What Are The Side Effects Of Birth Control Pills
Like all medicines, birth control pills have possible side effects that you need to be aware of. There are minor side effects and also rare but serious side effects.
Minor side effects of BCPs:
Some users experience some mild nausea when first starting birth control pills. Usually this goes away within a short time. Taking your pill with food or taking it before bedtime may help. If you have persistent problems or unusually severe nausea, contact your provider.
Breast tenderness or enlargement
Mild breast tenderness or enlargement may occur after starting birth control pills. The tenderness can be reduced by decreasing your caffeine and salt intake and by wearing a bra with good support. Usually it gets better within a few weeks. If you notice persistent discomfort or a discrete lump, make an appointment with your provider.
If you develop new headaches while on birth control pills, contact your provider.
Spotting or breakthrough bleeding
This is vaginal bleeding that occurs during your active pills. This is a common side effect during the first 3 months of birth control pills use and up to 50% of users may experience this. By the third pack of pills, 90% of users are no longer experiencing spotting. Some may notice some mild menstrual cramping with the spotting but this should resolve for most by the third pack of pills as well. Contraceptive effectiveness is present even with spotting, as long as no pills have been missed.
Missed periods or amenorrhea
Does Birth Control Affect Sex Drive
Some evidence supports the theory that people taking birth control pills may experience low libidos, but there are several factors that need to be considered when evaluating a possible link. For example, a person’s lifestyle and relationship status play a major role in their sex drive.
Permanent contraceptive methods such as tubal ligation can also have long-term side effects. In rare cases, people who had tubal ligations have experienced an ectopic pregnancy, a potentially life-threatening medical emergency that happens when the fertilized egg implants in the fallopian tube instead of the uterus.
There are some potentially negative effects of using other forms of birth control for a long time . However, according to the National Cancer Institute, doing so may also reduce your risk of developing both ovarian and uterine cancers.
Lighter Less Painful Periods
If you get discomfort or pain before and during your period, you might benefit from starting to use a combined or progestin-only birth control pill.
The hormones in birth control pills dont just regulate your periods timingwhen you use them on a consistent basis, your period might also become lighter and less painful, making it easier to deal with your menstrual cycle.
Birth control pills can also shorten your period, making them worth considering if your period is usually longer, heavier and uncomfortable. Many women notice that their period finishes faster after they start using the birth control pill for several months.
Read Also: How To Get Rid Of Period Stomach Cramps
At A Glance: The Combined Pill
- When taken correctly, the pill is over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. This means that fewer than 1 in 100 who use the combined pill as contraception will get pregnant in 1 year.
- The standard way to take the pill is to take 1 every day for 21 days, then have a break for 7 days, and during this week you have a bleed like a period. You start taking the pill again after 7 days.
- You may be able to take some types of pill with no or shorter breaks , which may reduce some side effects. Speak to a doctor or nurse about your options.
- You need to take the pill at around the same time every day. You could get pregnant if you do not do this, or if you miss a pill, or vomit or have severe diarrhoea.
- Some medicines may make the pill less effective. Check with your doctor if you’re taking any other tablets.
- If you have heavy periods or painful periods, PMS or endometriosis the combined pill may help.
- Minor side effects include mood swings, nausea, breast tenderness and headaches these usually settle down in a few months.
- There is no evidence that the pill will make you gain weight.
- There’s a very low risk of serious side effects, such as blood clots and cervical cancer.
- The combined pill is not suitable if you are over 35 and smoke, or if you have certain medical conditions.
- The pill does not protect against sexually transmitted infections , so use a condom as well.
- There may be a link between the pill and depression but evidence is mixed and further research is needed.
How Do I Take The Pill
There are two kinds of birth control pills: combination and progestin-only pills. For the regulation of the menstrual cycle, including many different symptoms and signs, combination pills are used.
Usually, you are supposed to take one pill per day, every day, for 21 or 28 consecutive days. There needs to be a break after that period, whereas in week four, you either do not take any pills or take seven days worth of pills which are referred to as placebo pills and do not contain any hormones in them .
Also Check: How Many Days Between Each Period
Not Sure What To Do Next
If you are still concerned about hormonal medicines and periods, why not use healthdirects online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.
The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether its self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero .
Risks Of Other Forms Of Birth Control
Birth control pills and other forms of birth control are generally considered safe to use long-term but do carry risks that everyone taking them should know.
- Increased risk of blood clots, stroke, and heart attack:People who take birth control pills are at a higher risk of developing blood clots or having a stroke or heart attack. Pills with higher doses of estrogen are considered to raise the risk even more.
- Increased risk of some cancers:Some studies have shown that people taking birth control are almost twice as likely to develop breast cancer as people who do not take it. The risk of developing cervical cancer also appears to be higher among people taking birth control pills.
- High blood pressure:Increased blood pressure can occur in people taking birth control pills. Although the increase is typically mild, there have been rare cases where a person’s blood pressure rose to dangerously high levels while they were taking birth control.
- Increased risk of gallbladder disease: Research has shown that taking birth control pills for a long time may increase a person’s risk of developing gallbladder disease by 36%. Taking birth control pills may also increase a person’s risk of developing gallstones.
- Lowered libido: Some research has suggested that people taking birth control may have a lowered libido, though the results of several studies have been conflicting. More research is needed to determine how long-term birth control use affects a person’s sex drive.
Read Also: How To Tell When Your Period Is Coming
Anything Else I Should Know
In addition to potential side effects and risks, there are a few other things to consider before deciding to use birth control pills:
- Frequency. Youll need to take the pill every day at the same time. If you miss one dose, youll need to use a backup form of birth control for the next seven days to prevent pregnancy. In addition, after a lapse in contraception, you may have spotting or light bleeding after the missed pills.
- Intimacy. The pill doesnt interfere with any sexual activities. You wont have to pause to take it during sex.
- Time line. The pill takes about seven days to start working. If youre sexually active during that time, youll need to use a backup form of contraception.
- Protection. While it helps to prevent pregnancy, birth control pills dont provide any protection against sexually transmitted infections. Youll need to use an additional form of birth control, such as condoms, to avoid sexually transmitted infections.
Popular Reasons For Wanting To Skip Your Period
There are many reasons a woman may want to skip her period. Periods can be inconvenient for a whole number of reasons, especially if you suffer from particularly bad cramps and pains. Some women get so sick during their periods that they find themselves taking sick days from work every single month.
In this day and age, when we know how to skip a period, why not give women a chance to choose, and gain control over their cycles when they need it the most. These are some of the most popular reasons why a woman may choose to skip her period.
Read Also: My Period Is Late But I Have Cramps
Birth Control Pill Is Nutrient Depleting
Many patients are not informed of the numerous studies showing the nutrient depleting effects of oral contraceptives.
In 2013, the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Studies called for all women to be on a multivitamin while taking oral contraceptives due to the known nutrient depletions, most notably magnesium, zinc, selenium, folic acid, vitamins B2, B6, B12, vitamin C and E.
Birth control depletes the body of folic acid, which is vital in many metabolic processes and is absolutely essential should you become pregnant. Folic acid is necessary to prevent neural tube defects in a developing fetus. Unfortunately, the critical window for folic acid in development occurs before the majority of women know they are pregnant in just those first few weeks.
Now imagine if you do become pregnant while suppressing your period youve depleted your nutrients, are oblivious to the early signs of pregnancy, and the damage has taken place before you ever realized you were pregnant.
And yes, pregnancy does occur while taking birth control pill.
It is the doctors responsibility to provide a true informed consent and guide women in understanding the pros and cons of the medical decision they are faced with. This is the only way in which women can make the best decision for their body and it is their right to know that while the pill may help relieve symptoms, it may also have unwanted side effects with long term consequences.
Who Can Use The Combined Pill
If there are no medical reasons why you cannot take the pill, and you do not smoke, you can take the pill until your menopause. However, the pill is not suitable for everyone. To find out whether the pill is right for you, talk to a GP, nurse or pharmacist.
The pill may not be right for you if you:
- are pregnant
- smoke and are 35 or older
- stopped smoking less than a year ago and are 35 or older
- are very overweight
The pill may also not be right for you if you have :
- blood clots in a vein, for example in your leg or lungs
- stroke or any other disease that narrows the arteries
- anyone in your close family having a blood clot under the age of 45
- a heart abnormality or heart disease, including high blood pressure
- severe migraines, especially with aura
- breast cancer
- disease of the gallbladder or liver
- diabetes with complications or diabetes for the past 20 years
Read Also: How Late Can You Be On Your Period
How Do No Period Birth Control Pills Work
Planned Parenthood, an advocacy group, says that combination birth control pill packs tend to come with 21 active pills and 7 placebo pills. That means youll take hormone-containing pills for 3 weeks and placebo pills for the final week each month.
That final week is when youd traditionally have withdrawal bleeding. But if you carry on taking the hormone-containing or active pills continually, youll skip the bleeding part.
Why? Because the drop in hormones triggers the body to release blood and mucus from the uterus lining. This is similar to a regular period, except the uterus lining doesnt thicken each month.
If theres no change in hormone levels, 2008 research shows that the body will continue as it is. However, spotting, or light bleeding, can still occur in some people.
While you can opt for an extended or continuous schedule with any combination pill, some pills also have few or no placebo options.
And these options are specifically designed for fewer or zero periods.
Taking 2 Packets Of The Combined Pill Back
If you take a combined contraceptive pill, you can delay your period by taking 2 packets back-to-back.
How you do this will depend on which pill you take.
- monophasic 21-day pills, such as Microgynon and Cilest you take a combined pill for 21 days, followed by 7 days without pills, when you have a bleed . To delay your period, start a new packet of pills straight after you finish the last pill and miss out the 7-day break.
- everyday pills, such as Microgynon ED and Lorynon ED you take a combined pill every day. The first 21 pills are active pills and the next 7 pills are inactive or dummy pills, when you have your period. To delay your period, miss out and throw away the dummy pills, and start the active pills in a new packet straight away.
- phasic 21-day pills, such as Binovium, Qlaira and Logynon the mix of hormones in each pill is different, depending on which phase youre in. You need to take these pills in the correct order to have effective contraception. Ask your pharmacist, community contraception clinic or GP for more information.
Taking your contraceptive pills in the ways described above will not affect how they work as contraceptives.
If youre not sure which pill youre on or which pills in the packet to miss out, speak to your pharmacist, community contraception clinic or GP.
Avoid taking more than 2 packs without a break, unless your GP says you can.
Theres a risk you could experience side effects, such as:
- feeling sick
Also Check: Why Do You Get Headaches On Your Period
Side Effects And Complications:
You may experience breast tenderness, occasional headaches, nausea, and breakthrough bleeding for the first three months. These side effects are not unusual and should improve with time. If you continue to have breakthrough bleeding or have no periods at all after the first three months, please call the office so we can change your prescription. Your periods may be much lighter and should not be misunderstood as not having a period. If you have any withdrawal bleeding or spotting on the placebo pills, you do not need to call.
When To See A Provider
If you are concerned about why you missed your period on birth control, it is important to speak with a doctor or healthcare provider.
There are many potential causes of a missed period, and only a medical professional can help you determine the cause and find a solution.
Some of the reasons to see a doctor include:
- You missed more than one period in a row: While this can be a normal side effect of your birth control method, if it happens frequently, you should be evaluated to make sure that you are not pregnant or suffering from another underlying condition.
- You are experiencing other symptoms, such as pain, excessive bleeding, or fever: These could be signs of a more serious problem and need to be addressed right away.
Missing a period can be a cause for concern, but it is often nothing to worry about, and is sometimes just a side effect of your birth control type.
However, if you are concerned about why you missed your period on birth control, tracking your menstrual cycle and talking to a doctor or healthcare professional can help you determine the cause and find a solution.
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If You’re Under 16 Years Old
Contraception services are free and confidential, including for people under the age of 16.
If you’re under 16 and want contraception, the doctor, nurse or pharmacist will not tell your parents as long as they believe you fully understand the information you’re given and your decisions.
Doctors and nurses work under strict guidelines when dealing with people under 16. They’ll encourage you to consider telling your parents, but they will not make you.
The only time that a professional might want to tell someone else is if they believe you’re at risk of harm, such as abuse. The risk would need to be serious, and they would usually discuss this with you first.
Regulation Of Your Period
If you use a 21-day or 28-day birth control pill, youll get your period more or less exactly every 28 days, helping you to maintain a consistent, predictable menstrual cycle.
The 28-day cycle is most common with combined birth control pills like Yaz, Estrostep and Ortho Tri-Cyclen. These pills come in a pack of 28 thats made up of 21 active pills and seven inactive pills designed for use during your period.
When you use this type of birth control pill, youll usually start to get your period as soon as you switch from the active pills to the inactive pills. This makes it easier to predict when your period will come, letting you plan ahead of time to avoid most inconveniences.
The reason for this predictable period cycle is simple: when you use the active pills, your body stops ovulating. After you switch to the inactive pills, your body starts withdrawal bleeding in response to the lack of hormones, causing you to have your period.
These effects also means you can skip your period by continuing to take the active pills.