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Side effects of birth control pills- Risks

The oral contraceptive pill is commonly known as pill. This is a hormone – based method of preventing pregnancy. Birth control pills can help to resolve PMS (premenstrual syndrome), acne, endometriosis, painful or heavy periods and irregular menstruation. These pills work by preventing ovulation. Egg is no produced which means there is nothing for the sperm to fertilize and pregnancy cannot happen. There are some studies in which are shown that in the United States of America, 16% of women between 15 and 44 are using birth control pills. These pills have both advantages and disadvantages.

It depends on the people which risk factor they have so doctors are recommending particular kind of pill. There are different types of contraceptive pills and all of them have synthetic form of the hormones progesterone, estrogen or both. Progestin is the name for synthetic progesterone. Also there are combination pills which have estrogen and progestin. The pill which is known as “mini pill” has only progestin. The monophasic pills have the same balance of hormones.

When women are taking phasic pills, then they are taking 2 or 3 different types of pills that are taken each month and each of them have a different balance of hormones. Also there is another option and that is to take every-day pills and 21-day pills. The pack of the every-day pills last for 28 days but 7 of these pills are inactive. When birth control pills are used correctly, then they are highly effective but people make many mistakes so 6 – 12 pregnancies in every 100 are thought to happen each year while using these pills.

It was estimated that the rate of failure for both types of pills is 9%. You should know that the birth control pills do not prevent STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) and only a condom can help to prevent this type of infection. Before you start taking birth control pills, you need to talk with your doctor. If you are breastfeeding, take medications for epilepsy or feeling depressed or been diagnosed with depression, tell your doctor. If you recently had a baby, have high cholesterol or have diabetes, then tell your doctor before start taking pills. Also if you had a miscarriage or abortion, tell your doctor.

Side effects

switching birth control pills side effects

Here are some side effects of birth control pills:

Eye changes: Birth control pills can cause hormonal changes that are linked to the thickening of the cornea in the eyes. The oral contraceptives are not linked to the increased risk of eye disease but on the other hand, the contact lenses may no longer fit comfortably. If you are using birth control pills and you are wearing lenses, then you should talk with your doctor if you noticed any changes in your vision or lens tolerance during the usage.

Vaginal discharge: When you are taking birth control pill, then there can be changes in the vaginal discharge. This can be a change in the nature of discharge or an increase or decrease in the vaginal lubrication. If the vaginal dryness happens, then the added lubrication can help to make your sex more comfortable. Usually, these changes are not harmful but alternations in the color or odor can indicate an infection. Every single person who is worried about these changes should talk with their doctors.

Decreased libido: It is known fact that hormone or hormones which are in the birth control pills can affect the libido or sex drive in some people. If the decreased libido persists and it is bothersome, then you need to talk with your doctor as soon as possible. There are some cases when the birth control pills can increase the libido, for example, such as by removing the concerns about the pregnancy and reducing the painful symptoms of menstrual cramping, PMS, uterine fibroids and endometriosis.

Missed periods: There are some cases when women who are using birth control pills properly can have missing periods. Some factors which can influence on this situation are thyroid abnormalities, hormonal abnormalities, travel, illness and stress. If the period is missed or it is very light while you are using these pills, then you should do a pregnancy test before starting the next pack. It is common for a flow to be very light or to be missed altogether on occasion. If you are concerned about your condition, then you should talk with your doctor as soon as possible.

Mood changes: There are some studies in which are said that the birth control pills can affect the mood of the user and they can increase the risk for depression or other emotional changes. If you experience mood changes during the usage of birth control pills, then you need to talk with your doctor as soon as possible.

Weight gain: There are some clinical studies in which were not found links between the use of birth control pills and weight gain but the fluid retention can happen, especially around the breasts and hips. There was one study in which was found that an average weight gain of under 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) at 6 – 12 months with the usage of progestin – only birth control pill. There are some types of birth control pills which have been linked to decrease in the lean body mass.

Headaches and migraines: It is known that the hormones in the birth control pills can increase your chances of migraine and headaches. The birth control pills which have different types and doses of hormones can trigger different symptoms. It is known that the usage of low – dose pill can reduce the incidence of headaches. The symptoms can improve as the time passes, but if the severe headaches happen when you begin taking birth control pills, then you should talk with your doctor as soon as possible.

Breast tenderness: It is known that the birth control pills can cause breast tenderness or enlargement. This usually resolves a few weeks after starting the pill. If you have severe breast pain, persistent pain or tenderness or a lump in the breast, then you need to talk with your doctor as soon as possible. Doctors are recommending wearing a supportive bra and reducing caffeine and salt intake to get a relief from the breast tenderness.

Nausea: Some women can experience mild nausea when they first start taking birth control pills but these symptoms usually subside after a while. When you are taking pill with food or before you go to bed, then this can help you. If the nausea persists for longer than 3 months or if it is severe, then you should talk with your doctor as soon as possible.

Intermenstrual spotting: The breakthrough vaginal bleeding is very common between the expected menstrual conditions. This usually gets better in a period of three months after the start of taking birth control pills. During the spotting, the pill is still effective when it is taken correctly and when doses are not missed. If you have heavy bleeding for three or more days or experience five or more days of bleeding while you are still taking active birth control pills, then you need to talk with your doctor. This bleeding can happen because the uterus is adjusting to have a thinner endometrial lining or because the body is adjusting to have different levels of hormones.


It is known fact that the combined pill can increase the risk for cardiovascular problems, such as heart attack, stroke, clot on the lung, deep vein thrombosis and blood clots. Also it is known that birth control pills can increase the risk for some types of cancers, benign liver tumors and increase in the blood pressure. Birth control pills should not be taken by:

  • Anyone who has had diabetes for at least twenty years or diabetes with complications
  • Anyone who has had or had had breast cancer or disease of the liver or gallbladder
  • People who are having severe migraines, especially with an aura as the warning sign
  • Every single person who has a close relative who had a blood clot before the age of 45 years
  • Every single person who has or has had thrombosis, a stroke or a heart problem
  • Those who are taking certain medications
  • Anyone with obesity
  • Smokers over the age 35 or anyone who stopped smoking within the last year and is over 35 years old
  • Women who are pregnant

You should talk with your doctor as soon as possible if you notice some of the following symptoms:

  • Swelling, redness or pain in the calf or thighs
  • Swelling or aching in the legs and thighs
  • Eye problems such as blurred or loss of vision
  • Severe headaches
  • Chest pain, shortness of breath or both
  • Abdominal or stomach pain
Ramesh Kumar
Ramesh Kumar
Dr. Ramesh kumar, BAMS is naturopathy doctor who is well versed with health benefits of all fruits, vegetables and medicinal plants


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