Birth control pill is recognized as one of the reliable ways to stop unintended pregnancy. They are an extremely effective contraceptive if taken correctly (at the same time daily).
There are two kinds of contraceptive pills, both of which consist of synthetic forms of hormones produced naturally in the body.
The pills either include progestin alone or estrogen and progestin together. These hormones regulate a woman’s menstrual cycle, and their fluctuating levels play a crucial role in fertility.
Apart from preventing pregnancy, there are many pros of using birth control pills, including reduced menstrual cramping, regularity of menstrual cycle, acne-free skin, and lower risk of ovarian cysts as well as ovarian and endometrial cancer.
However, birth control pills can have many side effects, which doctors may not tell you. Before starting on a pill, it is important to understand both the pros as well as the cons.
Here are the top 10 side effects of birth control pills your doctor may not tell you.
1. Headaches and Migraines
Hormonal fluctuations due to birth control pills can contribute to headaches or migraines.
Certain birth control pills can lead to a decrease in the estrogen level in the body. A low estrogen level may lead to headaches or aggravate migraines if you already suffer from them.
If you suffer from headaches, switching to different pills that contain low doses of hormones can help. Consult your doctor to help determine the right pill for you.
Nausea is a result of the additional estrogen, which can irritate the stomach. Pills that contain a high dose of estrogen are more likely to cause nausea than those that have a lower dose.
Taking the pill with food or taking it before bedtime may help. Even taking an antacid about 30 minutes before taking the pill may help keep your stomach calm. Another important thing is to take it regularly at about the same time every day.
3. Breast Tenderness
Birth control pills may also cause breast tenderness or enlargement. This is a mild side effect that tends to improve a few weeks after starting the pill. This again happens due to sudden hormonal changes from the pill.
This problem is more common in women who use progestin-only pills than those who use combined oral contraceptives that contain both progestin and estrogen.
Try to reduce your intake of coffee and salt to notice an improvement. Also, wear a supportive bra to reduce discomfort.
4. Breakthrough Bleeding
Women using the pill may experience vaginal bleeding or spotting between periods. This is known as breakthrough bleeding and often occurs within the first three months of starting to take the pill.
This common side effect is mostly associated with low-dose birth control pills. The change in hormone levels makes the endometrial lining thinner and more fragile, and more susceptible to wear, tear and falling out.
5. Weight Gain
Most often, the oral contraceptive that has a high dose of estrogen causes this side effect. A high estrogen level can affect appetite and promote water retention. It can even lead to fat deposits in the thighs, hips, and breasts.
If you are worried about weight gain, opt for a pill that has less estrogen. Also, keep a close eye on your diet and do not forget to make exercise a part of your daily routine.
6. Yeast Infections
A vaginal yeast infection that causes itching, burning, soreness or irritation in sensitive areas like the vagina and vulva is another uncomfortable side effect of birth control pills.
The pill changes the balance of hormones in the body, especially estrogen, and progesterone. A higher estrogen level can cause yeast infections.
The risk for a yeast infection was doubled by use of oral contraceptives and tripled by spermicides. In fact, the risk is even higher among women who have poorly controlled diabetes, a diet high in sugar or alcohol, or a weakened immune system.
Some women may even experience changes in vaginal discharge when taking the pill. Hormonal changes in the body can lead to an increase or decrease in vaginal lubrication.
7. Mood Changes
Mood swings, as well as symptoms of depression, are another side effect that some women may experience during pill use.
This occurs because the synthetic hormones can affect the balance of certain neurotransmitters, leading to mood swings and changes in emotional state.
This side effect is common in women with a history of a mood-related disorder.
8. Visual Changes
Though eye problems are not a common side effect of birth control pills, women who wear contact lenses and take the pill may experience visual changes.
Fluid retention resulting from hormonal changes in the body may cause the cornea to swell. This may affect the shape of the cornea, leading to an ill-fitting lens. Contact your ophthalmologist if you experience this problem after starting oral birth control pills.
In addition, long-term use of oral contraceptives may be linked to glaucoma, a condition that causes damage to your eye’s optic nerve and gets worse over time.
9. Blood Clots
Blood clots are a less common but serious side effect of oral contraceptives. The risk of blood clots among women who are not pregnant and not using combination oral contraceptives is 1–5 per 10,000 women annually as compared with a risk of approximately 3–9 per 10,000 women annually among women using oral contraceptives.
Women who smoke, are overweight, are over 35 or have recently given birth are considered at higher risk. Use of combined oral contraceptives can increase your risk of blood clots even more.
10. Decreased Libido
Oral contraceptives halt the production of testosterone, which in turn can have an effect on your sexual life. It can lead to reduced interest in intercourse, decreased the ability to have orgasms and increased pain during the act.
Oral contraceptives are associated with increased pain during intercourse, decreased libido and spontaneous are usability, and diminished frequency of intercourse and orgasm.