you are looking for a reliable method for at least another year or so. The only warning: it hurts like hell getting it put in (I almost passed out), but it only lasts a few minutes, and I’m sure childbirth is way worse…

      • Mary June 9, 2011, 10:43 am

        To weigh in on the IUD debate, I have the copper (non-hormone, 10 year) IUD and have had it for a year. I’m 26 and have never been preggers; prior to the IUD I had been on BC for about 7 years on and off. It was RIDIC. painful the first day they put it in and the following day was rough, too. Since then, it has been the easiest form of birth control ever – love it. You can take it out at any time and get pregnant immediately (according to my doctor). It’s cheap (all I paid was $20 copay for the visit!) and from my research it appeared to have the highest efficacy of most birth control methods. Aside from the initial pain, I would recommend it hands down. As a sidenote, after going off BC it took me OVER A YEAR to get my period normally again. That’s effed up.

    • Molly @ the F-spot June 8, 2011, 10:05 pm

      I have the Mirena (5-year, with hormones) IUD and love it. Several friends also have the copper (non-hormone) one. My understanding is that with either of the IUDs (with hormones or without), you can have them removed at any time when you are ready to start your family.

      I won’t lie and say it’s a painless process to have it “installed,” but it’s a short procedure that just feels like a lot of internal pinching and it’s over pretty quickly. I am so happy with my decision to do it!

      I can’t speak highly enough about the convenience and reliability of the IUD – ask your doc!

      • ashley June 10, 2011, 2:54 pm

        Is no one totally weirded out by having something artificial implanted inside of your body and hanging out for years? Yak!

    • Lisa July 25, 2011, 5:29 pm

      I have had three different IUDs. They didn’t used to consider placing them for women who had not had a baby. I didn’t like the hormone kind because I had spotting off and on for the first three months. The copper T never gave me any problems. I didn’t think it was that bad having inserted or removed. Not worse than a bad menstrual cramp. Personally, I would recommend having at least one normal cycle before you try to get pregnant. After having two of my IUDs removed, tests showed I was pregnant then I had a 6 week miscarriage. The doctor said that wouldn’t have caused it, but I wouldn’t take a chance again. I couldn’t stand the pill. Hormones make me very unhappy and every one around me too.

  • Ellie @ The Mommyist June 8, 2011, 5:49 pm

    I’m sorry to hear about your abnormal pap. That must be really stressful. I agree about the birth control pills. I don’t see how messing with your hormones can be without consequence. Have you considered the copper IUD? I have it and love it. Copper can have its own side effects but it seemed like the lesser to two evils. Just a though.

  • Kim June 8, 2011, 5:49 pm

    I’ve had abnormal paps for 10 years, probably about 40 biopsies over those 10 years, and 1 LEEP procedure. I feel your pain. I just went off BPC to see if removing the hormones would allow my body to finally clear the virus (I DO have HPV). My advice? Don’t mess around with this or wait too long. There are a few different tests to detect the presence of HPV, some are more accurate than others, do you know which one they used?

  • Erin June 8, 2011, 5:50 pm

    Things must have changed since the last (and only) time I had an abnormal pap. That time the doctor told me I had to come back every three months and get it re-tested and if I had three abnormal ones in a row then they would biopsy. Perhaps they are trying to be more aggressive in trying to diagnosis cervical cancer but I agree with you that it seems like a rush decision to immediately do a biopsy.

    • Caitlin June 8, 2011, 5:53 pm

      Well, the first time around, I had two or three abnormals in a row. And this time, they think I’m at risk. But yea – what happened to you is normal procedure.

  • Laura @ Backstage Pass June 8, 2011, 5:53 pm

    Caitlin – thank you for featuring this post today and for continuing your open, honest dialogue about women’s health on your blog. I think that this is ground-breaking in so many ways, and one of many reasons that I keep returning as a reader!

    And the Google images for ‘pap smea’ – sooooo funny. The q-tip graphic one is hilarious, and how creepy is the one of the female doctor mid-swab?

  • Jen @ Jen Is Awesome June 8, 2011, 5:54 pm

    Eeeek. I had the same pre-cancerous pap smear diagnosis two years ago. But I had a different procedure called cryotherapy where they “freeze” the pre-cancerous cells off. So far, so good. But I am always worried that it will return.

    I also went off birth control pills at the same time because all the extra hormones made me feel weird. I could never find a brand that made me feel like myself.

    It’s nice to know someone else has gone through this issue!
    I hope going off birth control helps!

  • Lisa June 8, 2011, 5:56 pm

    I had an abnormal pap a few years ago and then they tested again and it was fine. It was quite the scary few weeks before I went back in though!

    Personally, if it was me I would get the biopsy. I have a coworker who was having issues and spotting for a few months, cramping and other stuff. She FINALLY went to the doc and it was uterine cancer. She had a full hysterectomy, went through radiation and chemo and hasn’t been well since she found out 9 months ago. I would much rather become infertile and NOT have cancer…there’s always adoption.

    • Kate June 8, 2011, 8:57 pm

      After watching two people close to me die because of uterine and cervical cancer, I agree with this. Those cancers are both really difficult to treat and survival rates are low, particularly when there is a delay in detection.

      • Caitlin June 8, 2011, 9:01 pm

        I am sorry about your friends/family members, Kate. That is horrible.

        Obviously, I’m a huge fan of early detection, which is why I go through all this. But I have to weigh the risks of getting cancer with the other risks associated with these procedures. It’s not so clear cut to me (maybe it is for other people but screwing with my babymaker is really emotional). It’s hard when you feel like you’re choosing between loads of crappy options (risk of cancer vs risk of scar tissue).

        • Becky June 9, 2011, 4:43 am

          Obviously, every person and every case is different. I went through something similar to you Caitlin, and after a biopsy following an abnormal pap smear, I had a diagnosis very similar to what it sounds like you have. My doctor advised me that if I was her own daughter, she would suggest that I “watch and wait” rather than have a LEEP. She said she was concerned about the risk of scar tissue and that cervical cancer is not a fast-moving cancer, typically, so it’s ok to be conservative and just wait a bit. That is what I did, and I am happy to say that I continued to get pap smears every 6 months, and 1 year later, everything cleared up. I’ve had 5 years of normal pap smears since then. Everyone has to make a decision that is right for them, and I certainly don’t know the details of your family’s medical history (this might be a factor if you have a family history of cervical cancer) or your diagnosis. But I took the “watch and wait” approach and it worked out okay for me.

      • Lisa June 9, 2011, 11:50 am

        I’m really sorry about your loss, Kate. Right now I have several people around me with cancer. The coworker with uterine cancer, a friend with testicular cancer that spread. My boyfriend has a coworker who is dying of brain cancer, and another that is a marathon runner who discovered he had sarcoma in his leg. It’s scary. It makes me cherish my health and want to DETECT whatever I can early and take care of it before it becomes “inoperable” or something…

  • J June 8, 2011, 5:56 pm

    Totally understand the fear and pain of these sorts of things. Two years ago, I had to do a series of treatments to clear some warts I had. I teared up each time. They never tested for much besides that it was warts vs. some other growth, and not even if it was HPV or which strain (some are more cancer-inducing than others). I had to do more frequent paps after that, but they have been fine so far and clear of warts.

    I haven’t had a pap in over a year now, mostly because my insurance changed. I’m a tad scared to get another one, but this is now my reminder to at least think about getting one.

  • Maija June 8, 2011, 5:57 pm

    Caitlin you are just AMAZING! I have soaked up every last drop of info from all of your posts on this topic and this one is def my favorite! I’m still young & sexually inactive and want to be as educated as possible about my body & the health industry surrounding sexual reproduction. I am so thankful for your honesty on the subject. It takes guts to put yourself out there like this and it is SO appreciated!

    Three fist pumps for total vag health (hopefully) on your next visit heheh 🙂

    • Caitlin June 8, 2011, 6:05 pm

      I love everything about this comment. You are SOOOO SMART to get educated before you have sex. Everyone should follow your lead!!!

  • Ashley June 8, 2011, 5:59 pm

    I’ve been on birth control for almost 7 years now because of severe medical problems. More recently, I’ve had to be put on another hormone on top of the birth control because it’s just not strong enough for my body anymore…I know, crazy.I never knew of the risks though, it always seemed that my medical condition was worse than what would happen if I was on the pill for so long. Thank you for sharing and making it aware that a pill that is known to the public as being relatively harmless is really not. Next time I go to my doctor, I am totally bringing this up!

    Also, when I first read it, I thought it said you had a colonoscopy…I was like WHAT?! and then I realized =)

  • K June 8, 2011, 6:02 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear that you are dealing with all of this confusion and drama (not to imply that you’re being a drama queen, just that we have a right to hyperbole when it comes to our health)! We have been using FAM for some time now (as a contraceptive strategy) and really, if you follow Weschler’s guidelines (and just use a barrier method or abstain when unsure), you will likely be fine! FAM is based on the precision and sophistication of your body – no drug can match that! I am 100% myself again since I stopped using birth control (not to mention that I lost like 5lbs) and I definitely think that occasional pauses or careful planning are SO worth the rewards of knowing your body so well. Sure, you can’t be as spontaneous, but we’ve experienced so much more excitement and anticipation around the periods of time when we know we can make love without worry. We are now turning the other way and using FAM in the coming months to start a family. I want to say that, of course, you know what is best for you! One last thing I want to mention is that FAM is more than just a method of contra/conception. It is a political and social statement about the reproductive and sexual equality. My spouse pops the thermometer in my mouth every morning and records the temp before he trots off to the gym. For us, this means a post-gender and more symmetrical sharing of reproductive responsibility (and enjoyment). Also, I would recommend seeking out an FAM or Justisse-certified counsellor who can walk through the charting and temp/cervical fluid steps with you. It makes such a difference to have some human support! Some N.Ds do this, but other times you might need to seek out someone who specializes in fertility stuff. It is work and it does take a few months before you can really roll with it, but if you feel it’s worth trying, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Knowing my body well has given me the single greatest dose of respect, awe and pride in my body. I hope that whatever you chose, there is some relief in the near future for you! Sorry for the long message! Also, thank you for your candor and openness. These are such valuable discussions for us all!

    • Caitlin June 8, 2011, 6:04 pm

      This is an awesome comment. I love the idea of gender equality with birth control. I was complaining about this very topic to the husband the other day – its so unfair that it’s MY problem to deal with yet it takes two to tango.

      • J June 8, 2011, 6:21 pm

        Which is why I am fully happy to have my bf open doors and carry stuff for me. 😉 j/k

        • Marissa C June 8, 2011, 7:32 pm

          We use the Catholic version of FAM (CCL NFP) and I have to echo this comment! It has been great for our marriage and I learn so much about my body!

          I’m now pregnant (intentional) and one of my first clues was that my temp didn’t go down as quickly as usual–how neat is that? Plus, we have a REALLY good idea of when the kiddo was conceived (48) window so we know exactly how old he/she is. My midwife gave me an “official” due date based on the standard calc that was a week different (1st day of last period), but the baby measured (via ultrasound) exactly where WE thought it should be 🙂

        • Katherine O June 8, 2011, 10:36 pm

          My husband and I use the Catholic version too and his part is to keep the chart every night and record everything. Not only does it open dialogue about our fertility but it involves him in our birth control as well.

    • Sarah @ The Strength of Faith June 8, 2011, 10:51 pm

      I love this comment! Birth Control should be something both persons in the relationship talk about and deal with.

  • Lisa (bakebikeblog) June 8, 2011, 6:03 pm

    I am so sorry to hear of your latest pap results. It really does highlight how important pap smears are huh – in terms of early detection of abnormal cells etc!

  • Toby June 8, 2011, 6:04 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. I think everything you said is really important. I had abnormal paps a couple of times that cleared on their own, then it came back a couple years later. One year ago I had LEEP, 6 months ago I had a laser cone biopsy. In 2 weeks I have my first pap since the 2nd surgery. I seriously hope it will be normal – I’ve also been seeing a Naturopath for the last year and have completely changed my diet and supplements in order to fight this off. I agree with you though, in that it’s really time to question the results of these tests more and make an informed decision about how quickly to rush into yet another surgery.

    • Caitlin June 8, 2011, 6:05 pm

      Ugh, sorry about all your surgeries. I hope your next pap is clean!

  • Jen June 8, 2011, 6:07 pm

    I’ve had similar abnormal paps and have had two biopsies. After the first they had me try some procedure that was some kind of acid that was supposed to remove the cells. It didn’t work and it was super painful.

    They wanted to do the same thing after the second biopsy but I declined. It didn’t work the first time and everything was still “mild.” In fact, my next few paps came back just fine and am now down to my yearlies until I have another abnormal.

    I think I would need to have a couple of abnormal paps though before I shell out the money for another biospy. So I don’t blame you for wanting to wait and retest!

  • G June 8, 2011, 6:12 pm

    I was on the BC pill for about 4 years. Last summer, I was always tired, couldn’t give blood because of constant low iron and had no libido. It was horrible and also made my boyfriend suffer. I switched to the NuvaRing but that also sucked. I have therefore been au natural for 5 months now and feel like my normal self! My iron levels are normal and I can easily give blood (my natural cycle isn’t 28 days – being forced to “bleed” was not good for my body at all), I have great energy and my libido is back to normal as well! Being in a steady relationship, there is no way I would ever go on BC again (if I wasn’t, I might of reconsidered the severity of the side effects or would of kept trying different versions). It just didn’t work for me. I feel more in touch with myself (no crazy hormone issues) and I just feel better!

    I hope you get this all sorted out Caitlin – I know how scary and frustrating it can be. Thank you for sharing everything!

  • Ash @ Good Taste Healthy Me June 8, 2011, 6:12 pm

    Wow Caitlin, I’m sorry to hear you’re going through this. My fiance wants me to get back on birth control along with my gynecologist because I was over a week late on my period and thought I was pregnant blah blah. I really dislike the thought of going back on the pill. The physical benefits were great but I feel it affected my mood and how can it be healthy for my body? It’s tricking my body into thinking it’s pregnant. That doesn’t seem to jive. I know research can speak for itself and maybe I’m being paranoid but still!

    I hope things look up and this is a fluke thing. I think you’re smart to wait for the moment.

  • Sarah for Real June 8, 2011, 6:13 pm

    Wow I hope your next pap comes back normal!

    I boggles my mind how little doctors actually know about the side-effects of birth control considering how they prescribe it like tick-tacs.

    I cannot be on any estrogen because I get aura migraines which severely limits my options. This month is the first time in ten years I haven’t been on any artificial hormones and it has been turbulent but headache free!

  • Amy June 8, 2011, 6:16 pm

    I literally just went off birth control two days ago. I’ve been on some form of hormonal BC for almost 13 years, and I cannot tell you how thrilled/relieved I am to stop the artificial hormone action. We’re going to be using FAM as well. My husband and I are at the point where we’re not totally ready for kids, but if it happened, we’d be ok. That’s why I finally feel comfortable enough to make this decision, even though I’ve been desperate to quite BC for a while. I’m not looking forward to “withdrawal,” though…I hope I don’t turn into a whack-a-doodle!

  • Allison @ Will Run For Candy June 8, 2011, 6:18 pm

    Aw, Caitlin, I’m sorry! I think going off of BC is a good decision – I feel the same way about artificial hormones! They’re scary! Have you considered a diaphragm as a barrier method of BC? I know a few people who love them, and no hormones!

    I think your link between the abnormal paps and hormones may be onto something. I have a friend who got the hormone IUD (it ended up actually coming out of her and almost tearing her up, but that’s another story). After the IUD, she had the exact same thing you did, included that awful awful LEEP procedure. And she didn’t have HPV either.

    Anyway, I truly hope your results are CLEAN next time! <3

  • Laura June 8, 2011, 6:19 pm

    I was actually just thinking about your colposcopy the other day – erm, not to seem creepy or anything, ha. Actually, though, it was because I may be having a laparascopy shortly, and I was mistakenly thinking that’s what you’d had done. I remembered you saying it was incredibly painful and I was thinking, “Oh my God, I’d be having this under general anaesthetic – did they not give her any anaesthesia at all?!”

    I’m a similar age to you and have to admit that I haven’t actually had a pap yet. Mainly due to being really unwell for the last few years, and not to be too TMI, I’m not sexually active yet either – and I’ve had to have so many other diagnostic procedures that I haven’t really bothered with that one, which I can’t say I’m looking forward to! This is a really embarrassing question – but does anyone know if the pap smear is painful or more so if you aren’t having sex?

    • J June 8, 2011, 6:23 pm

      I had my first pap before doing anything, and I didn’t find it that bad (mentally, actually, but I don’t think it ever gets easier on that front). If you use tampons, at least you know how it could feel… It will be a little uncomfortable but nothing horrible.

    • Caitlin June 8, 2011, 6:24 pm

      Note to self: Do not google “hymen” in Google images to attempt to answer reader’s question.

      The doctor needs to pass the hymen to do a pap smear, so it depends on whether or not you’ve broken your hymen already. If you’re in your late 20s, I would guess you’ve probably broken it just by normal activities like bike riding and stuff.

      If you’re tight (regardless of whether you’re a virgin or not), getting a pap can be painful just because they have to insert a tool to spread ya open to be able to swab the area. BUT if you try to relax and they use the ‘teen’ size, you should be okay. I would just explain that you’re a virgin beforehand and see what they say. Also, maybe drink a glass of wine immediately before your appointment… well, that helps me. LOL

      I’m sorry about your rough years… xoxo

      • Laura June 8, 2011, 6:35 pm

        Hee. Okay, slightly giggling at the prospect of being in my middle twenties (26, but I figure I have about nine more months to cling to the “middle twenties” bracket!) and having to request a special teen-sized speculum – geez, the indignities of illness-enforced virginity. 😀

        Thank you – I’m sorry about your troubles as well!

        • Caitlin June 8, 2011, 6:36 pm

          I still ask for the teen one because I’m a scary cat. Aint no shame.

        • Rebecca June 8, 2011, 6:42 pm

          Ask for it! I’m in my late twenties and I just had my first pap (oops). Not a virgin, but I WISH I would have asked. Ow!

        • Sarah June 8, 2011, 11:54 pm

          I used to work with a girl who had given birth and yet pap smears were tough for her. She always had the smallest size speculum and still ended up puking involuntarily during one!! The folks who work in medicine have seen it all…no need to be embarrassed by any special requests!!

        • Caitlin June 9, 2011, 8:25 am

          Ah, Sarah! Your poor friend. I wonder if she had emotional reasons for being so uncomfortable. You know? 🙁

      • Laura June 8, 2011, 6:44 pm

        You would think they would just make one consistently small-sized one. I mean, really, who (with the possible exception of Samantha on Sex and the City) is going to go along and say, “Yes, I’d like the biggest tool you have, please.”

        • Clare June 8, 2011, 9:13 pm

          Hahahahaha! I just snorted tea out of my nose. Too funny.

      • Caitlin @ The Caitie Experiment June 8, 2011, 7:32 pm

        Another tip I’ve learned through the years is to wear headphones if they will let you, and bring a pantyliner! The speculum makes a clicking noise and I can’t stand it (imagery!), and they use a lot of lube on it to help avoid discomfort, which can be a little…. messy. But really, it’s obviously not something I would do in my spare time, but it isn’t that bad! (I had to get my first one at 15, way before I ever had sex!).

        • Stephanie C June 9, 2011, 1:53 am

          I love the advice about the pantyliner, although I forget each time.
          I can’t speak for everyone, but really it’s not that bad. It’s a tiny bit uncomfortable, but the most pain you’ll feel will be similar to cramps.

      • Ellie June 9, 2011, 1:59 am

        I have actually never had a pelvic exam for a similar reason – I have never been able to tolerate the speculum. I suspect that I have a mild form of vaginismus because it is sometimes pretty hard for me to have sex, though I am definitely sexually active. I can still get tested for STD’s but I am really hoping to be able to get a real pelvic exam for health reasons. Any suggestions? I don’t have a current gynecologist and didn’t really like the one I went to before so I guess that would be a first step.

        • CaitlinHTP June 9, 2011, 8:16 am

          I’m sorry about your vaginismus! I’ve heard of that before. I think it’s key you kind a specialist gyno – not just any. Maybe you should call around and ask the nurses for some recs. Or google in your area?

        • Dana June 9, 2011, 10:15 am

          I have vaginismus…not mild. I’ve been married 3 years with no sex 🙁 Not to be all “whoah is me”…I wanted to say I also have trouble with pelvic exams. They cause extreme panic and I’ve even hyperventilated on the table. Like Caitlin suggested, it’s best to call around and ask if the Dr. has any experience with vaginismus. I’m currently trying to do that to find a new Dr. Good luck!

        • Caitlin June 9, 2011, 10:18 am

          Dana, I was going to type “ahhh, i want to give your poor vagina a hug!” but that sounds awkward. Will you settle for an e-hug instead? 🙂

        • Dana P. June 9, 2011, 1:14 pm

          Haha! Yes, I will accept an e-hug! 🙂 I don’t think I’ve ever laughed at something related to vaginismus.

        • Dana P. June 9, 2011, 1:37 pm

          Oh, and Caitlin, I hope your issue is resolved quickly!

  • Leah @ Why Deprive? June 8, 2011, 6:19 pm

    Wow – Im so sorry you have to deal with all of this. It must be so stressful. But good for you for educating yourself. Its so important to research, and learn as much as you can before just jumping into a medical procedure. Especially a serious one.

    As far as birth control is concerned, I’ve never liked it. I think I’ve been on it for a total of 6 months out of my entire life, and I hated it. I have never thought it was healthy to try and control my body that way. I realize lots of people swear by birth control pills, but they just arent for me.

  • susan June 8, 2011, 6:22 pm

    Caitlin, If you were my best friend I would urge you to get the biopsy. It may be a painful and costly procedure, but early detection of abnormalities is essential to preventing cervical cancer from developing. I’ll take every pill and procedure that modern medicine’s got to keep me and my friends happy and healthy! In the end, of course, it’s a personal decision….

  • Megan June 8, 2011, 6:23 pm

    I had an abnormal pap a few years ago due to HPV. I had the LEEP procedure and after that I had to have paps every 6 months for 3 years! They have all been normal since the one abnormal one, thankfully. I totally agree with you on birth control. I took it for 7 years and just stopped this past January but I feel so much better not putting artificial hormones in my body. When I started I never really thought about it, but how can putting that stuff in your body for years be good for you? I am using the FAM and hope I never have to go back to the pill! I really applaud your honesty because it’s nice to know a)you’re not the only one and b)that someone is willing to be honest and have discussions about this stuff.

  • Anne @thefitbridesmaid June 8, 2011, 6:26 pm

    I have not had an abnormal pap smear, however I’m going to the doctor on Friday for a bleeding issue. I’m wondering if it has something to do my birth control. I’ve been on it for 4.5 years. AHHH!!!

  • Ella June 8, 2011, 6:28 pm

    Ooof that’s scary! I’m so sorry and good luck with everything. I’m actually a student going into the health care field and I never heard about the link between cervical cancer and the pill – honestly I’ve never been told about any of the side effects of the pill and I’ve been on it for 3 years now.

    I’ve never had a pap smear. Crazy huh? I’ve been tested for syphallis and ghonnerea, etc but never a pap smear. I went in on my 18th birthday expecting one, and I was told its not recommended unless you’ve ben sexually active for 2 years. I went in at 20 and they said now I don’t need one until I’m 21 because young girls keep getting abnormal paps due to the Gardasil shot. And I guess the lesions can clear themselves up on their own when you’re younger? Now I’m 21 and I’m scheduled to get my first one next month. And a little scared haha.

    This was a great post! Good luck on your next test!

  • chelsey @ clean eating chelsey June 8, 2011, 6:29 pm

    I can see now why my tweet was so ironic! I think, without a doubt, that artificial hormones can have a lasting effect on your body, which is why I weighed my options for weeeks before I went on thyroid medicine last fall. I am so glad that you are doing your research and using a combination of holistic and western medicine. I combine the two as well – I usually take what my OB/GYN tells me and let my holistic doctor provide me with supplements/etc. to help with the issues. I think there’s a lot of hype with abnormal pap smears/HPV when really it could be a number of things causing the problems. Of course, we as women automatically jump to conclusions if a test comes back abnormal. GOod for you for doing your research!

    • Stephanie C June 9, 2011, 1:55 am

      I’d really be interested in your personal research on thyroid medicine – I went on synthroid about two years ago and it’s helped me a lot, but I have read about the bone loss and that is something that concerns me!

      • chelsey @ clean eating chelsey June 9, 2011, 8:26 am

        It’s helped me to feel better too, but the bone loss concerns me too – especially since I don’t get my period. DOUBLE bone loss. I take a lot of calcium! 🙂

  • Cindy June 8, 2011, 6:29 pm

    My first pap smear was when I was 18. A week or so later I got a call back from the Nurse Prac. telling me I had stage 3 cervical cancer and they wanted to do another pap smear. I was freaked out. Turns out someone f’ed up the test. I didn’t have cancer. I had a normal cervix, as each and every pap smear I had to have after that (every 3 months for a year + showed.)

    I would recommend getting a second pap smear sooner than later, as fun as they are, before the biopsy route just to rule out human error, or random bacteria from all the swimming you’ve been doing.

    As far as bcp’s, you have to do what is right for you. I actually want to go back on them (a little) to see if hormones are really what are causing my chronic headaches. Problem is, is at my advanced age of almost 36 :D, they don’t like to put women on them, especially when they are overweight/obese. At least that is what I’ve been told here. They also say it s b/c I have “migraines”- but 4/5 neurologists say I don’t.

    Thank you for continuing to share these stories. <3

    • Marissa C June 8, 2011, 7:39 pm

      Interesting that there are 2 comments about headaches on here–I’ve never had them before I got pregnant (and never had been on BC), and now they are awful…and apparently related to the hormones my body is producing as part of pregnancy! Not scientific proof, but based on the ways BC pills work and the hormones they use, that seems pretty interesting!

      • Cindy June 8, 2011, 8:06 pm

        I have had a headache every day since 2006. The only correlation I can come up with is that I went of bcp right before that (that or my disastrous try on Optifast). I just want the headaches to go away, and if bcp’s do that….

        • Orla June 9, 2011, 8:44 am

          I get really bad migranes every couple of months but they are all related to my cycle. I am not on BC but an hyper sensitive to hormonal changes (hence not on BC)

        • Sarah June 9, 2011, 4:25 pm

          Cindy, my friend had headaches every day on her BCP. When she finally went off, she didn’t have any…I’d talk to your doc about this!

        • Sarah June 9, 2011, 4:28 pm

          I should add–talk to your doc and if they pooh-pooh you, consider switching to another BC method for a while. I was on BC for a while and was experiencing some problems. My doctor said it “shouldn’t be related to my BC” and had me stay on BC. I kept thinking it was the BC though b/c that was when those problems had started. I finally went to a nurse practitioner, who said “why don’t you try going off of birth control to see if they go away?” Sure enough, within 2 weeks my symptoms had gone away…I had already dealt w/them for a year and would have continued to deal with them longer if I hadn’t trusted my instincts enough to switch to a NP!

  • lynne @lgsmash June 8, 2011, 6:31 pm

    Your post and experience makes me think of this essay I read in January by Malcolm Gladwell – John Rock’s Error. He’s the ‘inventor’ of modern birth control and what Gladwell has discovered about BC aligns with your experience too. Check it out!

  • Carly D. @ CarlyBananas June 8, 2011, 6:34 pm

    I’ve had a really similar experience with abnormal results – though my doctor mentioned that many times the abnormal results come from bacterial or yeast infections and that he prefers to do a second pap test before biopsying/LEEPing. The first time I had it happen we did it again and it came back with abnormal results again so we biopsied. He wanted to wait a month after the biopsy to biopsy again before LEEPing (he’s really conservative). So I had another biopsy and that one actually came back fine. He was pretty sure the abnormal test results were a result of something my body was fighting off on its own. I’m glad he decided to do the 2nd biopsy, because in his opinion in a pre-pre cancerous phase nothing was going to change in a month.
    So I hope your doctor agrees to wait and do another test before putting you through the LEEP again. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that it’s just your body doing its thing and it will be all done by the next time your doctor has to poke around inside.

  • Leah @ L4L June 8, 2011, 6:35 pm

    I got diagnosed w/ HPV in college, had a cloposcopy and I was in the clear apparently. I’ve had normal Pap smears ever since. I was on birth control from 16-24 and once I got engaged to my now-husband, I stopped and we just use condoms. We don’t want children at all so I’m sure he’ll be getting the snip snip in a few years. I will never go back on the pill again.

    • KatieTX June 8, 2011, 8:08 pm

      We have mirror lives except my story stops at 24. I am getting a pap in 2 weeks and I am guessing my HPV is gone. My colop showed no strange cells despite my abnormal pap and HPV diagnosis.

  • Rebecca June 8, 2011, 6:36 pm

    I really think these posts are great. It is so hard to find honest information on this stuff…anywhere.

    I would just say that you can have issues regardless of birth control. I have never been on birth control (never been in a relationship long enough to get to that decision, honestly), but recently I am having “female issues” as well. Mine are more ovarian oriented (I have cysts they are “watching”), but I think things can just happen–regardless of how “good”/hormone free you are.

    One of the frustrating things in my experience is how little doctors know! I know it’s not their fault, but going back and forth with it might be this, it could be that, it is usually caused by HPV, but you probably don’t have HPV so who knows…it’s very aggravating for someone like me who wants to KNOW WHAT IS HAPPENING!

    Also, on another note, I got that same image of that dog when I googled my own troubles the other day. I wonder what that’s about.

  • Ellen June 8, 2011, 6:36 pm

    Thank you for talking about these kinds of issues! It’s so important.

    I don’t have a lot to offer except that there are other reasons to nix BC pills besides what they can potentially do to your body. They also have detrimental effects on the environment, animals, men and children. All the synthetic hormones are pee’d out and end up in our water. Fish become infertile, men have decreased sperm counts, girls are reaching puberty faster, etc. I have trouble saying BC shouldn’t be used at all, but I can’t in good conscience use it myself. Besides, natural family planning helps you become much more in tune with your body, which is so important, so I think it is a good option. Best of luck with your decisions!

    • Caitlin June 8, 2011, 6:37 pm

      I like this comment 🙂

    • Mandy June 9, 2011, 9:10 am

      Thanks for bringing this up. It also applies to antibiotics and other pharmaceutical compounds – which are often needlessly and over- prescribed, particularly in America. Most people don’t understand the ecology of this – I spend a lot of time explaining why flushing drugs down the toilet is bad. Also, there are NO regulations on hormones or pharmaceuticals for drinking water or surface water quality. Hopefully this will change.

  • Lindsay June 8, 2011, 6:37 pm

    I have had my fair share of “lady friend” problems so I figured I’d add in my opinion. For the past few years, I have been having symptoms of poly-cystic ovarian syndrome. I saw my gyno, was tested out the wazoo (literally hahaha sick.) and nothing came back as positive for actually having PCOS. However, my doctor thought it’d be a good idea to go on BC to “help” my symptoms instead of figuring out what was causing all of this. I was very uncomfortable with this. My body was obviously having trouble handling the hormones I have naturally so they wanted to overload me and add more hormones? No thank you. I went off the BC, which did nothing to help improve my symptoms. I found a really great naturopath to help me get to the root of my issues. So, my moral of the story is to be persistent with your health. I have found that doctors will look for the quick fix instead of getting to the bottom of a problem.

  • TC June 8, 2011, 6:39 pm

    I’m not advocating for birth control, but…

    I had an ovarian cyst that required major surgery when I was 14. I’ve been on birth control AND getting pap smears every year since (the last 13 years). I’ve never had anything come back abnormal. I think it would be worth it to get tested by a different doctor.

    • Lisa July 25, 2011, 5:53 pm

      And possibly a different lab?

  • Kate Z. June 8, 2011, 6:44 pm

    I can only speak for my own experience with hormonal BC: obviously it served its purpose but I am very happy to be off the pill! However, I stopped it 10 months ago and my periods are still definitely not mormal. They used to be 28 days apart on the nose- now, more like 42-80! I have no idea if I’m even ovulating. It’s starting to freak me out a bit… I remember last time you were off the pill you mentioned that your skin went crazy. Mine did too, but it settled down after maybe 4-5 months or so. Now I still break out more than when I was on the pill, but it’s manageable. And I rarely get headaches- whereas on the pill I was getting frequent migraines including migraine with aura! Yikes!
    Good luck with everything!

  • Kim June 8, 2011, 6:46 pm

    I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. I had an unplanned trip to the GYN this morning after I ruptured an ovarian cyst. I’ve already had a surgery to remove a cyst that ended in my losing the whole ovary. I’m so worried now that my remaining hormone factory is going to be ravaged by these cysts that I’ll lose the other one too.

    Today, because of my fear and emotions I told her that I just wanted to have surgery to remove all of the cysts so I don’t compromise the remaining ovary. Your post was a great reminder to calm down and think about the options, do my own research and make an informed and unemotional decision.

    Thank you for sharing your story. I hope all goes well at your next visit.

    • Caitlin June 8, 2011, 7:19 pm

      Please seek out the care of a naturopathic doctor to complement the care your gyno is providing you with!! I really wish you the best, I’m so sorry you are dealing with all this.

  • Chari June 8, 2011, 6:46 pm

    yup, I’ve been through the same thing and don’t have HPV either! what cleared up mine IMO was going off the pills and taking good vitamins AND folic acid. BC pills deplete your body of folic acid.

    Something else I want to add is that I had a slight abnormal pap after I had my first baby at my 6 week follow up. I had a recheck 3 months later and it was gone. So I’m wondering if carrying a baby depleted my body of folic acid the same. Obviously being pregnant does deplete your body of vitamins! I just had my 2nd baby and I won’t get my pap done til August. I’m kind of nervous seeing what happened after my first one.

  • AshinMT June 8, 2011, 6:48 pm

    I have never commented before, but this subject strikes a major chord with me.

    Bit of History: I too had an abnormal pap, and for fear that my boyfriend and I had had sex too recently put off the coloposcopy (which i had heard was painful) so they made me do a year of paps (every two months) which are unfortunately painful for me as well. Each one came back normal. Meanwhile my pills were making me MISERABLE, no sex drive, emotional yada yada, you name the negative side effect, i had it. Which is when i began doing some serious research. I did the whole song and dance of staying on different pills for 3 months, but eventually ran through 3 (orthotri,orthocyclen,seasonique) before i got on yaz which made me the “most normal” i can be on hormones- But through that research and constant hounding of my gyno, it came out that lo and behold my pill could have caused the abnormal pap to begin with- and also, (though i cant seem to find anything online right now) that the way certain pills react with your body their is a higher chance of them reacting negatively in terms of paps. I hold this to be true as far as my abnormal pap occured while i was taking orthotricyclen which was by far the most miserable i have ever been while on birthcontrol.

    After all that rambling… i agree with some of the other commenters, take it seriously (which you are obviously) but dont jump to conclusions. I personally would go in for another pap in a few months to see whats up.

    Anyhoo, love your blog and really really appreciate the sexual health posts. Not that you cant find this info out there, but you have created really fantastic and pertinent banter on the subject in a non-rigid envrionment. Thanks 🙂

    • Caitlin June 8, 2011, 7:20 pm

      You’re welcome!

  • Ella June 8, 2011, 6:50 pm

    two really important things (and I confess I’ve only skimmed the comments so I’m not sure if they’ve been mentioned):

    1. abnormal pap smears are NORMAL for some women! my mother’s best friend has only ever had 1-2 “normal” pap smears IN HER LIFE.

    2. without getting too personal, having ANYTHING in your vagina too close to a pap smear can cause to to be “abnormal” – tampons, penises, etc.

    this is obviously an important decision, and I’m glad that you’re taking it seriously and helping to inform other women. yay vaginas!

  • Katherine June 8, 2011, 6:53 pm

    I had an abnormal pap when I was in my young twenties. My doc did a 2nd pap (also abnormal) before we did the LEEP procedure. I hear you on not wanting to experience that again. I actually had a lot of excessive bleeding, etc. after the procedure and almost missed my brother’s college graduation! At the time, I was on BC pills. About 4 years ago I got of them and started FAM using the Lady Comp. It has been so awesome, but I assure you it took over a year before I really had a confident sense of my natural cycle. We used other protection during that time…even on my “green” days. I am proud to say that when we decided to try to get pregnant it only took one cycle…I am currently 8.5 months along expecting a baby girl and feel good about my decision to be off BC for so long before trying to get pregnant. Anyway, just my experience. I encourage you to do what you feel most comfortable with and trust in your wisdom to know what’s best for you, your body, and your family!

  • Skinny Sushi June 8, 2011, 6:54 pm

    Have you considered an IUD? I have one now (the hormone-free kind) and it is SO much easier than birth control. I love it, and in the end it will save us money too.

    • Caitlin June 8, 2011, 7:20 pm

      We want to make a baby sooner rather than later so IUDs aren’t the best solution for us!

  • A June 8, 2011, 6:57 pm

    Caitlin, thank you for your honesty. I also had an abnormal pap about a year ago. Thankfully, my second pap came back normal. The time I had to wait between paps was agonizing. My doctor told me that sometimes pap results are abnormal if they didn’t get enough cells the first time. I had never heard that before but I guess it makes sense?

    I too wish we had more birth control options. It’s so difficult when you’re young, not ready to have a baby, and in a committed, long-term, sexually active relationship. I’ve been on birth control for nearly 5 years now, and I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon. I HATE adding extra hormones to my body but I don’t know what else to do. I’m in my early 20s and NOT ready for babies, so using FAM alone doesn’t seem very smart. Besides, I would be so paranoid every month, I don’t know if it would be worth it for my sanity, lol. I tried to convince my doctor to insert an IUD but he refused because I’ve never had a baby. Apparently, you have a 15% chance of infertility once you use an IUD.

    I hope your next pap is normal. Good luck with everything and remember that early action is best for these kinds of things.

    • A June 9, 2011, 2:30 am

      I forgot to mention that when I went in for my last pap, my doctor said they are now recommending for women with normal paps to go every 3 years! WHAT!? Thank you, but no. I will continue to go every year.

      • Marissa C June 9, 2011, 12:36 pm

        I wonder if that has something to do with health insurance changes due to the health care bill?

        • Jen June 10, 2011, 10:54 am

          No, that recommendation has nothing to do with the health care bill. I don’t think this recommendation is all that recent, as my doctor told me the same thing a few years ago (i have not had an abnormal pap in over 15 years). I still get one every year, though since insurance pays and it helps give me peace of mind.

  • Liz June 8, 2011, 6:59 pm

    I had an abnormal pap 2 years ago and I was SO stressed. My doc didn’t think it was necessary to have any further testing and to just not miss my next appointment. I think that worried me even more!! I also was neg for HPV, so I think we have similar stories. After feeling a bit frustrated I decided to talk to my mom’s doc. He actually delivered my husband (so random) and gave my mom her hysterectomy and he totally put my mind at ease. He said that pretty much cell growth can be weird for a number of reasons and that as long as I continue reguluar checkups if anything does go wrong they will catch it.

    I know how your feeling! I appreciate your honesty in the post though, it’s something that needs to be talked about! Maybe you should go to another doctor to get a other opinion. A copayment is cheaper than a procedure!!

  • Allie Q (Fit Geek) June 8, 2011, 7:02 pm

    Ugh. Sucks. I’ve had a few abnormal paps and 2 biopsies. The biopsies are fine but I’m kind of terrified of getting the LEEP procedure done. And you just reminded me, I need to make an appointment with the gyno.

    I’ve never been on any kind of hormonal birth control, and I’m pretty happy about that. Good luck on the FAM. Not to be um, crass, but is the pullout method an option? Not sure how it compares to FAM, but personally I’ve used it while in long term relationships and it worked out fine. There’s a lot of debate about how “safe” it is as far as getting pregnant goes (I’ve never been pregnant.) Whenever I admit that I did that for 8 years of my life, people tend to chew me out. Including my gyno. But based on some of the research that I’ve looked at, there’s no viable sperm in pre-ejaculatory fluid unless it was there from uh, a previous release. Maybe I’m just the exception.

    • Alex June 9, 2011, 2:34 am

      I’m so glad to have read this comment because I have been doing exactly the same method with my partner for the last few years now… I still tend to stress about doing this as this method is so often discouraged but have found it to be effective and preferable to the pill…its nice to know that I’m not the only one who supports this method.

      • Allie Q (Fit Geek) June 9, 2011, 8:05 am

        I think if the guy is okay with it, and is experienced enough to know when to pull out, then it’s pretty safe. I’ve googled the pull out method before and all that comes up are sites like yahoo questions with people freaking out about the POM and criticizing other people for doing it. I mean, it’s worked for me, and obviously has worked for you. But then you hear about these women who’ve gotten pregnant from using this method. I just wonder if they were using it CORRECTLY.

        • Dori June 9, 2011, 3:09 pm

          I recently heard that the pre-ejaculatory fluid can be even MORE potent than the regular. Have you heard anything about that?

        • Allie Q (Fit Geek) June 9, 2011, 3:16 pm

          I haven’t heard anything about that. Have you seen any studies about it? From what I understand, pre-ejaculatory fluid comes from the Cowper’s gland, which doesn’t have sperm in it. However, if there’s sperm leftover in the ureter from a previous ejaculation, it can come out with the pre-ejaculatory fluid. This can usually be solved by the guy peeing before any fooling around.

    • Jessica June 9, 2011, 9:29 am

      My boyfriend used it for years in a long-term relationship before he met me. The idea totally freaks me out and I’m not mentally ready for it, but it worked great for him (and his ex is now married with two kids, so she definitely did not have fertility issues!).

  • Angela June 8, 2011, 7:02 pm

    If you are concerned to the point of not wanting a test done I would suggest getting a second opinion from another doctor. While I’m sure that your husband is suitably qualified for holistic stuff he will be coming from a different view point to a ‘traditional’ doctor. Another ‘traditional’ doc will be a good sanity check against your doctor’s advise.

  • Carly (Swim, Run, Om) June 8, 2011, 7:05 pm

    First, let me just say that I love these “sex ed” posts … I know as women there are so many issues that pop up and we have to think “Is this normal? Am I alone here?”, so it’s great to be able to have these conversations in a safe environment.

    Second, I just want to encourage you to get the biopsy. In my mind, the expense, pain, and aggravation are worth the peace of mind. Please don’t think I’m trying to tell you what to do … this is what I would tell any of my girlfriends, and I know I’m a very overly cautious person. But that’s my $0.02. 🙂

  • Jessica June 8, 2011, 7:15 pm

    This post really hit home because three years ago I had my first abnormal pap smear and I had a colposcopy and the results showed I had cervical cancer. Not pre-cancerous but full blown cancer. I had a surgery called a cone biopsy to remove the cancer. Then came a really hard part….my doctor recommended a hysterectomy and i was 28 years old. I got several different doctor’s opinions and finally decided to go back every 3 months for a pap smear to make sure I was okay. Thank the Good Lord, I have gotten clear results. I also read the same information as you about how birth control can cause cervical cancer. It’s very scary stuff!! I definitely think you need to get the biopsy. It is better to be safe and go ahead and get it. Good luck!

    • Caitlin June 8, 2011, 7:27 pm

      Scary! <3 So glad you made the right choice.

    • Baroque Diva June 9, 2011, 12:54 am

      Hi Caitlin,

      Although I really do understand where you are coming from with you decision, I also really hope you just get the second biopsy.

      My great-grandmother died of cervical cander in her late 30’s. In the 40’s they didn’t have tests like this to save people. Better safe than sorry, and I come from a super holistic family!!

  • Jessica June 8, 2011, 7:15 pm

    This post really hit home because three years ago I had my first abnormal pap smear and I had a colposcopy and the results showed I had cervical cancer. Not pre-cancerous but full blown cancer. I had a surgery called a cone biopsy to remove the cancer. Then came a really hard part….my doctor recommended a hysterectomy and i was 28 years old. I got several different doctor’s opinions and finally decided to go back every 3 months for a pap smear to make sure I was okay. Thank the Good Lord, I have gotten clear results. I also read the same information as you about how birth control can cause cervical cancer. It’s very scary stuff!! I definitely think you need to get the biopsy. It is better to be safe and go ahead and get it. Good luck!

    • Caitlin June 8, 2011, 7:28 pm

      Hugs! It is scary. Just listen to your doctor and also get second opinions.

  • jen June 8, 2011, 7:16 pm

    I want to say thankyou for posting this subject. Last October I too was diagnosed with mild to moderate dyplasia. I had the colposcopy as well as leep as well as a cone biopsy since I am technically done with having kids. Before this it was had been 5 years since I had a PAP….big mistake on my part! Too many women feel embarrassed to talk about this subject not to mention wanting to get their PAP done. I just wanted to say THANKYOU!!! And (((((hugs))))…very stressful time I know for you. Hopefully everything works out for you!

  • Rachel (Olalliberry) June 8, 2011, 7:17 pm

    Caitlin, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. But you are awesome for doing your own research and sharing with your readers. I completely agree that we all need to be better educated about what goes on with our bodies, and that we have to be our own health advocate. I wish you all the best with your health in the coming months.

  • CheezyK June 8, 2011, 7:18 pm

    First up, best of luck with follow up and further testing (whatever road you choose to take).

    As for the BC question, much as every part of me wants to yell THE PILL IS EVIL from the rooftops, I know that that was just my experience and my reaction to all those hormones being pumped into me. There are also plenty of women out there who seem to be fine even with decades of taking the stuff. I think it really boils down to a personal choice but if you’re concerned at all then you should seek alternatives. Personally, and I’m not being flippant in the slightest here (even though it may come across that way), I would take the cancer risk over the depression any day.

    Um, and thanks for the reminder about the importance of pap smears too, gonna book myself in for one straight away (I’ve had 3 in 12 years, not quite the ‘once every two years’ we’re advised).

  • Marci June 8, 2011, 7:21 pm

    Yes hugs for a stressful time in a not fun area to talk about. I actually really liked BC pills. I was on for about 6.5 years and been off for three months. It does take your body time to adjust which is frustrating and you wonder why your body doesn’t cooperate. And I feel more raw emotions that I think BC capped. Now that we’ve been TTC, I can see how FAM can work, but remember that your body does whatever it wants coming off the Pill.

  • Caroline June 8, 2011, 7:22 pm

    Good luck! I’m really interested to see how the follow up goes (if your doctor agrees to it). I definitely would prefer not to be on hormones, but we can.not. afford to get pregnant right now, no matter how jealous all these pregnant bloggers make me. So I’m interested to see which direction you go in.

  • Heather June 8, 2011, 7:22 pm

    Ugh I’ve been through the abnormal pals and colposcopy as well- no fun, but it’s nice to know they can catch something so early it doesn’t actually exist yet. This might already be in the comments somewhere, but have you thought about using condoms when your close to ovulation just to give you some piece of mind, at least at the beginning of FAM? My periods were always irregular enough to not make me confirdent in that method, but the longer i was off the pill, the more regular & predictable they got.

  • Laurie June 8, 2011, 7:23 pm

    I’m a long-time reader of this blog and after reading this post, I felt so compelled to comment. A few weeks ago, I got a phone call stating my pap was abnormal with LGSIL (low-grade cervical dysplasia). I’ve been getting paps since I was 18 (I’m 23 now) and have never, ever had an abnormal one. So, of course, I freaked out. I went TODAY (which makes your post on this so ironic and personal to me) for a colposcopy and potential biopsy due to urging of my doctor and OB/GYN…without health insurance (ahh!!).

    The gyno ended up taking one biopsy, saying that it was mild, potentially even moderate, pre-cancerous cells. It was NOT a nice experience and now I’m sitting here waiting for the results for 10 days.

    Anyway, I really appreciate this post. It put my situation into perspective and makes me feel like I’m not alone in this. When a doctor calls and says you might have cancer (yes, they literally called me and said that over the phone, to a scared 23-year-old), you have a minor panic attack over it! It’s so refreshing to see how logically and rationally you’re going through this situation.

    AND– I have been on birth control for a few years now and had no idea there was such a connection. Not one doctor has ever mentioned that to me.

    Thank you for your insight and for sharing your story!

  • Gavi @ GaviGetsGoing! June 8, 2011, 7:28 pm

    I’m so, so sorry you’re going through this scary, frustrating experience. I have never had an abnormal pap, but I am really struggling with the pill right now. After having two ruptured ovarian cysts when I was 16, I went on the pill to prevent the growth of addition cysts. I’ve been on it for 7 years now. In the last 18 months, I’ve switched pills four times because I just cannot get my hormone levels right. On two of the pills, I got my period twice every month; on the other, I never got my period. With the pill I’m on, I’m finally getting my period once–and only once–a month, and I feel good overall. I do feel frustrated, though, when I think ahead to my birth control options down the road. I don’t want to be on the pill forever, but I DO want to find other method(s) of birth control that are safe, effective, and make me and my fiance feel comfortable. Good luck to you!

  • Katie @ Healthy Heddleston June 8, 2011, 7:29 pm

    Hey Caitlin,

    Have you and your gyno discussed having cryo done instead of the leep? Cryo freezes the cells and causes a lot less scar damage than the leep would. If this topic hasn’t been brought up yet, I would definitely ask her about it.

    Good luck!

  • Cait @ Beyond Bananas June 8, 2011, 7:29 pm

    So interesting that you post this.. today. First off, thank you for sharing with us so openly what you are going through This is definiltey NO easy topic to blog about. I am having issues with my BC pill as well as my OBGYN and I’ma little lost. Basically – I have been spotting .. almost a regular flow.. for just about 2 months… on the pill. My Dr. switched my pill last week, hoping to clear it up. When I told her it wasn’t working.. she told me I should just take 2 pills a day until the bleeding stopped. Um what?! I feel like this is not safe. I feel like she should perhaps have me come in to the office. I am so torn about what to do.. and what is going on with my body!

    • Marissa C June 8, 2011, 7:46 pm

      Get a second opinion an maybe talk to a pharmacist–they know the drugs better than a doc!

      • Sara @ OurDogBuffy June 9, 2011, 10:42 am

        It is NOT safe to take two pills! My mother’s co-worker did that (her doctor told her to) and she ended up with life-threatening blood clots. She nearly died. Luckily she is OK now but will always be at a risk.

  • Erin @ Naturally Addicted June 8, 2011, 7:34 pm

    Thank you for opening up about a topic like this… I think this is a topic more women need to become aware of. I have been on birth control since I was high school and in the past year I decided to try a different pill. Little did I know that once I got off the pill, it may take months for my period to come back. 8 months later… we’re still waiting! I’d rather figure it out now rather than years down the road when I am trying to get pregnant! I too have turned to holistic health and figures crossed it’ll help! Thank you again for sharing and I hope everything goes well with your next pap!

  • gabriella @ embracement June 8, 2011, 7:35 pm

    I have to get a pap every 6 months to get my BC renewed. I have to be on BC because I have a huge hormonal imbalance that makes me more crazy off BC (mood wise) than on it, not to mention I would be without a period, which would make me anxious I was pregnant every month. It works for me. I have tested positive for HPV once, hence my twice a year paps. Everything since has been normal. However, both of my best friends were abnormal twice in a row and had biospies. Its definitely not fun, but I kind of think the peace of mind it worth it. For me, I come from a family with a history of breast and uterine cancers. It is not something I personally would put off for fear that I might not catch something in an early stage. Then again, I am a ridiculous worrier and don’t think I wait til the second pap to find out what was going on. I’m sorry you have to go through this and I wish you all the best!

  • Angie @ Musings of a Violet Monkey June 8, 2011, 7:42 pm

    Sorry for all the trouble you’ve had with paps/results. Being a woman is a b*tch, isn’t it? (pun NOT intended).

    I have always had regular paps, so I can’t comment to that… However, earlier this year, I decided to go off BC for a number of reasons. I had been on it for 10 years, and that scared me a bit. After reading stories of NOT being able to get your period for months or even years, after stopping BC, I was concerned. I am 32, and want to have a child in the next two years. I figured if it could take me 2 years to get my cycle back, I’d better start now. The good news? My period started back after 6 weeks.
    However, I’d forgotten just how much it sucks. I used my BC “continuously” and skipped my periods for months at a time. Vacations, holidays, etc – those things were never a problem. I miss those carefree days!

    I am looking into FAM, and starting to pay much more attention to things in that area. (ha). Being in a monogamous relationship for years now, I was not a fan of going back to a barrier method. (For comfort and pleasure reasons). It seemed like taking a step backwards. I’m still struggling with that. Hence, the desire to start FAM.
    If we had a baby right now, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. My gyn and I talked it over, and she doesn’t recommend FAM, unless you are “okay” with having a baby. Which we are. We just want to wait a bit longer.

    And, I’m still not certain of my cycle. My period this time lasted like 36 hours. Great. But will I be able to get pregnant? Is my cycle normal? These are things I am worried about. Hopefully delving into the FAM will help me figure some of those things out.

    Having said ALLLL of that, I am MUCH happier being OFF BC now. I feel like myself again. I was at the point where I felt so crummy on it. Why now after 10 years? Who knows. But I’m done with BC! I’m FREE!


  • Zorasmom June 8, 2011, 7:43 pm

    I just want to speak up because I am a little older and have a different experience than most of the readers. I am nearly 40 and was on the birth control pill (ortho novum) from the age of 19 until 34. I then went off the pill to get pregnant, I got pregnant within two months, and had a healthy baby girl. Then, I went on the pill one has to take while breastfeeding and then back to the ortho novum. Ortho novum is kind of an old pill so it can be difficult to get. The pharmacy gave me a substitute that caused serious weight gain so I went au natural for a few months while I did research and a bit of the rhythm method. I just had the mirena IUD inserted on Monday. It seems to be going well. I have never had an abnormal pap or any problems on the pill besides the weight gain substitute pill a few months ago. I wanted to write to show you what life can be like on the other side. You can take the pill for years, get pregnant, have a healthy baby (normal vaginal delivery, problem-free pregnancy), and then go back to birth control.

    • Caitlin June 8, 2011, 7:52 pm

      I’m glad it worked out for you 🙂 Gives me hope!

      • Zorasmom June 8, 2011, 8:00 pm

        I sometimes feel really old reading these healthy living blogs but I continue to read yours faithfully. Good luck to you!

  • maria @ Chasing the Now June 8, 2011, 7:44 pm

    One of the things I admire most about you is your choice to take an active role in your healthcare. Just because a doctor recommends a certain medicine or procedure doesn’t necessarily mean it is best for YOU.

    I hope the steps you are taking will sort this one out.

  • Donna June 8, 2011, 7:44 pm

    Thanks for being SO open about this topic, i love it!
    I’ve never had an abnormal pap smear so i can’t imagine what you are feeling right now
    However the stats about the pill scare the crap out of me – i’m actually on the pill right now because it makes me more fertile since i have PCOS and the pill helps shrink the cysts that grow on my ovaries so when we are ready for a baby we have to stop the pill and you’ll be happy to know see a naturopath – they helped me with my PCOS once so i’m a 100% believer in naturopathic medicine 🙂

    • Rachel June 8, 2011, 8:47 pm

      Just wanted to say thank you for this comment – I have PCOS and have been putting off seeing a naturopath (my regular doc put me on hormonal BC right after I got an ovarian cyst removed, and I hate it!) but this motivates me to just GO.

  • Katie June 8, 2011, 7:51 pm

    “Let’s Talk About My Vagina Some More” HAHAHAHAHA! OMG, too funny! Sorry about the hassle you’re going through, but I’m glad you’ve got a sense of humor about everything! Sure hope Dr. Husband can help get things figured out.

  • Caitlin @ The Caitie Experiment June 8, 2011, 7:58 pm

    As always, thank you for your candidness on issues that other bloggers don’t take on! I am so sorry you are going through this! I’ve never had an abnormal pap, but I can definitely relate to bc insanity… I have been on hormonal BC for 11 years now because I had serious cramping/health issues as early as 15. I did two different Pill brands for about 9 years and had no issues with either, but around 24 I started to get crazy ass PMS effects. We’re talking total, psycho-killer-smiling-then-screaming-sobbing maniac at least 2 weeks per month. I did the whole 3mo trial on a few other Pills and finally went on Nuvaring. It worked great for 6 mo. Then I became INSANE. NO sex drive, weight gain, irritable all the time and just hating everything. One month, I forgot to fill the Rx in time, and noticed I felt *slightly* more normal. So, I just went off the Ring cold turkey, and THAT was a wild ride…. like you, I had CRAZY withdrawal symptoms. I got PMSey 3 weeks later, only.. my period never came. So I was a bloated, bitchy, crampy and paranoid I was pregnant monster for SEVEN MORE WEEKS. It was horrible, and not until I did some extensive googling did I realize it’s very, very common when quitting the Ring. If someone had told me it would be that bad, I never would have used it in the first place!

    Now my hormones are all normal again (6mo later), but it was only my last cycle that it got regulated. I still haven’t decided whether I want to give the Pill another shot or not…. it worked great for 8 years, but these last 2 have been awful (my poor bf is a saint!). I think the suggestions to get a second MD to do a Pap, as well as keeping up with the alternative approach, are good ones. You know your body best, amd i think it’s great you arare listening to it and researching!

  • Hillary June 8, 2011, 8:05 pm

    Since I have a very serious family history with breast cancer (my mom was the first in her family line to get it, and my paternal grandmother the first in hers—which EXPONENTIALLY increases my odds), neither my primary care doctor or my GYN will allow me anywhere NEAR birth control pills. To be honest, it’s for the best—the thought of having hormones control my body freaks me out; I honestly don’t know if I would opt to take them even if I could.

    Best of luck with any upcoming results. Hopefully it’s nothing!

  • Sarah June 8, 2011, 8:20 pm

    I have been through the same thing and have since been clear. I have also had two children since my LEEP. The other thing about having too many LEEP procedures and then being pregnant is that it can compromise your cervix and you could dialate too early. I had internal ultrasounds for the first 20 weeks of my pregnancy. Kind of scary.
    Good for you for waiting!

  • Kristin @ Wounded Fawn June 8, 2011, 8:23 pm

    I hate birth control. I am currently going crazy trying to figure out my next move in terms of not getting pregnant in the near future. For years I took ortho tri cyclen and I always complained of severe headaches in my brain stem area and it was actually my therapist, who also works in a headache center, who told me it might be my birth control.

    Then without really knowing where to turn my then long term boyfriend and I decided to just keep track of ovulation with a like ready made application online and going on my period dates alone… not sure if that was safe but I didn’t get pregnant and could actually start to feel when I was ovulating.

    Then for some reason and I can’t remember why I tried the Nuva Ring and loved it! It produces a low amount of hormones exactly where I need them to go. Fast forward 4 years and a new long-term relationship. Now, I have severe bleeding almost every time I have sex. I just got another pap done and bleed so much during the exam it seemed like it would be the worst-case scenario for me… STD? Cancer? Nope none of those thank god! Last possible cause– the ring sitting on my cervix for years is turning it into a soft mush making any friction a bloody mess. Sounds sexy right? So I have to now go back to the gyno for another check up and go over other birth control options. I also out of nowhere developed really sad moody feelings for a full two weeks a month. I have never had PMS before and now after being on birth control for 10 years I am faced with uncontrollable crying? NO Thank you! I have been in therapy for 4 years for depression and to have Birth Control highjack my emotions is not cool. I would like to be in control of my own body!

    I would love to not take any hormones at all but am worried about the quality of life I would be able to give a child right now.

    I guess I am leaning towards the Mirena . Which still releases a low amount of hormones and it is plastic but the thought of the copper IUD which I believe they would like you to leave in for up to 10 years, freaks me out and makes me think of puncture wounds. I know that is crazy. lol

    In terms of Paps I have had abnormal Paps on and off for years, which has been particularly scary to me, because my mom had pre cancerous cells when she was 34 and had a LEEP procedure. By 39 she had to have a full hysterectomy. I actually requested that I get a pap twice a year rather than once. My doctor said no. Shot down.

    I hope your next pap comes back normal! And since I just read your Tweet, I hope you continue to make decisions about your life and you body from a place of strength!

    • Kristin @ Wounded Fawn June 8, 2011, 8:24 pm

      Wow that was long… sorry about that! I guess I was getting all worked up!

      • Caitlin June 8, 2011, 8:33 pm

        Haha i love epic comments.

  • 'Dee June 8, 2011, 8:24 pm

    This! —> “I really think it’s important to be your own health advocate.”

    So true. The best advice that too many people don’t take!

  • maija June 8, 2011, 8:24 pm

    whoa. be careful when you’re interpreting your stats. remember that a 50% increased risk doesn’t mean its 50/50 that you’ll get cancer. it means that instead of like .001 likelihood, it’s now .0015. only about 8 in 100,000 people actually get cervical cancer. no one wants to increase their odds but it’s not as scary when you understand the numbers.

    • Caitlin June 8, 2011, 8:33 pm

      I’m going to go re-write that sentence so it’s clearer – you’re right, its confusing. Thanks, girl!

    • Mia June 8, 2011, 9:15 pm

      not only that, but a 50% increase may not even be a statistically significant difference AND we don’t know anything about the effect size…Sorry, but as a statisician I can’t just listen to these numbers at face value, they mean absolutely nothing unless you know more about the data, the sample and the statistical procedures that were used.

      • CaitlinHTP June 8, 2011, 9:18 pm

        I love that you are a statiscian 🙂 What do you do for work?

        • Mia June 8, 2011, 9:24 pm

          currently getting my PhD in statistics and working on the side doing consulting for various studies in the psychology and nursing departments.
          It’s funny how people outside of academia always think statisticians are so cool, but we are such nerds!!

        • CaitlinHTP June 8, 2011, 9:25 pm

          Nerds 4 Life!

          See. That was nerdy.

  • Jamie@Healthywalk June 8, 2011, 8:31 pm

    Yikes! I’m so sorry that all this is happening to you!

    I hate taking BC because of the hormone thing you talked about. I think that it messes with my mood and stress levels. I considered trying the FAM method, but, unfortunately, I don’t think that will be an option until I’m out of college. After I graduate in May I intend on trying to switch to something else. From what I read about the FAM method, it was not suggested if you were switching from hormones (like BC) because it can mess with your period. Did you have a hard time tracking everything, especially at the beginning?

    • Caitlin June 8, 2011, 8:37 pm

      It’s hard to get used to it, but it’s not terrible. I used the Lady Comp and liked it. The old thermometer method works well too, just spring for a fast digital one.

      • Angie @ Musings of a Violet Monkey June 9, 2011, 8:47 am

        I’ve looked into the Lady Comp (which my Gyn had never heard of, sadly) – but the price. Oh, the price. Was it worth it?


        • Caitlin June 9, 2011, 8:58 am

          Hmm I’m really not sure. So I guess that means no 🙂 I think Fitnessista is going to do a post on the FAM method soon. That might be helpful for you!

  • Sarah June 8, 2011, 8:35 pm

    I was on Birth control pills for 3 years, and then I wanted to switch to something with fewer hormones. I experienced no problems with the pills, but I just didn’t like the idea of pumping my body full of all those extra hormones each day. For the next 5 years I was on the Mirena IUD, which still has hormones but just a much lower dose than the birth control pills. I loved the Mirena and also loved not getting periods! (Mirena lasts for 5 years, but can be removed anytime before that when you want to have a baby.) At the end of the 5 years, I decided to try the Paraguard IUD, which is hormone free. This one will last for up to 10 years if I want to keep it in that long. I love the fact that it’s hormone free. After getting off all hormonal birth control, I noticed an increased sex drive…not that I really needed an increase, but woohoo! 😉 With the Paraguard I do get my periods again, but that is fine with me. So that’s my birth control story.

    I went in for a Pap last year, and was never informed that having sex too close to your Pap smear could alter results. Being recently engaged, my partner and I, ahem, were very frequently active (as in that morning before my test!), and my Pap results came back abnormal. After getting these results, I searched online and found information similar to what you found… so now I have a rescheduled appointment.

    I’m currently a nursing student (graduate in 4 weeks!!) and one thing I have been shocked at is how much the medical system is just a “practice.” There is so much conflicting information and misinformation. Listen to what your body tells you… you will know what is best for you more than the doctor will.

  • Erin @ The Grass Skirt June 8, 2011, 8:36 pm

    I’ve never had an abnormal pap, but I do think birth control pills are evil. I know of SO many women who had awful side effects with them- including not getting their periods once they stopped taking the pill. However, every doctor I’ve ever been to has said, “Oh, birth control pills wouldn’t do that.” I’m a little hot over the issue since I had the conversation with my OBGYN today, and he acted like birth control pills are perfectly harmless.

  • gabriella @ embracement June 8, 2011, 8:44 pm

    I’d just like to mention the BC that I take. It’s called Estrostep and it’s not one of the “huge” brand names out there. I have NEVER had ANY problems with my BC. I actually love it and would never try anything else. It has a gradual increase of estrogen throughout the month instead of a steady state which mimics your real cycle instead of pumping you with a drastic amount of hormones. This was immediately given to me based on my hormone imbalance. I feel like a lot of people are just taking an extreme amount of hormones rather than those that actually mimic the cycle

  • jen @ taste life June 8, 2011, 8:47 pm

    Oh my gosh I wish a cute dog could give me all of my gyno exams from now on.

    Not gonna lie, this post freaked me out. I have been on the pill since I was 18 – 13 long years. I have considered going off of it multiple times, but we are not at a place where we want to get pregnant. I had no idea pills could increase the risk of cervical cancer. Oh boy. I actually am considering going off of it again now. I really have to mull this over.

  • Dynamics June 8, 2011, 8:48 pm

    I am a firm believer it is the “practice” of medicine. I strongly suggest you have another pap and use a DIFFERENT lab!!! I learned the hard way. Second opinions and a new lab, a new lab. Did I say a new lab? I am just curious, did you get the HPV injections? I just had a breast biopsy BECAUSE the Dr. who read the mammogram and ultrasound was a moron. I am sure things will be fine Caitlin!!

    • dynamics June 8, 2011, 9:50 pm

      Yes, thank you, I am fine. Stressed out to the max and a whole lot poorer due to a moron doctor. I hear you. NO injection for me either.

    • Rebecca June 8, 2011, 9:56 pm

      DO IT! Healthy conversation never hurt anyone, and I think you’d find many of the same mindset.

      • CaitlinHTP June 8, 2011, 10:52 pm

        Oh gurlll I don’t think I can open myself up to that massive amount of criticism. LOL. my lips are sealzzz!

    • April @ Grits and Granola Bars June 8, 2011, 10:19 pm

      You really ARE trying to make teet happen, aren’t you? Haha!

      • CaitlinHTP June 8, 2011, 10:51 pm

        Make it happen!! Teets, teets.

    • Alli June 9, 2011, 1:53 am

      My parents best friend’s daughter just died from measles that she caught from an un-vaccinated child. Not trying to be adversarial, but just saying. The doctor in England who started the anti-vaccination movement lost his license, and the medical journal that published his initial study not only rescinded it, but apologized for the potential public health crisis. After the study was published, some of the first measles deaths in YEARS were reported. That’s just one vaccination. Food for thought?

      • Stephanie C June 9, 2011, 2:06 am

        I’m with Alli here.. and I can see that a post on this subject would be the most controversial yet!

      • Caitlin June 9, 2011, 8:30 am

        Haha seriously ladies, no way am I going to be convinced to blog about this. I will be stoned to death or cussed out. I can’t take it! LOL

  • ashley@cookingforjohn June 8, 2011, 8:49 pm

    oh my gosh, i didn’t realize you have been through so much!
    i was on birth control for a year about 5 years ago and haven’t touched it since. we always use condoms and so far no babies! 😉

    good luck, i hope everything works out and you don’t have to go through another biopsy!

  • Paige @Running Around Normal June 8, 2011, 8:51 pm

    I had a string of abnormal papsmears back in 2007. I kept having *slightly* abnormal papsmears after getting LEEP, but no detection of HPV. Finally after like 3, I was able to go in for yearly. I think I’ve been in once since I’ve stopped taking birth control, and it came back negative. I haven’t been back for a year, and have an appointment soon, like in July…so I’ve been pretty worried. But I’ve been off BC since January. So I’ll report back how it goes!

  • Kelly June 8, 2011, 8:51 pm

    Ugh. I am a slave to the bc pill, too. I go to my annual exam on Monday, and I think I need to do something different. I don’t technically NEED to be on the pill at this time (TMI?), but it helps with my periods, and they are so crippling, I am afraid to go off the pill. I wish there were an easier away to go about all of this!! I am sorry to hear you are having so much trouble…and honestly, no matter how much you know, it IS stressful and you can’t help but to worry. I have only had one abnormal pap result and the doctor told me it was likely because it was too close to my period and therefore, created some abnormal cells. It’s so wonderful being a woman, yet we really do have so much on our plate when it comes to sexual health and reproduction.

  • Ashley June 8, 2011, 8:52 pm

    I am very glad to hear that you are going off of your birth control pill again. I hope you have more luck with the FAM method this time. I went off of the pill late last year, and the bad skin side effect DOES go away after a few months. I feel great about my decision!

    I think that there are a LOT more negative side effects of the pill than what gets out into the news. I was on it for 7 long years (stupid!) and have had problems with abnormal pap smears for the last 4 or so years… I didn’t realize there could be a connection, and it is making me feel even BETTER about going off of the pill.

    I just don’t think it’s smart to mess with your body’s natural functioning so much. The balance of hormones in our body is delicate… I don’t think we as humans know enough about it to determine the “best” way. Hopefully my body goes back to normal. I never got a test for HPV – I didn’t actually realize you could get one. My lady doctor (I call it that too!) just assumed that it was the cause. I, too have had a few painful rounds of biopsies (no LEED yet…). Would be a good thing to check out that HPV test.

    Good luck!! Hope it works out better for you this time. I am completely happy with my choice!

  • Holly @ The Runny Egg June 8, 2011, 8:55 pm

    I’m on birth control and I hate it — I am worried that when we finally do want a baby it will be a long time before it actually works. I know I’m worrying for (hopefully) no reason, but I do anyway.

    I hope you keep us somewhat updated on the FAM method. I read “taking control of your fertility” but to be honest I found it so dull that I hardly remember anything from that book!

  • Monica June 8, 2011, 9:00 pm

    I can only imagine that lingering fear an abnormal pap can cause but just wanted to say kudos to you for thinking it over and looking out for YOUR best interests. I’m really hoping that at your next visit the results come back as “normal” and all is well.

    If you’d going for a baby sooner rather than later and don’t want to do an IUD, why not go with the old standby of condoms? Not the most convenient or sexy, but I’ve been off the pill for the past 3 years now, no temperature tracking, and haven’t gotten knocked up yet. Plus, no more hormones and all that jazz. Just my two cents. 🙂 Good luck with whatever you decide!

  • Caitlin June 8, 2011, 9:02 pm

    Please let me know what your doctors say!

    • Caitlin June 8, 2011, 9:04 pm

      Can you ask specifically about the connection between BC leeching folic acid out of your system, and this being a risk factor for abnormal paps? Thanks!!!

      • Dawn June 8, 2011, 10:43 pm


  • Gina @ Running to the Kitchen June 8, 2011, 9:08 pm

    I completely agree with being your own health advocate! people seem to think that doctors always know best and I dont think thats necessarily true for everything (this coming from someone with a family in traditional medicine)Be your own advocate people!

  • Kris June 8, 2011, 9:10 pm

    Ugh! I had a whole long post typed and it *poofed*.

    I feel your pain – I WAS diagnosed with HPV at 19, and told that it put me in a high risk category for cervical cancer. Long story short, over the course of 20 years, I had multiple abnormal paps, several colposcopies, 2 LEEP procedures, etc. I did also maange to have 3 healthy babies, thankfully.

    I used different types of birth control at different times; generally the pill when younger; when at 31 my blood pressure spiked I quite right away. DH decided that since we had 3 kids, and didn’t want any more, he would opt for surgery, which worked fine.

    Eventually I wound up with a Mirena to control bleeding issues during my periods. I loved it, but would not have wanted to use it if I had never had kids before.

    Last year, 19 years after this all started, I wound up with a non-cancerous growth that led to the removal of an ovary and a full hysterectory, which was done to eliminate any further risk of cervical cancer.

    Good luck with everything; you know your body better than anyone, and remember that early detection is key for this disease. Keep up the regular paps, and try to stay positive.

  • Deanna June 8, 2011, 9:13 pm

    Seriously….“Let’s Talk About My Vagina Some More” is the best thing I’ve ever read on a blog! LOL.

    Also, you’re awesome for being so open and honest.

  • Michelle @ Turning Over a New Leaf June 8, 2011, 9:25 pm

    I had a horrible experience with birth control pills. I started taking them five months before my wedding so I could get my body used to them. Immediately my body hated them. I was fatigued all the time, my boobs were sore all the time, my skin went nuts, my sex drive disappeared (which didn’t bother me until I got married and it actually mattered. Haha), and I um…dried up.

    I stopped taking them a month after my wedding. I took my last birth control pill in December of 2009 and my body STILL hasn’t fully gone back to normal. My skin got better and my PMS is about on par with my pre-pill days, and my um… moisture… has about 70% returned, but my sex drive only barely returned. It’s still something we struggle with.

    Also, a month after I went off the pill, my mom was diagnosed with hormone-induced breast cancer. She was on the pill for seven years. One of the risk factors for breast cancer is being on the pill for any length of time. My husband and I currently use a combination of FAM and barrier methods (ie. I don’t really take my temp since it’s all over the place all month), and while my husband hhhaaaaaaates condoms, it’s not worth it to me to risk breast cancer in addition to how the artificial hormones screws up my body. So he pretty much lives for the two weeks each month he can go without. 😉

  • Viviane June 8, 2011, 9:27 pm

    When you began writing about your cervical issues I didn’t pay too much attention since the subject didn’t really concern me. Little did I know a few years later I would go through the same history you have.

    I had forgotten you wrote about it, but tonight I’m reading with a much different perspective.

    I’ve been on the birth control pill for about 12-13 years now nonstop except for a break last year. A couple years ago I went for my annual pap and the results came back abnormal.

    That’s when I started having colposcopies every 6 months. Thankfully, my last 2 results came back totally normal so I can go back to having one annual pap.

    However, throughout the course of those tests I’ve learned that I have an inflamed cervix (the doctor’s exact words: you have a pretty face, but an ugly cervix – he’s a funny guy…) and according to him an inflamed cervix can frequently cause abnormal pap tests without necessarily meaning that there is cause to worry.

    As for the causes of the inflamation, the doctor was quite vague. It doesn’t seem clear if I have HPV or not (which puzzles me, do I have it or not?). I wish I knew more, but the doctor seemed to say that I should not worry and that the issue could resolve itself over time since I’m still young.

    I’ve been doing research online too and found out things that I wish I had not found out about cervix inflamation, but I’ll wait for my next appointment to get, hopefully, more answers.

    In the meantime I’m pretty much in the dark as to what happened. I’ll continue on the pill for now since my period was so irregular during my break that there was no way for me to have any control over my fertility.

    Thankfully my last two tests came back positive, so perhaps the doctor was right and the situation corrected itself over time.

    I really wish you all the best and thank you for sharing your experience 🙂

    • CaitlinHTP June 8, 2011, 10:41 pm

      Oh, you have a funny doc. 😉

  • Zoë June 8, 2011, 9:40 pm

    Caitlin, great topic, and thanks for your openness and honesty.
    I just wanted to point out that your statement “50% of sexually active individuals have HPV” is a slight misinterpretation of the data. The statistic cited by the CDC is that “50% of sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives”. This is an important distinction: a cross-section of the population would not show 1 in 2 sexually active people have HPV; rather, a longitudinal study would show that 1 in 2 contract it at some point during their lifetime. In many people, HPV presents as a transient infection (cleared by the body in under 2 years), though in some it remains latent.

    I hope everything works out for you with this tough situation. It’s so important to do what you believe is best for your body because you know it best. Doctors can – and should – practice evidence-based medicine, but only you can decide what’s right for you (and I say this as a medical student and future M.D.).
    Best of luck.

    • CaitlinHTP June 8, 2011, 10:42 pm

      Oh, thanks for this correction! I appreciate it and changed the post to more accurately reflect the data. Thanks, gurrrrl!

  • Eliza June 8, 2011, 9:41 pm

    Something I find fascinating, and sometimes troubling, is the black and white line many people seem to create between so-called “western” medicine and so-called “natural” medicine. My partner is in his third year of medical school, and is really bothered by this stereotype. I think you do a great job of finding a balance, but sometimes people create these dichotomies in their mind of MD/Hospital=bad and unnatural. Its just very curious to me. Anything we put into our bodies alters it in someway. We just have to make choices about the way we want our body to be altered, I guess. Does that make sense? It isn’t like herbs are good and synthetically produced medicines are bad, they just are. And good doctors will take the time to listen to your concerns and make recommendations based on your level of comfort with anything you are putting into your body. I am taking Accutane, after 15-years of trying everything from antibiotics to elimination diets to herbal remedies to supplements to topicals. Its a high dose of vitamin A, which sounds way less scary than Accutane. In the end, we all have to way the potential consequences of the choices we make about our health. And there are consequences for everything. This isn’t really a comment about anything specific to your situation (which I’m sorry about, by the way, it sounds awful to be going through), but just more a concept kind of comment 🙂 thinking out loud, I guess. rambling. bed time. 🙂

    • CaitlinHTP June 8, 2011, 10:43 pm

      I like your rambles! I think it’s important to reap the benefits of both types of medicine, I agree… and it’s bad to draw things in terms of always being good or always being bad. Unfortunately, its just not that clear. I wish it was!!

  • Ally June 8, 2011, 9:43 pm

    Using the pill can actually decrease your risk for ovarian cancer – and this sucker has a terrible survival rate (like 70%).

  • Jenny June 8, 2011, 9:44 pm

    I had a similar experience this year and this post has brought a lot of things to light! Thank you for being so open and honest about this topic.

    I’m 23, had an abnormal pap in May, so I had to go in and have a biopsy. My biopsy confirmed the pap and my doctor suggested I come back in 6 months for follow-up. During the few weeks of these events, I was an emotional wreck. My doc didn’t test me for HPV, and having read your experience I’m surprised that my doc was so nonchalant about telling me that HPV was the most likely culprit. I’m optimistic that this will be taken care of soon, as this is a very common issue for many women.

    I’ll be interested to read how things progress for you, and hoping for the best.

  • Brittany June 8, 2011, 9:46 pm

    Thank you for being open and honest about this. Reminds me that i need to get my annual appointment scheduled!

  • Jen June 8, 2011, 9:52 pm

    I was on birth control pills for over 10 years. I had an abnormal pap a few years ago. After a biopsy my obgyn recommended I have them removed, but she wanted to pretty much put me under anesthesia to do it! I was horrified and asked for alternatives and she recommended a LEEP instead. I had it done and it definitely wasn’t pleasant, but I appreciated being awake the whole time! I haven’t had an abnormal pap again, fortunately and back when my husband and I went off birth control pills I got pregnant within 2 months. So, no ill effects from scar tissue or anything, in my case. I went back on birth control pills since we didn’t want a long term alternative knowing we’d probably have another baby again. But, I hated taking the pills again and could really tell how they effected my body (low sex drive, moodiness, etc) so I went off for good! Now I’m charting and taking my BBT daily and I really like getting to know my body and my cycle. I’m not sure what we’ll do after our second (and final!) child, but I don’t want something hormonal, that’s for sure!

  • Victoria (District Chocoholic) June 8, 2011, 9:53 pm

    I just found out that I need to get a colposcopy later this month. The cool thing (in context, at least) is that the nurse DID tell me to take folic acid when I asked if I needed to do anything. It’s important to follow up with this stuff, cervical cancer can be very, very aggressive.

  • jessica June 8, 2011, 10:01 pm

    OH can I EVER related to this! I’ve been going through this business for the past 4 years. I know exactly painful and scary a colposcopy can be! Whenever I hear someone complaining about having to go for their annual physical I think ‘if you only knew..’
    I think you’re doing the right thing by asking for more testing before going through with the procedure. YOu never know…I was extremely lucky to arrive at the hospital on the day of my LEEP procedure and find out that my last results had come back normal and I was free to go.
    Best of luck to you!

  • Jenny @ Fitness Health and Food June 8, 2011, 10:10 pm


    Thank you so much for sharing your personal experiences and such important health info. I am so glad to be in a position that I can go without using birth control (read married and okay it a baby is conceived). I used the pill (and patch uggh) for many years and it messed with my hormones. I have been fortunate never to have had an abnormal pap but it took a while for my body to get back on it’s regular cycle. I think what you’re deciding to do is well informed and reasonable. I wish you all the best.

  • Cyndi June 8, 2011, 10:14 pm

    I’m a converted IUD advocate. Hated the pill – had to take it since I was 16 due to lack of regularity. I don’t take any medication, not even pain relievers, so I hated that pill every day. I’m about to get my Mirena IUD replaced. It’s been 5 years and not an instance to speak of. Definitely worth a try. I would think you would know right away if your body wasn’t happy with it. And the above posts are correct – you can remove and try to conceive immediately.Good luck!

  • Keelie (SweatEqualsSuccess) June 8, 2011, 10:15 pm

    This was a really interesting and honest post. THANK YOU.

    I am not currently on any form of birth control, but I have LOTS of friends who are, some of whom have also had pap smear issues…

  • Angela (Oh She Glows) June 8, 2011, 10:18 pm

    I’m sorry to hear about your abnormal pap test result. You are doing everything right with getting your frequent check ups, so I know that you will be ok!

    Most doctors say, ‘if only more women came in for their paps they would save their lives…’ Getting the pap done every year (or more frequently if needed) is half the battle.

    I also think it’s great that you are using your platform to encourage other women to get them done. If it can save a life, it is worth the moment of unease!

    I find myself at a loss for words on this topic because I feel like there is so much that I just don’t understand. I’ve been off the BCP since mid-2008 and my period has finally, finally started to get predictable over the past 6 months. I never ever thought it would, but slowly but surely…my body figured out how to work again!

  • Pure2raw twins June 8, 2011, 10:20 pm

    oh gosh Caitlin I am so sorry. Lori and I just did a post the other day giving an hormone update. It has been two years since we have been off of it and still no regular periods, still getting bad breakouts, emotions all over the place…you name it, it drives be crazy but I know eventually I will get better. Years ago, I got abnormal pap results, so I went back for more test. And I had some cells showing early signs of cervical cancer!!!! I was like what??? So I had the procedure where they scraped some cells, and omg it was the worst experience of my life. It hurt bad. Two of my best friends went through the same thing. Sucks, but it is scary that so many girls can get it, or close to it. My doctor said I am fine since I caught it in the early stages. I do now get normal pap tests. So there is hope!!! Thinking of you girl

  • Laura June 8, 2011, 10:24 pm

    Hi Caitlin,

    I felt compelled to comment as I’ve worked for years at a non profit dedicated to training doctors to become leaders in Family Planning, both their clinical and research skills. The FAM method, as I am sure you know, is not a very reliable form of birth control, however, I totally understand and respect your choice to use it as yours. I understand your frustrations with the pill and your concern about putting hormones into your body. Have you explored other methods, such as the Mirena IUD? It’s highly effective and lower in hormones than the pill. There is also the Copper T IUD, which does not have hormones, but the side effects are more present, I feel.

    As for HPV, it’s a sneaky little sucker. There are SO many strains and I’ve read statistics as high as 80% of young, sexually active women have some form of HPV, whether it be dormant (not show up on test) or active. Luckily, since you’re young and healthy, HPV is more likely to self resolve in your body. Please let me know if you’d like me to put you in contact with one of the experts I’ve worked with at my job.

  • Dani Eats Veggies June 8, 2011, 10:28 pm

    So sorry you’re going through this Caitlin!

    I’ve been on BC for 7 years and haven’t had any troubles with it, but I admit, I didn’t really look into any future risks either. Thanks for encouraging me too!

  • Jennifer June 8, 2011, 10:30 pm

    You posted this just as I was on an internet crusade about high risk hpv (my pap came back positive) and colposcopies (scheduled for next Friday). I’d been trying to avoid Dr. Google but gave in. Every time I manage to calm myself down I come across a story of someone my age dying of cervical cancer. It’s definitely a confusing situation to be in, with so many possible courses of action based on what happens with the colposcopy. It’s overwhelming.

    Anyways, thank you so.much. for writing this. Both for the post itself and the comments it’s brought. It’s helpful to see so many people talking.

  • ashleigh June 8, 2011, 10:35 pm

    Ugh, going through this right now and it’s been extremly stressful. I am just thankful that for right now I am fine, ad that I have health insurance. I hope that your dr agrees to wait 2 more months just to be sure.

    Did you get the gardisil shot? I did and still ending up having to go through this.

  • Emily Young June 8, 2011, 10:42 pm

    I read your blog every single day, your insight and lessons learned have gotten me threw some hard times. Operation Beautiful inprired me so much I have been leaving notes around Victoria BC for many months everywhere i go. When i read this post my heart sank for you as if you were a close friend. You are so brave Caitlyn and I wish you all the best. thank you for your amazing impact on so so many people.
    greatest of well wishes
    emily young 19 hairdress victoria BC Canada-dedicated reader

  • Katherina @ Zephyr Runs June 8, 2011, 10:42 pm

    I’m really interested in hearing how it goes with you getting off birth control and trying FAM. I’ll send regular cycle thoughts in your direction!!

  • Courtney June 8, 2011, 10:43 pm

    I have the copper IUD and I love it. Yes it was a bit painful at first and I have never had children. Also the first few months your period may be heavier, but all in all I think it was worth it. It frees my mind and also I can make the decision to have it removed whenever I’m ready to begin a family.

  • kristen June 8, 2011, 10:48 pm

    what a roller coaster you and your husband must be on. I am sorry to hear this, but I agree. we should blog about these things

  • dana June 8, 2011, 10:49 pm

    I am literally going through the the same exact thing! I go in for my biopsy the 24th. I’ve had this done once before, but luckily, I didn’t have an adverse reaction…no pain.

    Best of luck! I hope everything is okay!

  • Molly @ RDexposed June 8, 2011, 11:01 pm

    I’ve heard that the pill can also raise cholesterol and that it’s not meant to be a long term thing. So why start it? We want to reduce the amount of hormones in our food but we take the pill? Hmmm. I’m no expert but just thinking aloud.

  • Nicole June 8, 2011, 11:02 pm

    First off, I want to echo the “yay vaginas!” I wish I felt more comfortable talking about vaginas at a younger age (like when I was in my early 20s instead of late 20s…oh 20s, how I miss thee). No shame in discussing the health of our bodies!

    Second, everyone needs to be a vocal, active participant in your health. Don’t be afraid to question your OB/GYN (or any doc for that matter) to ask WHY you should do something or not and what are the advantages/disadvantages of other options. Ask for information that you can look at on your own time. Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion. And what works for one person might not work for you. Be a nag for your health!

    Lastly, I want to comment on the studies you mentioned. While not being able to read the actual papers, the little blurbs from the links you shared don’t seem scary to me. (NERD ALERT! NERD ALERT! Let me add that I have a Ph.D. in biochemistry and have published my research in peer-reviewed journals.)

    I want to state that people need to be aware that the word LINK in scientific studies does not mean CAUSE. As an example, I would argue there is a LINK between the sun setting and people sleeping but that does not mean that the sun setting CAUSES people to sleep (or vice versa).

    I have this conversation often because this is my science pet peeve. People see/read/hear scientific studies that sound very scary when they are just noteworthy. If the researchers found a CAUSE they would use that word with sparkles, flashing lights and puffy paint. Cause is being caught with the smoking gun in your hand, link is circumstantial evidence.

    I feel that the jargon used in publications can be misleading to those not familiar with the jargon. Sometimes the numbers are taken out of context (which the earlier stats-jockey commenter mentioned) or specific results get pushed to the forefront (that seem more daunting than the overall conclusion). I don’t mean to say IGNORE the research, just be a bit more critical as you are reading your information.

  • Jaime June 8, 2011, 11:08 pm

    I know exactly what you are going through! A little over 5 years ago I had an abnormal pap and biopsy and had the same results as you. I had the surgery and had complications afterwards with my cervix not healing. I went back for a pap 6 months later and it was abnormal again, I was so upset, I was only 23 and going through something that was so difficult. I chose to have the biopsy and my doctor recommended surgery for a second time or to wait 6 months and see if it resolved on it’s own. After long consideration I chose to wait 6 months and I’m glad I did because the pap I had showed no abnormal cells and everything resolved on it’s own. Now after 5 years I have had no abnormal paps again. Advocate for what you think is right for yourself! I’m glad that I did!

  • Missy June 8, 2011, 11:13 pm

    I have read a while but never commented before, however I felt compelled to do so since this is what I do for a living – I read PAP smears. My first response to you is that if you want to wait and get a repeat PAP, then you don’t have to let the doctor think on it. You tell them that you understand they want another colpo but you are choosing to get a repeat – that is your right since you are the patient.
    Believe me, I see this everyday. Many of the Low grades regress on their own. But some do not.
    But my other question is – how was the HPV testing done? Do you know what method they used? I am only asking because usually with abnormals that come back, HPV is involved. Now please don’t think bad of it. Nuns have HPV – so many people treat it like an STD and in some ways I guess it could be classified as such; however it is not necessarily so. I just hate that it is stereotyped to make people feel ashamed to have it. There are over 100 types of HPV – and only a handful have been strongly associated with progression to cancer. That is why I am interested in the HPV testing. There are several companies that have HPV testing; the one we do is really good, better than our old test system.
    Anyhow, all of that to say – having a low grade is not a big deal – many of them regress on their own. So you can choose to do a repeat. The only drawback is that the doctor may not scrape that specific area on the next Pap and show a false negative. I am not trying to scare you or anything; Personally, I would do a repeat and then get them every 3 months if they were normal. I would also inquire as to how they tested for HPV and what test was used.
    As far as birth control – from a diagnostic view, I don’t see any correlation. But smoking? yes, many smokers have abnormal Paps.
    I hope it all goes well for you and maybe getting off the BC will help your body have a better immune response. Everyone is so different and what helps one person, can hurt another. Good luck and don’t stress!

    • CaitlinHTP June 8, 2011, 11:15 pm

      That is an AMAZING comment. Thank you so much Missy! 🙂

      • Missy June 8, 2011, 11:54 pm

        Anytime! It’s what I do for a living – I’m not a doc but if you have any questions (not that you can’t find em on google!) feel free to email me. I’ll help anyway I can 🙂

  • Karen June 8, 2011, 11:15 pm

    A friend of mine is a pathologist and said the only reason birth control is said to decrease cancer is because women who are on it HAVE to go to the doctor yearly and thus catch things early!

    • CaitlinHTP June 8, 2011, 11:17 pm

      Oh, interesting point!!!!

  • Daya June 8, 2011, 11:22 pm

    I had this EXACT same thing happen to me in November. I was SO shaken when it happened and I knew that I needed to make some changes. I too went off birth control and then went back for a follow up PAP. I ended up having the biopsy after another abnormal PAP. It wasn’t my first choice but after some stronger urging from my doctor I agreed.

    That being said, 4 of my closest friends have also had this same thing happen and only 2 of them had the biopsy. They went for follow up PAPs and eventually they were normal. I agree that you have to listen to YOUR body and do what is right for you!

    It is an awful feeling and its definitely not something you want to hear. I know it may not be comforting but just know what many women go through this and no matter what you choose to do you are strong and healthy.

    Best of luck!

  • Errign June 8, 2011, 11:24 pm

    Hey Caitlin! In May of 2009, I got my first abnormal pap. I was referred to an OBGYN (I was seeing my general practitioner beforehand) who recommended a colposcopy. He did it, said the areas were very small, but were low grade dysplasia. I had 4 paps in the next year, all abnormal, and had ANOTHER colposcopy (um, one was plenty, thanks haha) and have had totally normal paps since then. I’m FINALLY at the point where I have six months between a pap & if this next one in December is good, I can be a normal 22 year old that goes once a year haha!

    (I love reading your blog because of how real you are. I know I say this all the time, but seriously, it’s true!)

  • Suzanne June 8, 2011, 11:37 pm

    I went through all of what you described in your post. I haven’t been on birth control since six months after my LEEP which has been 7 years ago. I’ve had normal test results ever since then. I have no way of knowing if getting rid of the birth control contributed to the normal results, but I’m sure it didn’t hurt. Going off of the BC helped a lot of other issues, so I’m happy about my choice. I hope that it all works out for you!

  • Kristen @ The Concrete Runner June 8, 2011, 11:37 pm

    This has more to do with BCPs than with abnormal paps, but I thought I would share. My sister-in-law was on birth control for years with some abnormal pap smears that I think came up as pre-cancerous but I’m not sure how it went from there. She went off the Pill over a year ago to try to get pregnant and ended up with no period and obviously no ovulation. I’m not sure if these are connected in anyway, but it has definitely made me think twice about going back on birth control after our baby comes in October. I agree with hating to put artificial hormones in your body and will probably try some other forms of non-hormonal birth control. I’m not sure I believe that the Pill will really prevent any cancers…

  • Hannah June 8, 2011, 11:50 pm

    I really feel for you, Caitlin, I really do, but as a 19 year old taking the Pill for acne (I’m not sexually active), I can’t help but feel bad when all I see everywhere on the blog world is how the pill is bad/evil/dangerous, etc. 🙁

    • Hannah June 9, 2011, 12:05 am

      And by the way, Caitlin, I did not mean to write this to make you or any one else, it’s just my teenage reaction 😛

      • Caitlin June 9, 2011, 8:25 am

        🙂 That’s ok. I definitely do not think the pill is evil. I was on it for 12 years. It saved me from being a teenage mom 😉 But not everything is going to work for everyone without side effects, and it is a serious decision. When I was 16, my doctor made me believe it was no big deal. Unfortunately, FOR ME (and others), it has been a big deal.

        But I mean no babies is important, too. 🙂

  • Molly June 8, 2011, 11:51 pm

    I am loving this post AND all of the comments! So insightful and interesting. So sorry you have to go through all of this!

  • Lisa M June 8, 2011, 11:54 pm

    Great comments by all and such open stories about our experiences with pap smears, hormones, etc. Thank you for sharing ladies, Caitlin we all love you. Take care of your body. And truly loved/laughed/smiled with the title “Let’s Talk About My Vagina Some More”. Thank you for being so frank. Keep us updated how things go.

  • 'laina June 9, 2011, 12:13 am

    Having not read the above comments (sorry if it’s repeat)- have you thought about an IUD? You don’t *have* to have had children in order to get one. I was on hormonal birth control (pills, patch, ring, shots) and I am convinced that that is what made me gain 60 blasted lbs in a few short months time when I was 22, that I haven’t been able to get rid of in 12 years no matter how much I eat right and exercise. (It’s also contributed to mood problems & my own natural hormone problems.) So, IUD.. I went on Paraguard and loved it, despite the bit heavier period, and even tho I got pregnant after 2 years due to not checking for migrating strings. Had da bebe, and went on the Mirena. The fact that it’s low-dose hormones that only really stay within the uterus is what sold me on it, it’s been 4.5 years and I love it (and yes, I check my strings monthly). I have a normal, regular period; I’ve stopped gaining weight (thank goodness); It’s actually helped my “endometriosis” pain; and I can vouch that it’s not any more painful than a LEEP- which I had done in ’99 and think is WAY more painful than an IUD insertion (that I’ve had 2 of now).

    I will fight against birth control pills (and it’s ilk) with my daughters until it is no longer my right to do so.. unfortunately, they will be turning 18 here in the next 1 & 2 years, so hopefully I’ll have done my job right with teaching them the consequences of hormones so that they make the best decision possible for themselves. Hopefully they’ll abstain until they’re 40!! 😉

  • Khushboo June 9, 2011, 12:14 am

    haha I know I’m a female and we all have it but the word ‘vagina’ grosses me out! I am also taking birth control pills due to hormonal imbalances! Especially as breast cancer runs in my family, I hate using it and it’s the only way to sort out my ovaries and ensure I get my period consistently. I guess it’s the lesser of 2 evils (the other being inability to conceive) so I’m just taking it!

  • Chelsea June 9, 2011, 12:28 am

    I’m 19 years old and reading through your comments about others and knowing your experience with HPV really makes me feel not alone…I walked into the doctors office for a routine check up on my boy-friend and I’s one year. I come back a year later for another routine check up and they literally tell me, “Did you know you have HPV?” I looked around like they were crazy. I started shaking and trying to compose myself. Having those results show up so unexpectedly is so scary and I can only imagine how scary it would be if they had turned pre-cancerous….It only made it worse when the doctor straight up told me, “Not even whores deserve this disease.” Really? She compared me to a WHORE?! Word for word! Turns out I changed doctors after that incident and the HPV is gone or “in hiding” as my new doctor likes to put it just in case. Turns out abnormal pap smears are completely normal, but they really make you take a step back are realize what you’re doing with your life. I’m thankful for that life changing moment because it’s truly given me such a different perspective.

    • Caitlin June 9, 2011, 8:26 am

      Um, that is the WEIRDEST THING for a doctor to say. I would definitely change doctors!!!

  • Carrie June 9, 2011, 12:30 am

    I am going through the exact same thing right now! I am actually waiting to hear the results of my second LEEP procedure(I had them a week a part) because the cells were pre-cancerous and had positive margins. I am having a hard time sorting out all of the information as well and I am and RN(obviously not in OBGYN). I understand all of the information I just don’t know how to process it or what to do next. The scariest thing my doctor said was “well if you were done having children we would do a hysterectomy to prevent cancer in the future!” I was floored I am 28, single and have no idea when I will be having children. Articles I have read even in some medical journals have said it just needs to be watched closely and screening such as colposcopy done every 6 months until 3 negative tests are preformed. It is just so hard to know what to do. Thank you for sharing your story. Way to be an advocate for yourself and others! Please keep us posted on your outcome.

    • Caitlin June 9, 2011, 8:28 am

      Woah, there are so many people in this comment section who’s doctor recommended a hysterectomy to them at 28 – weird.

      I would DEFINITELY seek out a naturopathic doctor who can get you on some high quality supplements. Please!

  • Krista June 9, 2011, 12:32 am

    I had an abnormal pap about 3 years ago, then colposcopy, results not needing any follow-up procedures. Had normal paps every 6 months until my latest one this year. What a sinking feeling I got when I heard abnormal after all that time of being clear. I had another colposcopy done and same thing with clear results. I feel like abnormal cells can flare up and go down within weeks and I am also suspicious of having biopsies done after just 1 abnormal pap. I have never had LEEP done, but I can’t imagine it being a walk in the park. I hope everything works out and is back to normal soon! Thanks for sharing your experience with all of us…I know at least 5 other friends who have gone through this back and forth as well!

  • Amanda June 9, 2011, 12:40 am

    I have been on BCP for a year and a half now, and while I love that they do what they are intended to do (i.e. prevent me from getting pregnant), they make me moody and emotional. I hate that they turn me into someone I’m not! I really appreciate this post and all of the insightful comments: The more I read and learn, the more I feel that BCP has so many negative side effects that I wonder if it is really worth taking them in the long run? Also: I got the Guardasil shots. I know they are fairly new, but I wonder if there has been any research done on how they could reduce the risk of HPV while on birth control?

    • Caitlin June 9, 2011, 8:28 am

      WEll I think Guardasil vaccinates you from several strains, so it would def reduce the risk, although it won’t eliminate it.

  • Amber Faye @ One "Faye" At A Time June 9, 2011, 12:49 am

    So sorry to hear that you are going through this. My best friend has had the exact same thing. She had to have the LEEP procedure twice, as well as something where she had to put some sort of chemo stuff up in her vag. It is such a scary thing! I really commend you for putting this kind of stuff on your blog. I think too often people just put all their trust in doctors and do whatever they say. I totally agree that sometimes it’s best to ride it out, or get a second opinion. Please keep us updated on this situation!

  • Alli June 9, 2011, 1:47 am

    Hi Caitlin! I didn’t read through all the comments, but I think it’s important to point out, that even with any correlation to birth control pills, 99% of people who get cervical cancer also have HPV evident in their biopsies. In other words, it’s extremely rare to get cervical cancer if you don’t have HPV even if you are on the pill for any amount of time. (That’s from the National Cancer Institute) So even if there is a higher risk of cervical cancer on the pill, you also basically have to have HPV. I don’t want anyone to read your post and think that because they’re on the pill, they’re at high risk for cervical cancer, because that’s not the case so far as we know, at least, the data does not yet support that conclusion. Given the amount of time the pill has been around, I think we would have already seen a spike in cervical cancer. The hormone levels in the pill used to be much higher, and there wasn’t any spike then either. Also, I feel the need to point out the the pill significantly lowers your risk of all other reproductive cancers. With the attacks on women’s health care in our fine country these days, I feel the need to defend HBC, lest our right to have access to it becomes further compromised. This is not to say that HBC is the right choice for everyone, but in an otherwise healthy person your risks are extremely low. Good luck and feel better soon!
    P.S. Statistics nerd moment of the day: Correlation does not imply causation!

    • Alli June 9, 2011, 2:22 am

      Had to add the last line of the article you cited…

      “A woman who has regular screenings can basically forget about the increase in risk.”

      Teens out there reading… Don’t feel bad. I’ve been on the pill for over a decade with nothing but stellar health:) However, Caitlin hits the nail on the head by pointing out that it’s not the only choice out there and may not be the best choice for you!

      • Caitlin June 9, 2011, 8:29 am

        Hahah I love these comment stream. Great thoughts, girls!

  • Laura June 9, 2011, 2:07 am

    I love that you’re doing your research and making an informed decision, combining holistic medicine with western testing–your decision seems well-thought-out to me, although I can see why your Dr. is concerned. I hope everything goes well and it’s just circumstantial issues causing the abnormal pap smear and not a return of the pre-cancerous lesions. You have a lot of friends here in internet-land rooting for you and wishing you well :).

  • Amanda June 9, 2011, 4:06 am

    Sorry to hear about that….. bummer : (

  • Annie@stronghealthyfit June 9, 2011, 5:59 am

    I just went off of BC after about 7 years on it. I’m sick of it and I was suspicious that I had a number of side effects from it.

  • tina June 9, 2011, 6:36 am

    Well… considering I got pregnant after missing one BCP, despite doubling up the following day & despite having PCOS (which supposedly meant compromised fertility & irregular or absent ovulation), I’m not such a fan of the Pill. (We are, however, super-psyched about our surprise baby!)

    What about other birth control options? I know condoms don’t work for you two, but what about the IUD, cervical cap or diaphragm? Have you talked to you gyno about nonhormonal options?

    We will probably be going with the IUD even though we may want another little one in a couple years. I’ve heard they’re much better now–totally not the IUDs of the past.

  • OntarioGirl June 9, 2011, 7:07 am

    I’ve read your blog for almost 2 years and have never commented but want to say I love it!
    I hate birth control and when I was on birth control I had uncontrollable anxiety that made me not want to leave the house even though I had never had anxiety before. I found tons of discussions online of girls who were having the same side effect. I’m just saying this because one of your recent posts your commented you were having higher than normal anxiety and birth control could be the culprit there as well. My advise would be to go off BC and I definitely don’t think the fake hormones are good for your body at all! It’s just not natural.

    • Caitlin June 9, 2011, 8:31 am

      Hi OntarioGirl 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  • rachael June 9, 2011, 7:51 am

    Hugs. I have been in the same boat and totally hear your pain. I had a leep and have since had a couple random abnormal paps. I had a second biopsy after one and it was normal. It seemed I would have a bunch of good paps and get to the point when I could go back to getting one a year and then one would come back abnormal. Then I finally got to the point of only having to come back once per year and I got pregnant again. Apparently I am just destined to see my ob-gyn on a more regular basis.

    Does your husband have Tori Hudson’s book on women’s health? She has a pretty detailed natural treatment for cervical dysplasia.

    While there are so many birth control options out there, none of them ever appeal to me either. I hope going back to FAM works well for you!

  • Annalisa June 9, 2011, 8:01 am

    hi caitlin! mind the typing — i have a 3 week old baby who lives in my arms! i wanted to share my story with you… 5 yrs ago i had a leep after having some abnormal/precancer cells. i was on nuvaring for the previous 6 yrs, but 11 yrs total. since the leep, my paps were fine but 3 yrs ago, my new ob did an exam and pointed out how much of my cervix was hacked at! in dec ’09 we started ttc and finally got pregnant in aug ’10. my entire pregnancy i was terrified my cervix would shorten and i would lose the baby. it was stressful!! arpund 28 weeks i replaced that worry with a fear the scar tissue would prevent me from dilating and i would end up with an emergency c-section. that i could control but switching obs – at 32 weeks – and i am so glad i did!!! i had a quick, easy, natural delivery mostly thanks to my doc who relaxed and encouraged me. i dont know what future pregnancies look like but i think the internet has lots more bad than good info. if i knew then what i knew now i would’ve relaxed more during the last 2 yrs!!

    have you thought about switching docs or getting a 2nd opinion?

    i’ll keep you in my thoughts – try not to stress so much about this! you might find it is wasted energy

    • Verna June 9, 2011, 8:36 am

      Thank you for sharing!! This makes me feel a lot better too!

  • Joan June 9, 2011, 8:20 am

    I feel your pain. Unfortunatly my self and my daughter have had several abnormal paps and both of us have had a colposcopy. Luckly we haven’t had to have the leep. But it’s very frustrating to worry everytime we have our annual paps that they may come back abnormal. My daughter and I see the same Dr. and love her, but have even considered switching Dr.s because maybe she’s doing something wrong.

    One thing we have been looking at with our Dr. that has been a problem is bleeding between periods. We are both on birth control pills and have had some problems with bleeding between periods and that can be another reason for having an abnormal pap. My daughter seems to have found a pill that is working for her but I’m still trying differnt pills to see if we can solve the bleeding problem. I went though several expensive tests and a DNC last year thinking that would solve the problem and it didn’t so now were expermenting with different pills. Anyway I think the follow up pap is the right option. I’ve also done that in the past and the 2nd time it has come back normal. There are just way to many reason someone can have an abnormal pap and sometimes I think Dr.s are way to quick to run needless test.

  • krista June 9, 2011, 8:27 am

    I have never been on birth control, the unnaturalness of it freaks me out! And I have one planned daughter, and am pregnant right now (planned). And we have been married 10 years, so obviously the pull out method works. LOL!

    PLEASE PLEASE tell me you now have insurance Caitlyn!!!

  • Verna June 9, 2011, 8:34 am

    I have had several abnormal pap smears/colposcopies also. My mom and sister also both had similiar problems but their’s always cleared up right away. I stopped using hormonal birth control in October of 2007, before I got married, I had a copper IUD inserted. I had normal pap smears since before that time until I got pregnant with my son. It’s very unsafe to treat abnormal cervical tissue while pregnant and a lot of times it will resolve itself with a vaginal birth so we figured all would be fine after my son was born.

    About 5 months after giving birth (vaginal delivery) I had my yearly check up and my pap smear came back abnormal. I saw my OB again and he looked at my cervix with the colposcopy and instead of doing a biopsy, he wanted to go ahead and treat it. We talked about doing a LEEP but he suggested Cryo for me. It wasn’t too painful, just some cramping. I didn’t think it was as bad as the biopsy (which I had done before getting married). I was also concerned about scar tissue because we were planning on having more kids.

    A couple months later, I go in for another pap smear and that one comes back abnormal again, also. So I go back to my OB and he looks at my cervix again and sees more abnormal cells. Again he suggests the Cryo (which is a freezing off process to get rid of the abnormal cells), he tells me it’s fine for us to start trying again and doesn’t seem concerned at all.

    So now I’m pregnant (didn’t seem to effect my fertility) with my 2nd and he wanted to check my cervix again with the microscope just to make sure everything looks good, and there are still abnormal cells. It’s not bad enough to treat during my pregnancy, thankfully but still there.

    This whole process has been so frustrating!! We don’t really know where to go from here. Sorry, I rambled so much, but this has been on my mind a lot lately and when I read your story, I wanted to share mine. See if your doctor would be willing to skip the biopsy all together. Definitely saves money that way! I’ll be thinking about you!!

  • Amanda June 9, 2011, 8:38 am

    I went off the pill 2 years ago and couldn’t be happier. It took almost a year for my body to regulate itself, during that time I only ovulated twice. Since then I’ve relied on the FAM method and tracked CM and have yet to become pregnant (we’re not trying). FAM and “pull and pray” have worked for us, but we’ve only relied on this because we are in a fine spot to have a child. The only down fall would be that we aren’t yet married (only 3.5 months to go!) but that wasn’t enough of a factor to keep me on the pill. I can only rave about how much better I feel now that I am off the pill and my body has figured itself out. Yes, my PMS is worse, and only within the last 2 months has my skin started to clear up. (I went through 2 years of bad acne while my body regulated itself!) Regardless of the side effects, I truly believe I am better off NOT on the pill. Good luck. It might take a long time for your body to get back to normal, but it’s worth the aggravation. I look at it as all the symptoms I got to skip as a teenager coming out now 😉

  • Emily June 9, 2011, 8:41 am

    I work in public health and I’m a huge advocate of birth control. I wasn’t having sex at 12 – but believe me, there are girls out there that are engaging in sexual activity far before they need to. I can’t stop them. But we can encourage them to protect themselves as much as possible. I’ve been on the pill now for years and have never had an abnormal pap. Every woman is different. You have to do what works for you. I plan on staying on the pill because at this point, I don’t want babies. Sometime in the future, but not now.
    As for “pulling out,” that’s not birth control. If you’re in a committed relationship and a baby wouldn’t “throw you for a loop” go for it. But that’s not a method to recommend to young girls.
    And the “calendar” method – might work for people that are totally in-sync with their bodies. But if you don’t have a regular period, this method isn’t the most reliable.

    Basically, we all know there are pros and cons to anything. You simply have to find what works for you. If it’s the pill, great. If it’s not, hopefully you’ll find something that works better for your body.

    • Marissa C June 9, 2011, 12:58 pm

      The calendar method is a completely outdated method of NFP/FAM that is not encouraged. Current methods (sympto-thermal, Creigton, Billings, TCOYF) are much more involved and scientifically proven. It’s a common misconception, but FAM is NOT the calendar method.

  • Jordan P @ food, sweat, and beers June 9, 2011, 8:59 am

    Having been that girl who always had her period very regularly since the day she got it, I didn’t go on BC until I was regularly sexually active with one partner (on the off chance that we didn’t use a condom). However, just this past week, I realized that I’d forgotten to take my BC out (I use the NuvaRing) for a week or two longer than the 3 suggested weeks. I think it threw my body for a loop, my period didn’t come, and I panicked and took a pregnancy test.

    Luckily for me (at this point in my life), my eggo is no preggo, but it definitely scared me for two reasons. 1) I was too lax about my BC schedule 2) I realized that maybe I wasn’t as in-tune with my body as I should be due to this random hormone ring that I put inside of me once a month…

    To sum it up: I think it’s good that you did all sorts of research on your own, and should follow what you feel is best for you, because these BC methods, while effective, are never 100% and can do some pretty wonky stuff to your body!

  • Mandy the Mood Eater June 9, 2011, 9:12 am

    Thank you so much for posting this, Caitlin. I applaud you loudly for being courageous enough to talk about your pap smear and concerns on your blog – it’s a topic we’re sometimes afraid to bring up, but you’re obviously touching the lives of so many ladies by doing so! Thank you!

    You have really hit close to home by talking about this today – I just had a partial hysterectomy a month and a half ago at 26, and one of my various “down there” issues was that a series of LEEPs weren’t being effective for me (ouch, they are so nasty nasty too, girl! I don’t blame you for being leery of another LEEP or another biopsy!).

    I chose the hysterectomy due to other personal reasons, not just due to the cancer cells, obvi, because I plan to adopt a baby instead of have one biologically, and a hysterectomy was absolutely the way for me to go personally. I know it’s so so rare for a young woman my age to say “I chose a hyst!”, and I know that it’s definitely not the choice that most ladies would make, but that’s my story.

    I think it’s wonderful that you’re such an advocate for your health – I wish you the best of luck, Caitlin! Thank you again for the post. 🙂

    (of course, I had much more

  • Nicole June 9, 2011, 9:13 am

    I love your google image searches.

  • Gracie (complicated day) June 9, 2011, 9:18 am

    Again, I’m a pharmacist (not a doctor), but purely from a chemical standpoint I would never recommend birth control or hormone replacement therapy unless a part of your body that makes hormones is removed. Period (excuse the pun).

  • Ashley O. @ The Vegetable Life June 9, 2011, 9:49 am

    Very interesting post! I was on BC for years and I was never regular, when I got my period it was BAD, I was in pain and they always made my hormones crazy and me super anxious so I stopped. Since stopping my OCD is non-existent, my PCOS went away, and I feel soooooo much better! I truly think there is not enough research (they have only been commonly used for less than 40 years!) so know the long term side affects! I say natural is better and if a baby result, than thats destiny for you!

  • Julie June 9, 2011, 10:04 am

    I’ve been on birth control for 7 years, with a few months off last year. I’ve never had an abnormal pap or any crazy BC side effects, save for breast tenderness (beyaz made me want to tear my chesticles off) and going loco over silly little things. To me, that stuff is manageable and I’m willing to put up with it. I have been on a number of different pills to find out what works best for me, and I just thinks it’s easy and convenient. Some people think remembering to take a pill every day is hard or what not, but sticking a nuva ring up my hooha or getting a shot every few months seems like more of a hassle to me.

  • Morgan June 9, 2011, 10:06 am

    I am a huge advocate of FAM, it is so interesting and empowering to really understand your body. We tried using it to get pregnant, long story, but it turns out I have PCOS so am unable to really use FAM. However, I really am glad that I took the time to learn it and understand my cycle. Now when I do ovulate on my own (once every 2-3 years) I at least know what is happening. For someone with a regular cycle FAM is really a great method.

    I will have no choice but to go back on birth control once I am done breastfeeding our new little one and I hate the thought of it. However without it I do not get my period ever. I strongly encourage anyone who does not HAVE to take birth control to consider other options, I wish I could.

  • Sheryl June 9, 2011, 10:09 am

    First off, best of luck to you in whatever you end up deciding to do!

    Second, I just wanted to provide you with some information from my experience that you might be interested in.

    I had a few abnormal paps in my early twenties and had a LEEP procedure done a few years ago. I wasn’t aware of the risk of scar tissue that can associated difficulty getting pregnant at the time, BUT I am happy to report to you that I got pregnant the second cycle that husband and I were trying and am due to give birth in July with no issues of scar tissue or shortened cervix etc., that can be associated with the LEEP procedure. Obviously my experience doesn’t mirror yours and I can’t say how a second LEEP procedure would have affected me, but so far so good!

    ps- google image searches are amazingly hilarious and this one is no exception!

  • Devonshire June 9, 2011, 10:34 am

    I started taking birth control a year after i started my period at the age of 13. I had heavy periods accompanied with severe cramping, pain, nausea and depression. I missed a lot of school because of it. Birth control (in the form of Yasmin) pretty much made me feel like a normal person again. Once i was an adult, my doctor diagnosed me with PCOS and prescribed me 3 boxes of Yasmin at a time so i only get my period 6 times a year. My doctor said that there had been studies showing that there was no medical need to have a period every month and that by not having the ‘normal’ number of periods a year that by using BC it can actually decrease the chances of ovarian and uterine cancer since ovulation doesn’t occur. Interesting….guess i’ll have to do some more research!

  • Chelsea June 9, 2011, 10:36 am

    I feel badly for even bringing this up because my issue with birth control is cosmetic and doesn’t directly affect my health like it does for so many others. However, I very recently decided to go off the medication so it’s fresh in my mind.

    I started taking NuvaRing last fall. My doctor recommended it as an alternative to pills because it contains lower hormone levels, and probably wouldn’t affect my mood like a few different kinds of pills had. I had basic side effects like nausea, breast tenderness, etc. I got very edgy around my period, but I had regular, light periods, so I was happy.

    A few months ago, I started noticing spider veins popping up on my legs. It started with just a few, but then it seemed every day I would find new patches. It’s gotten to the point where I feel very, very self-conscious wearing skirts and shorts. I’m 25 years old, but feel like I have the legs of someone much older. My dermatologist is confident that the veins are a result of the medication.

    Spider veins will never go away, but I’m hoping to stop the formation of new ones. As I said, I went off the medication and don’t plan on trying any other form of hormone birth control any time soon. While it works for many, many women, it just doesn’t work for me.

    • Caitlin June 9, 2011, 10:44 am

      I don’t think that’s *just* a comestic concern – spider veins mean something weird is going on with your circulation!

  • erin June 9, 2011, 10:54 am

    1. i love that a few people have corrected your interpretation of the statistics. stats can be SO misleading.
    2. i especially love that you had no problem editing your post to make things more accurate/clear. awesome!

    YAY NUMBERS! (im a statistician)

    good luck with all of this!

  • Amy June 9, 2011, 11:07 am

    I have so many thoughts/comments/concerns on this issue as I’m a hormonal wreck, but you know what stood out for me the most?

    I’m happy to be Canadian and not have to worry about the cost of procedures. I can’t imagine having to worry about the cost of procedures, tests etc.

    BC turns me into a raging lunatic, and really messes with my libido. BIG TIME.

    However, I also suffer from PCOS and BC helps regulate my cycle and keep my facial hair undercontrol.

    That being said, I’ve made the decision to go off it… so now I’m a hairy, less hormonal mess.

    You can’t win! 🙂

  • Marissa June 9, 2011, 11:07 am

    I’m on my fourth or fifth month of birth control. I’m only 16 years old and (obviously) not sexually active, but I’d lost my period for over two years due to an eating disorder and my doctor decided that I absolutely NEEDED to get it back. At first, I felt absolutely horrible: anxious, over-reactive, depressed… My doctor and mom kept telling me it was because my hormones were starting to work again. I just kept thinking, “So normal women feel this crappy ALL THE TIME?!” It got better after a few months though; maybe the hormones settled down, or maybe I just got accustomed to the feelings. And it did jumpstart my period (at least, it did at first… I haven’t had mine this month–but that could be more related to recent worsening ED struggles than to the pill.) But now I’m scared; I had no idea that birth control could increase your risk of cervical cancer! I never wanted to take the pills in the first place because, just like you, I think they’re unnatural… but now I REALLY don’t want to keep taking them!

  • Wendi @ Earth, Wind and Fire June 9, 2011, 11:09 am

    I’m glad you wrote this post. I’ve been thinking that I might need to go off of birth control. I have been on it since I was 16 because I have major issues with PMS. (I’m now 31). But I read somewhere that nuvaring (which is what I use) can cause some serious issues such a blood clots and that the newer bc pills are also dangerous in that regard. I’ve just been nervous about doing it because 1) I don’t want to get pregnant until at least, next year and 2) I am scared of how intense my periods might be without it. I also have issues with low sex drive (my poor hubby) and i’ve heard that birth control can contribute to that. I’ve heard of the FAM to help get pregnant but never to prevent. I will have to do more research, so thanks for discussing this.

  • Stephanie June 9, 2011, 11:12 am

    Oh gosh this is really scary and really good to know because i have been on birth control forever…eek…I hope and pray everything is ok!!!!! Keep us updated.

  • Stephanie June 9, 2011, 11:12 am

    Oh gosh this is really scary and really good to know because i have been on birth control forever…eek…I hope and pray everything is ok!!!!! Keep us updated.

  • Erin @ Big Girl Feats June 9, 2011, 11:18 am

    I just spent an hour reading through all of these posts and comments (sorry, employers!) because I find reproductive health and lady parts so interesting! I have been on and off birth control since I was 18 and have tried nearly every single brand out there (or what seems like it). I went off the pill last year because I was on Yaz and it was giving me monthly yeast infections; a side effect I had never heard of. The doctor would prescribe me antibiotics to get rid of the YI, which would weaken my immune system and the BC would bring about another YI next month. After 3 or 4 months I said enough is enough and stopped the pill. Before that, I noticed the pill stopped the awful cramps, but was an emotional terrorist every month. Ugh.

    Luckily, I’ve been very regular in getting my period (if not for the horrible cramps it brings) afterwards. I’m also required to take daily thyroid hormone because I had my thyroid removed due to thyroid cancer. I’ve been really struggling the past few months, since they’ve upped the dose, with the extra hormones in my body/brain. Does it suck? Yes. But overall it was worth the surgery since the cancer had already spread to a lymph node and the stress of having it spread elsewhere would have been really scary. I literally cannot get pregant for another year due to radioactive therapy that I had, so the boy and I are trying to be really cautious, use condoms, etc. I also fear that it could have screwed up my fertility, but I’m really trying not to think about that yet 🙂 Thanks for the FemCal tip in the other posts!

    I think my rambling is a way to say that it’s comforting in a weird way to know that so many other women deal with reproductive health issues and that we’re not alone. I also 100% agree with your advocating for yourself comment – health isn’t just about surgery, treatment, ablations, pills, etc – it’s also about making decisions that will bring you peace of mind and happiness.

  • Jo @ Jo In the Kitchen June 9, 2011, 11:33 am

    I’m sorry about the scary news! I’m really impressed, though, that you’re taking control of your own health. I scare really easily, and don’t realize until much later that I could have spoken up and asked for a second opinion, or even said no!

  • Kristin June 9, 2011, 11:44 am

    I’ve had a LEEP done 3 years ago and it … sucked. I’m back to once a year paps and every time I go in I’m nervous it will come back abnormal again. Thanks for sharing and being honest, and good luck with whatever choice you make, I’ll be looking forward to hearing how things turn out.

  • Dianne June 9, 2011, 11:47 am

    Chia and Hemp seeds are both great sources of Omega-3s!

  • Amber K June 9, 2011, 11:53 am

    I have never been on birth control, but I did just finish a course of pills that were supposed to kick start my period as I lost it three years ago. They didn’t do anything and I’m actually do back to figure out what to do. I actually have another doctor’s appointment in an hour to discuss the results of some bloodwork I had done. It’s so frustrating not knowing what’s wrong, but I’m having to keep at it and convincing my doctors that something is wrong and we need to fix it!

  • Brigid of Vegging out in T-Town June 9, 2011, 12:06 pm

    I’m a new reader, and this post really moved me to comment. I’ve never had an abnormal Pap thankfully, but hormonal birth control pills do worry me sometimes. I’ve been on them off and on (mostly on) for nine years. I like the freedom of them and their reliability, but I also want to have kids and maintain the best health possible. I really want to try FAM, but I haven’t sold my partner on it. Maybe if I can get him to read “Taking Charge of Your Fertility,” he’d be willing. It helps that getting pregnant wouldn’t be devastating at this point in my life, but I’d also like to be prepared. Good luck to you! I hope the supplements help. I also wanted to mention that your post reminded me to schedule my next annual exam, so thanks. 🙂

    • Caitlin June 9, 2011, 1:54 pm

      Yes! Get your partner to read it. A lot of people think it’s BS before they read that there is SCIENCE behind it!

  • Christine June 9, 2011, 12:43 pm

    Your history sounds so much like mine. I’ve had abnormal paps since 2006, multiple colposcopys and a LEEP. The only difference is that I’ve just had my first normal pap this past May. It’s so frustrating for them to come back and tell you that it’s abnormal – I’m sorry you’re going through it all again!

    I fully believe that you need to be your own health advocate. I asked my Dr to hold off on a 2nd LEEP since we are trying to get pregnant and ended up having a normal colpo & pap when I finally did go back 2 months later. So, I’m hoping this is a case where they heal themselves. But, just a word of advice, if it means anything – it sounds as though you’re approaching baby-making in the future from what I’ve read, get this all done before then!! I’ve been trying to get pregnant for over a year now, am just starting fertility treatments and this is all coming back to haunt me. Not trying to scare you, but this whole thing is just pushing our treatments off (not that my fertility is a result of my abnormal pap history, at all). I would never wish it on anyone, and I hope it was just an “off” pap for you, but just wanted to share my thoughts.

  • Courtney June 9, 2011, 1:19 pm

    Caitlin, I’ve actually gone through the same exact thing. I was actually recommended to a cancer specialist after the first biopsy showing I had high-grade lesions. The cancer specialist was by far a better doctor than anyone else! He looked at my cervix and explained everything that was going on and what he saw. He told me that there are 3 stages of pre-cancer and I was at the second stage. He said there is a procedure in which they cut out a cone-shaped area of the cervix but they don’t like to do it on people who have not had children yet (I’m only 24, was 23 when this was going on). He assured me that there is a next to nothing chance that the pre-cancer would move from stage 2 to stage 3 in the next year but recommended I get a pap twice a year to be sure. So basically if it ever reaches stage 3 I will have to get the procedure, if it doesn’t then I don’t have to worry about anything.

    The biopsy was by far the worst experience I have ever been through and I definitely understand not having another one done. However, the key to not getting cancer is prevention. Just something to think about.

  • Heather June 9, 2011, 1:49 pm

    Pros: The Pill makes my skin clear, reduces my cramps and I feel less emotional.

    Cons: I feel less emotional, decreased libido, has caused possible gallbladder issues.

    I completely agree that taking sythetic hormones must have some unpredicted impacts that we don’t yet know for our bodies.

    However, we do know that the remainder of the estrogen from the Pill that the body doesn’t use is excreted in our urine and continues on to impact the environment. Wastewater treatment does not remove hormones. Increased estrogen in the environment has lead to increased feminization in certain fish species.

  • Meg June 9, 2011, 1:51 pm

    I also was right there with you with a similar experience with Part I, II and III. I’m glad to hear your experiences because after all that happened, I spoke with a naturopath who went on and on about women who have this happen and go through the LEEP and wreck their baby making parts. She didn’t know I had gone through it (she wasn’t my doctor, I just happened to meet her and she was in TTC land so that’s all she wanted to talk about) and it made me feel awful. I’ve had normals ever since, but I always ask my doc to reassure me that it’s all fine down there. And, I also recently stopped taking BC because I realized I wanted to be more in control of what I’m putting in my body.

  • Tracey @ Tropicalhappiness June 9, 2011, 2:11 pm

    I’ve only skimmed through the comments but there are LOTS of good points and interesting opinions. I was on birth control for 10 years, before going off of it this past December. I LOVE being off the pill. My sex drive has increased, I feel better, etc etc. LOVE IT. I use TCOYF to track my temps and CM to prevent/attempt pregnancy.

    That being said, there are some very recent studies being released that being on the pill can actually help lower your risk of ovarian cancer. They have scientifically discovered a link, and although I don’t know the details, it is more than just a lowered risk because of annual checkups. And your risk remains lower for 10 years after you are off the pill.

    So while there are huge benefits (for me) of being off the pill, and a lot of bad things associated with the pill, there are also many invaluable benefits, depending on your situation.

  • Katie June 9, 2011, 2:14 pm

    Wow, lots of comments that I unfortunately don’t have time to read. 🙁 But, I wanted to add mine. I have had the abnormal paps (but with at least a few HPV positive tests). I was on an every 6 month visit plan, with colposcopies every year if the results were still abnormal (so, I’ve had two of those miserable things). This last time, with little changes noticed but still some abnormality, my doctor sent me to a specialist who said not to worry, and to go back to yearly. I have no idea what to think sometimes, so, for once in my life, I try not to worry myself crazy until my next appointment. I haven’t had a LEEP and my doctor was very cautious about having me get one if it didn’t seem necessary since I’m younger (in my 20s) and want children. It’s a very lonely feeling process at times, and confusing. And stressful. I had to go to a cancer speciality doctor that last time, and let me tell you – watching cancer patients come and go was difficult. I hope you’re okay and me too! I have used the pill for a long time and it worries me as well, but I’m not ready to be off it because my cycles are ridiculously irregular and incredibly painful. :/

  • Bekah June 9, 2011, 4:21 pm

    Just wanted to chime in to thank you for leading this conversation. Your series on FAM and birth control led me to kick my ten-year BC habit about two months ago, and I couldn’t be more thrilled! I am nervously waiting for my body to return to normal, but there are signs of hope. I decided to try FAM (still using back-up methods until we feel more confident); just knowing what my body is up to on any given day is reward enough. And yes, I have been in the exact same boat on the LEEP/history of abnormal paps. It is unbelievably stressful, so my heart goes out to you. But through ALL of this, I have learned how important it will be for me to educate and inform any future daughter I may have.

    • Caitlin June 9, 2011, 4:26 pm

      SO glad these posts have help you 🙂 Thank you!

  • R @ Learning As I Chop June 9, 2011, 5:12 pm

    Good for you for making your own decisions. I bet the holistic approach will work

  • Maria June 9, 2011, 7:28 pm

    you are so courageous for sharing your story.

    This could be TMI…but my parents used/use Natural Family Planning (NFP) and there are just three of us kids! 😉 NFP allows you to get in tune with your body and it is actually a way to bring the couple closer together.

    I know research about BC is not concrete, but we don’t need doctors/research to see that pumping your body with hormones can’t be a good thing.

    You know your body best!

  • Beth June 9, 2011, 7:53 pm

    When I had an abnormal pap a few years back, my doctor recommended I just wait it out, take some folic acid, and the cells would go away/heal themselves. The belief is that young, healthy women’s bodies are often capable of dealing with the problem on their own. And mine did. Why don’t you see someone for a second opinion?

  • Lili June 9, 2011, 9:09 pm

    I have also gone through the colposcopy and LEEP procedures a few years ago. And had to be going back for paps in every few months as well. So, I can totally relate to this pain! But things went back to normal after a year, fortunately!

  • Selena June 9, 2011, 9:18 pm

    Those photos are hilarious. I just had to give you some props for sharing and for weighing your options before just blindly doing what the doc tells you. This is one of the many things I LOVE about seeing a midwife as opposed to an ob/gyn. Yes, they do well woman care too (although you probably know that). At some point with abnormal paps they would likely send you to an ob/gyn but they are certainly more open to discussing more holistic options first. I don’t plan to have any more babys (3 is just lovely) but I will continue to see my midwife until they kick me out :).

    Good luck finding a solution that works for you and hoping for positive results.

  • Allison @ Happy Tales June 9, 2011, 9:26 pm

    Gosh Caitlin, once again you amaze me with your posts. I love how open and honest you are about something that so many women are afraid to talk about. I had no idea about your history of abnormal paps, but I hope that your next one comes back clear. At least you have a wonderful support system… and like, 300 heads to bounce ideas off of!

  • C June 10, 2011, 12:02 am

    I just have to weigh in on this discussion even though I’m so late coming in on it!

    I started taking birth control about 5.5 years ago, right before I got married (we were not sexually active before marriage). I was on the nuvaring, and I absolutely loved it. No side effects, easy to use, etc.

    Then, a little over a year ago, my husband and I decided we were ready to start trying for a baby. I went off birth control expecting to get pregnant in a couple of months. But unfortunately it didn’t happen. I started going through withdrawal symptoms from getting off bc – really bad cramping during my period, extra hair growth on my face, terrible terrible acne – it was horrible! A couple of months after getting off bc, I started charting my temperatures, only to find out that I wasn’t ovulating. My doctor at the time told me that it is normal to not ovulate every cycle and to just wait it out, which I did for about 4 months. I finally got tired of waiting and went to see another doctor.

    Long story short, I found out I had severe endometriosis, and the reason I never knew was because the bc masked the symptoms. Both of my tubes were blocked and I had many adhesions. My new doctor, who is a fertility specialist, did a laparoscopy and was able to remove all the endometriosis. Now he is trying to fix the problem of me not ovulating, and I am on my first month of fertility drugs.

    My husband and I want a baby so badly, and this past year has been the hardest year of my life. It’s one thing to not be able to have a baby when you’re ready, but it’s even harder when you’re body is not working the way it is supposed to. Infertility is so painful and heartbreaking.

    I don’t know for sure if my endometriosis and lack of ovulation were caused by birth control (although I suspect it), but if I hadn’t been on birth control I would have known a lot sooner. Looking back I regret being on it so much, and I will never take it again. The fact that it masked serious problems and made me have no idea what was going on with my body is so scary to me now.

    Two things I have learned from this experience are – 1. if you don’t trust your doctor, get a second opinion! Don’t wait around! 2. We all have to do what is best for us considering all circumstances, but always think long and hard before consistently/long term taking medication that affects the natural functions of your body. Looking back, I would rather have had a baby before we were really wanting one (given that we were married and all) than to have had to put my body through all of this. I really hate having to be be on fertility medication right now – I wish my body would just work properly, but I’m on it because of the damage done by the bc. It’s like a snowball effect.

    I’ll be thinking about your Caitlin – I hope everything clears up for you soon!

  • Leslie @ The Running Chasqui June 10, 2011, 8:56 am

    Thank you for being so open with your audience. Topics like these need to be discussed more openly, my three best friends have been dealing with the similar issues, two had to have colposcopies and the other a different procedure for cysts. This is truly more common than most of us think.

    Sending good vibes your way!

  • Jenifer June 10, 2011, 10:40 am

    Um, ok.. I spit water all over my screen and choked cracking up on the “Let’s talk about my vagina again”…

    Thank you so much for having the nads to write about the stuff that everyone thinks about, but nobody talks about!

    Here’s sending positive thoughts your way and giving you kudos for not just doing what your doc says… I think it’s interesting that 100 years ago, women didn’t have the infertiltiy issues like we so commonly hear about today. My grandmother and grandfather are both from very large families (9-11 kids) yet I struggled to have 1, and have been unable to conceive since I came off of the pill 10 years ago.

  • Rebecca June 10, 2011, 11:55 am

    First, thanks for being so open about these topics! I had several abnormal paps in my life that led to further testing. The more extensive tests never came back positive for cancer cells though. It was interesting to see the list of things that can make a pap abnormal. No doctor had ever mentioned those to me! In high school, I had ovarian cysts and endometriosis. I certainly wish that back then there would have been blogs or helpful resources where people discussed the topics openly. I took birth control pills at a very young age (shortly after I started my period and before I ever had a boyfriend) because I got so sick with each period. And I have taken just about every brand, various doses, and also had the depo shot (the shot did NOT work well for me!!!). I do not love the idea of playing around with my hormones that much. After the birth of my second child, I started taking one of the yaz brands & it gave me incredibly awful migraines. So, I am currently hormone free. Although I believe everyone has a right to make their own decision and have access to birth control, my experiences leave me thinking it is not the right choice for me. I am starting to have awful period symptoms again after years of not, but I think I am going to try a naturopath first. I hope everything you are going through is resolved soon!! Good vibes!

  • Kim June 10, 2011, 12:56 pm

    I can totally relate! I was devastated when I heard “pre-cancerous cells” the first time, but mine is from HPV. Wow. Anyways, I’ve had 2 abnormal paps and 2 colposcopies (ouch). Luckily both of mine were low-grade so I didn’t need the LEEP. And my last PAP came back normal(!) which is the first normal PAP I’ve had for a couple years now. My doctor recommended not using tampons since it can hold the infection inside your vagina instead of your period flushing it out. I hope you get a normal PAP soon. =)

  • Courtney June 10, 2011, 1:28 pm

    Late to the party on this one, but I just wanted to add my experience. I have had abnormal cells, the biopsies, and a leep (which removed like 20% of my cervix!). I have had a few abnormal paps, before the leep and then after. I have never tested positive for HPV. The first time I had an abnormal pap I went back in for a second pap and it came back clear. If I was in the position you are in to do biopsies again, etc. I would also request a second pap first. I even had an irregular pap very shortly after my leep and had to go back monthly for awhile to get rechecked. That sucked, but it was better than more surgery. I am especially careful before my paps – no sex three days before! Luckily I haven’t had another irregular for the past couple of years. I have been able to have two children even after my leep and being told I would probably have some major issues. No hormonal birth control for me anymore. Aside from the worry about the abnormal paps, it screws me up in major ways. The whole experience has been a bit traumatizing, but honestly I think getting a second pap would be my first request before anything more major. It is good to be able to talk/read/share about it because it seems like people have such a negative idea about this types of issues and they are not only common but had to deal with when you feel condemned for it! Sending lots of good and positive thoughts your way 🙂

  • brandalyn June 10, 2011, 5:54 pm

    I’ve read that a ph imblanace can cause an abnormal papsmear. Rephresh makes a probiotic called rephresh b its suppose to balance out everything down there!

  • CH June 10, 2011, 6:58 pm

    And to add one more thing, just because I don’t think anyone has discussed it…

    Birth control can be a great option. It works well for many people. In fact, I don’t even really buy the whole “it’s bad to put artificial crap in your body” thing. BUT, like any medication, for a small segment of users, there will be serious side effects. I happen to fall into that small segment.

    Last summer, I was healthy and running half-marathons one week and could not even make it a mile without gasping for breath the next week. After being short of breath constantly for about two days, I finally decided to see the doctor. I thought it was asthma, my doctor thought it might be something more sinister and sent me straight to the ER. Turns out my lungs were FULL of clots, all along the main arteries of each lung. There was scarring evidence that suggested I had had smaller clots for some time. A clot in your lung can literally cause instantaneous death. It is extremely dangerous, and if they are big enough, emergency open-chest surgery must be performed. Luckily, mine could be dissolved with medication and close monitoring (I was in the hospital three days and was sick because of various blood-thinning medications for the next six months — literally seeing the doctor three times a week for six months). But not everyone is so lucky.

    I am only sharing this story as an anecdote. I know that for the vast majority of people, BCP does work. In fact, I would say I am probably a BCP advocate. But people should always keep in mind that if they are taking BCP and start to feel short of breath or chest pain, they should see a doctor right away. There have been studies (sorry, don’t have any links; my mom told me about them — she is a doctor) that have shown that Ocella (and Yaz too, I *think*, it’s parent), which is what I took, has been linked to random, massive, and dangerous clotting in an abnormally high number of users. I am interested to see if it is taken off the market….

    Anyway, great post. Reading through the comments is fascinating, and my heart goes out to everyone who struggles. After having a near death experience related to hormones, I really feel for all of you!

    • Caitlin June 10, 2011, 10:03 pm


  • Sarah June 10, 2011, 8:18 pm

    A few years ago I also had an abnormal pap. I had a biopsy and the results were ” “INCONCLUSIVE” seriously? anyway, I had to go every 6 months for a while until it went away, the next time i went I had another abnormal pap and this time they said it was HPV.. My dotor was NOT filling me in so I switched. Since then I have had Normal paps so i dont know what was going on…
    I hope everything turns out ok!

  • ellen June 10, 2011, 8:42 pm

    It is not just the getting pregnant part I would be concerned about. I had a LEEP followed by a biopsy about 5 years before I got pregnant. The LEEP and biopsy weakened my cervix creating cervical incompetence. There is a higher incidence of incompetent cervix in women with prior LEEPS or biopsies. Anyway, bottom line–my cervix could not hold the pregnancy, so I had to get a cerclage when my cervix premature shortened (this is effacement and can proceed to dilation). I was on bedrest for 4 months and was able to carry my son until he was born 5 weeks early. If I knew what I knew now, then I would have been more conservative in my approach. Also, even a single LEEP procedures is a risk factor in cervical incompetence, so during pregnancy you should be checked for premature shortening, etc.

    • Caitlin June 10, 2011, 10:04 pm

      I am sooo glad your son is okay now. How scary!

  • amyt @ Chicken Nugget Momma June 11, 2011, 12:12 pm

    HiYa Caitlin I have been reading for a while – I’ve had this happen to me – I was in my early 20’s…I had the leep – like you I was freaked out by the whole thing, I just heard cancer…and everything else was like “whhaaat?” I didn’t have hpv either. Everything after the leep was fine – until I was pregnant with my daughter (she’s 5) when you are pregnant they do a pap – it came back abnormal – I was really worried, but my doc told me this can be a normal thing – they would do another after the baby was born, because of course they cannot do a biopsy while prego – well after I had my daughter…bam – nothing all normal again. I saw in the prior comment about the having children thing – I have had 3 – all healthy….I did have them all early – my first because I had high blood pressure during (4 wks early, she still weight 7 lbs 13 oz) my second 2 weeks early because he was going to be so big (9 lbs 2 oz) my 3rd well we’re not really sure how early because I got pregnant while breast feeding and on the pill (yea go figure) so it was hard to determine truly how far along I was – she was 8 lbs 13 oz…I was indueced with all 3 – all healthy. Sorry I sort of rambled here – but I just wanted you to know I had the leep – pre cancerous…..and had 3 healthy babies – and with my 3 had a abnormal again…then turned out to be OK. Thoughts/prayers going your way 🙂

  • Jess June 12, 2011, 6:33 am

    As an Oncology nurse that has previously worked in a prominent Gynecology-Oncology clinic, I want to make sure your readers are aware that birth control has also been shown to decrease the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancers and is often recommended for women with a pre-disposition to those cancers. Since you are already having problems with cervical dysplasia, your risk-benefit balance is different than the average woman’s, but I think it is important to acknowledge that BC is not all bad.

  • Natalie S. June 13, 2011, 9:57 am

    I know I’m about 10 posts behind on your blog, but I just want to say THANK YOU for having the openness to discuss this issue, as well as your birth control choices. When I read your comment about how if you had HPV, you’d totally tell your readers, I literally said aloud, “THANK YOU!” There’s so much stigma around STIs, which prevent adequate knowledge about their treatment and cures. I really appreciate your candidness!

    • CaitlinHTP June 13, 2011, 10:21 am

      You’re welcome! 🙂 🙂

  • Andrea @ Run, Eat, Date, Sleep June 14, 2011, 1:24 pm

    Thank you so much for posting this. I, too, had precancerous cells on my cervix, and I have to have a colposcopy and cryotherapy (freezing the cells off). I’m so glad you had no fear in posting your experience about all of this, and I’m happy for you that you’re taking a different stance than your doctor.

    My obgyn was very non-chalant about some issues I was having (severe cramps, etc), and I finally asked her for the name of a reproductive doctor. He found that I had a 6cm fibroid on my uterus that needed to be removed. During surgery, they also found and removed four large cysts and a uterine septum. Had I not been proactive in finding another doctor and getting the surgery, I would have never known about the septum that would have caused many miscarriages. The septum is like a wall dividing the uterus, so an egg would have less of a chance of implanting because there’s less room.

    Awesome for you for taking control!

    • Andrea @ Run, Eat, Date, Sleep June 14, 2011, 1:33 pm

      Also, when you’re ready to have the biopsy again, ask if they can do the cryotherapy instead? There’s almost zero risk of pregnancy problems with cryo while there is some risk with the LEEP.

  • Kristin @ Wounded Fawn June 22, 2011, 3:20 pm

    Can we talk some more about birth control. lol I am about to switch mine and I am nervous actually maybe just scared.

    My doctor which is really just whoever I see at planned parenthood since I no longer have healthy care, wants me to switch from nuva ring, to ortho cyclen, a much stronger dose of hormone to see if it will take care of my mysterious bleeding during sex. Although, she has no idea why I am bleeding she’s really pushing the pills although the bleeding could be a hormone imbalance, cysts, fibroids but still wants me to start the pills.

    I’m at the point where I just want to back and not use anything. I’ve been looking into sponges, diaphrams, FAM, pull out method…does the cervical cap still exist?
    I wish this were a forum…. lol get it goin’ Caitlin! 🙂

    • Caitlin June 22, 2011, 3:25 pm

      Ugh! I would love to know why you’re bleeding during sex instead of just covering up the symptoms! WTF!

    • Lisa July 25, 2011, 6:28 pm

      Not to get to personal, but if your partner is rather long, he could be bumping against your cervix and causing “normal” bleeding. Something to consider. Not like an injury, but causing something like spotting.

  • @kaceydian June 28, 2011, 7:05 am

    Wow…i’m always so amazed at how NOT alone I am in this. 6 years ago, I found out that I had abnormal cell growth caused by HPV. I had the LEEP, (scariest moment off my life, and the only surgery I’ve ever had) and went through the regimenof a PAP every 3 months for the first year, every 6 content for the next 2 years, and i’m happy too say, I’ve had normal annual paps ever since. I understand what you’re going through concerning birth control. In addition, I have PCOS and have been on birth control for nearly 8 years because I was only having 3-4 periods a year (you can imagine mute frustration

  • @kaceydian June 28, 2011, 7:09 am

    Wow…i’m always so amazed at how NOT alone I am in this. 6 years ago, I found out that I had abnormal cell growth caused by HPV. I had the LEEP, (scariest moment off my life, and the only surgery I’ve ever had) and went through the regimenof a PAP every 3 months for the first year, every 6 content for the next 2 years, and i’m happy too say, I’ve had normal annual paps ever since. I understand what you’re going through concerning birth control. In addition, I have PCOS and have been on birth control for nearly 8 years because I was only having 3-4 periods a year (you can imagine my frustration when that pill came out that only gives you 4 a year). In any case, I am currently off the pills and would LOVE to hear more about what you’re doing holistically!

  • liz July 20, 2011, 7:42 pm

    I randomly came across your blog and this post, and am so glad I did. I recently had a cryosurgery to remove abnormal cells due to detection of low-grade dysplasia – and despite all my questions and trust in my Dr., this post gave me TONS more info than I was able to find online or get from her. I had no idea about the birth control connection, and am a little nervous since I’ve been on it for over 5 years. I’d love to hear more about holistic methods. Best of luck, and thanks for an honest and informative post!

  • Aine @ Something to Chew Over July 21, 2011, 4:11 am

    Thanks for bringing this up Caitlin, it’s rare for people to discuss these issues which can be very isolating! I really don’t know what to think about it all to be honest.

  • Brittany @ Pretty Fit, Pretty Healthy, Pretty Happy July 22, 2011, 4:29 pm

    Oh, the wonderful biopsy and LEEP. We were pretty well-acquainted about two years ago. So I (quite literally) feel your pain. After what I went through with the biopsy, I don’t think I’d be too keen to go back for another either.

    And I agree with your concern about birth control. I’ve been on it consistently for about 3 years now, but there doesn’t seem to be an alternative for regulating things and keeping the massive amounts of pain I get every month.

    I’m keeping you in my thoughts, and I hope everything works out!

  • AmandaonMaui July 26, 2011, 4:14 pm

    You might want to watch this Ted Talk about Eating to Starve Cancer. I just saw it and thought it was brilliant.

    I decided to get off hormonal birth control a while ago and went for a copper T IUD called Paraguard. I loved it. I accidentally yanked mine out with my menstrual cup, but I’m considering getting another. I really liked it. I didn’t have to think about anything to take, I wasn’t pumping myself full of hormones as it is hormone free, and I had regular periods after years of trying to have a regular period on birth control pills.

    Even while using the IUD we continued to use condoms. We don’t want children, so we figured doubling up was a good idea.

    I wish you very good health, and I highly recommend the video I linked to.

  • LuLu July 29, 2011, 7:21 pm

    I am someone who previously was on oral contraceptives and then nuvaring. I realized that the estrogen in the birth control was triggering migraines, so I stopped approx 9 months ago. The IUD’s are great, but are generally recommended more so for women have they have had at least 1 child. I reviewed research (I am a nurse practitioner) and talked extensively with my physician and decided that a diaphragm was the best option for my boyfriend and I. I also use natural family planning, basing my ovulation date on cervical mucous, 14 days from anticipated menstruation, and if I am listening to my body, I can actually usually feel the day when I ovulate. I generally have lower pelvic pain, crampy pain for about 1 day mid-cycle. All of these methods have worked well for us. I am glad that I don’t have to use hormonal contraceptives every month. Perhaps someo of these methods might work for you.

  • Diana August 25, 2011, 9:47 pm

    Kismet! I just got a call from my doc about an abnormal reading on my recent test. This will be my THIRD coloscopy due to inflammation. She also said that there were HPV reading. Everyone gets exposed to some from of HPV in their life (not always the std), and I’ve had it come up in blood tests before as well.

    Why am I bringing this up? Because it solidifies my point that I totally agree that we have to be our own health advocates. I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and I REALLY want answers about whether this inflammation could be a symptom of something that causes my fatigue. We’ll see what they say next week, but who’s going to connect these dots if I don’t?

    Very good post. Do what you feel is right for you.

  • WebHosting August 27, 2011, 12:49 pm

    Thanks for your tips on this blog. One thing I want to say is that purchasing consumer electronics items through the Internet is not something new. The fact is, in the past decade alone, the market for online electronics has grown significantly. Today, you can find practically virtually any electronic tool and devices on the Internet, including cameras and camcorders to computer pieces and video games consoles.

  • Ellen October 4, 2011, 4:51 pm

    Hi! I read your story about HPV and wanted to share the almost exact thing happened to me. Irregular Pap, followed by a colposcopy then followed by a LEEP. 6 months after the LEEP, my pap smear was still on the fritz. I work at CMC and have access to a natural medicine database and looked up HPV. Indole-3-carbinol (a nutrient found in kale) was listed. I went to Home Economist on South, where I found a month’s supply of Indole-3-carbinol and a very helpful staff person shared with me she had also had the exact same misfortune at her gyno. She said she also treated hers with Indole-3-carbinol and also did a gentle full body detox with Flor Essence (so I decided to purchase and try as well). She also mentioned this treatment is prescribed in the book Women’s Bodies Women’s Wisdom. Well, I took the Indole 3 and the gentle tea cleanse and guess what?? One month later my pap was perfect! Just wanted to share in case this info is helpful to others.

  • KaraHadley December 1, 2011, 9:37 pm

    O’m’gosh! I am so glad I found this. I had a LEEP for high grade dysplasia a little over a year ago. I’m all clear now, but I’m still scared for what repercussions it may have for me down the line. When everything was happening I couldn’t find anyone else who knew about this stuff. Hopefully, neither of us have to go through anything like this again.

  • Sarah April 2, 2012, 1:31 pm

    Hi Caitlin! I’m just reading this post now and was wondering if you’d be open to sharing something with us. I see that you went back to natural family planning and then became pregnant shortly thereafter. As someone who openly discusses the pros/cons of this contraception method, do you think that the timing of your pregnancy coincided with what you had hoped for when you switched back from the pill to FAM? Would you still use this method after your pregnancy? Any updates on your thoughts about how this worked for you?

    • Caitlin April 2, 2012, 1:36 pm

      Hi there!

      I am so glad that I went off the pill and did natural family planning months before I actually wanted to get pregnant because it only took us 1 – 2 months to get pregnant when we wanted to. I think going off in advanced allowed my body to adjust (I know they say you can get pregnant right away, but most women I know said this was not true for them).

      I am going to probably use a Copper IUD after pregnancy. I think keeping track of temperatures will be too hard when I am getting up at irregular hours due to the baby, so this is prob the safest option for me.

      • Sarah April 2, 2012, 1:39 pm

        Good to know, thanks for all the open and honest info! Always so appreciated 🙂

  • Erin March 31, 2015, 2:29 pm

    I know this post is like 6 years old almost but I wanted to comment anyway and say thank you for writing the series – I’m going in tomorrow for a second pap six months after an abnormal one and I’m nervous. I’ve also been on birth control for a REALLY long time, which I had forgotten from reading this the first time years ago could be a risk factor. On the bright side, I’ve been on prenatal vitamins for the past 6 months (i.e. folic acid) because I’m getting married next month and we want to start trying for a baby soon after so – I’m also hopeful everything will be fine.
    Anyway, the point of this was to thank you for being public with a private issue and treating it so normally and practically – because I agree that we don’t talk about this kind of stuff often enough and everyone needs information so they can make good decisions.

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