The Most Common Side Effects Of Hormonal Birth Control Pills
The pill is a highly effective home-based contraceptive. It works with your hormones to ensure you don't get pregnant. The problem is what else does it do to your hormones? What's the downside of all the hormone tweaking?
Hormonal birth control is popular and preferred because of it's high efficiency. Women take the pill by mouth to prevent pregnancy. When taken correctly, it is up to 99.9% effective. However, the pill does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. Apart from the pill, there are other hormonal contraceptives like the patch and the vaginal ring. However, as with almost every medication, there may be some side effects attached to the use of the Pill. We'll be examining some of the hormonal birth control side effects in this article. But first, how does the Pill work?
Hormonal Birth Control Side Effects: How Does The Pill Work?
Birth control pills work by preventing ovulation. No egg is produced, so there is nothing for the sperm to fertilize. Pregnancy cannot occur. You become pregnant when an egg released from your ovary is fertilized by a man's sperm. Hormones in your body control ovulation, and prepare your body to accept the fertilized egg.
Hormonal contraceptives (the pill, the patch, and the vaginal ring) all contain a small amount of man-made estrogen and progestin hormones. These hormones work to inhibit your body's natural cyclical hormones to prevent pregnancy. A combination of factors work to prevent pregnancy. The hormones stop you from ovulating and menstruating. Hormonal contraceptives also change your cervical mucus to make it difficult for sperm to go through your cervix. Hormonal contraceptives also prevent pregnancy by changing the lining of your womb so it's unlikely the fertilized egg will be implanted.
What Are The Side Effects Of The Pill?
The side effects that some women have while on the Pill include:
- Irregular menstrual bleeding and spotting between periods
This bleeding may happen because the uterus is adjusting to having a thinner endometrial lining or because the body is adjusting to having different levels of hormones. This usually resolves within 3 months of taking the pill. During spotting, the pill is still effective, as long as it has been taken correctly and no doses are missed.
You may experience mild nausea when first taking the pill, but symptoms usually subside after a while. Taking the pill with food or at bedtime may help. If nausea is severe or persists for longer than 3 months, you should seek medical guidance.
- Headaches and migraine
The hormones in birth control pills can increase your chance of headaches and migraine. Pills with different types and doses of hormone may trigger different symptoms. Using a low-dose pill may reduce your headaches. Symptoms normally improve over time, but if severe headaches start when you begin taking the pill, you should seek medical advice.
- Weight gain
Clinical studies have not found a consistent link between the use of birth control pills and weight fluctuations. However, you may retain fluid, especially around your breasts and hips. Most studies have found an average weight gain of under 2 kg at 6 or 12 months. This is with progestin-only birth control. Studies of other birth control methods showed the same gain.
- Mood changes
Studies suggest that oral contraceptives may affect your mood and increase your risk of depression or other emotional changes. If you're experiencing mood changes during pill use, contact your doctor.
Here Are More Hormonal Birth Control Side Effects
- Missed periods
Even with proper pill use, you may sometimes miss a period. Factors that can influence this include stress, illness, travel, and hormonal or thyroid abnormalities. If you miss a period while on the pill, we recommend you take a pregnancy test. If concerned, seek medical advice.
- Decreased libido
The hormone or hormones in the pill can affect your sex drive or libido. If decreased libido persists and is bothersome, you should discuss it with a medical provider.
In some cases, the birth control pill can increase your libido, by removing concerns about pregnancy and reducing the painful symptoms of menstrual cramping, premenstrual syndrome, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids.
Some of these side effects improve over your first 3 months on the Pill. When you have side effects, your doctor will sometimes prescribe a different brand of the Pill.
The Pill also has some side effects that you may be happy about. It usually makes your periods lighter, reduces cramps, and is often prescribed for women who have menstrual problems. Taking the combination Pill often improves acne, and some doctors prescribe it for this purpose. Combination birth control pills also protect you against some forms of breast disease, anemia, ovarian cysts, and ovarian and endometrial cancers.
Resource: Planned Parenthood