Taking birth control pills is a highly effective method in preventing unintended pregnancy when taken correctly.
However, pregnancy rates increase dramatically in women who miss a pill (rates rise 30-80 times, according to the ARHP).
There are two types of contraceptive pills, both of which contain synthetic forms of the hormones estrogen and progesterone (progestin). Combination pills contain both of these hormones, whereas the “mini pill” – known as the progestin-only pill – contains only the hormone progestin.1
The pill may also be taken for non-contraceptive medical purposes to address issues such as:
• Regulation of menstrual periods
• Irregular periods
• Menorrhagia (heavy periods)
• Dysmenorrhea (painful periods)
• Endometriosis•Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
• Acne, hirsutism (excess hair growth) and alopecia (hair loss)
• Decreasing the risk of brea*st cysts, ovarian cysts, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and pregnancies in the fallopian tubes.
contraceptives are also used as a method to prevent ovarian and endometrial cancers. But Birth control pills however do not prevent sexually transmitted diseases.
Common birth control pill side effects
Common side effects of oral contraceptives include:
1. Intermenstrual spotting
Approximately 50% of people using the pill experience vaginal bleeding between expected periods – also known as breakthrough bleeding – most commonly within the first 3 months of starting to take the pill. Generally, this resolves in over 90% of cases by the third pill pack.
During spotting, the pill is still effective as long as it has been taken correctly and no doses were missed. People who experience 5 or more days of bleeding while on active pills or heavy bleeding for 3 or more days should contact a health care professional for advice.
Intermenstrual spotting may occur due to the uterus adjusting to having a thinner endometrial lining, or maybe due to the body adjusting to having different levels of hormones.
Some people experience mild nausea when first taking the pill, but symptoms usually subside after a short period of time. Taking the pill with food or at bedtime can help lower the likelihood of nausea. Anyone experiencing persistent or severe nausea should seek medical guidance.
3. brea*st tenderness
Birth control pills may cause brea*st enlargement or tenderness. This side effect tends to improve a few weeks after starting the pill, but anyone who finds a lump in the brea*st or who has persistent pain or tenderness or severe brea*st pain should seek medical help.
Reducing caffeine and salt intake can decrease brea*st tenderness, as can wearing a supportive bra.
The sex hormones have an effect on the development of headaches and migraine. Pills with different types and doses of hormone may result in different headache symptoms. Some studies have previously suggested that headaches are least likely to occur with pills that contain low doses of hormones.
Headache symptoms are likely to improve over time. Anyone who experiences new onset of headaches when taking the pill should seek medical attention.
5. Weight gain
Clinical studies have found no consistent association between the use of birth control pills and weight fluctuations. However, many people taking the pill report experiencing some fluid retention, especially in the brea*st and hip areas.
Fat cells can also be affected by the estrogen in birth control pills, although the hormone causes the cells to become larger rather than more numerous.
6. Mood changes
People with a history of depression are recommended to discuss this with their medical provider, as some people do experience depression or other emotional changes while taking the pill. Anyone experiencing mood changes during pill use should contact their medical provider.
7. Missed periods
There are times when, despite proper pill use, a period may be skipped or missed. Several factors can influence this, such as stress, illness, travel, and hormonal or thyroid abnormalities.
If a period is missed or is very light while on the pill, a pregnancy test is recommended prior to taking the next pack of pills; if further periods are missed or are very light, seek medical advice.
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