Side Effects of Birth Control Pills

Approved by the US FDA in 1960, The Pill is the most popular form of reversible female contraception. Side effects have reduced drastically over the years due to the use of fewer hormones, but initial use will have side effects that are caused by a sudden hormonal change in the body.
HerHaleness Staff
Last Updated: Apr 23, 2018
The woman of today has got a vast choice when she has to choose the method of contraception. In the olden days she had to rely on calculations based on her menstrual cycle. Withdrawal was the other technique. Both these techniques were very cumbersome and totally unreliable. The options available today include fitting an IUD (intra-uterine device), diaphragm, spermicides, and hormonal aids which include the pill, injections, and vaginal rings containing synthetic hormones. Every method has got its own advantages and disadvantages.
Out of all the above contraceptives, the pill is the most widely used, worldwide. The reason being its ease and reliability. Side effects of the pill have reduced drastically since they were first introduced. This is due to the reduced levels of hormones in the pills.
• Nausea
• Vomiting
• Dizziness
• Tiredness
• Headache
• Breast tenderness
• Abdominal pain
• Mood swings
• Irregular menstrual bleeding
• Weight gain
• Increase in the migraine frequency
• Depression
• Acne
• Decreased sex drive
Most times these symptoms gradually reduce with the regular use of the pill. Moreover, if you are a woman who enjoys good health and does not smoke, it is safe to be on the pill regularly.
Uncommon but Serious Side Effects
  • Sudden shortness of breath accompanied by chest pain
  • Blurring of vision
  • Unexplained severe headache
  • Numbness in the arms
  • Severe abdominal cramps or pain
  • Blood clots
  • Heart attack
  • High blood pressure
  • Strokes
Women who are on the pill and experience any of the above side effects must consult their gynecologist immediately.
Who Should Not Use the Pill
Almost every woman can safely use the pill, however, there are those who cannot use it due to certain medical or other conditions. They can include women who have...
  • ...regular blood clots
  • ...diabetes (can be taken only under medical supervision)
  • ...cardiac problems
  • ...blood pressure
  • ...known liver ailments
  • Who are on antibiotics and other strong medication
  • Who are over the age of 35 and they smoke
Other Possible Side Effects
Hair loss is one of the possible side effects of birth control pills. Women who are susceptible to hair loss, associated with hormonal changes can experience hair loss at varying degrees while using the pills or sometimes several weeks after stopping the intake of the pill.
Apart from this, vaginal itching, vaginal discharge, discomfort, tiny skin-colored bumps on arms, legs, stomach etc., are certain possible side effects, which occur mostly when you either switch to some other brand of the pill or when you stop the pill intake. If these symptoms persist for a long time, get in touch with your health care professional immediately.
On the flip side, there are certain advantages of using birth control pills, which we need to consider before ruling it out from the list of safe birth control options.
  • It is easy to use.
  • It can be used for emergency contraception.
  • Regular use helps maintain a regular period that is lighter and less painful.
  • It was previously believed that regular use of the pill caused cancer, but advanced studies have proved just the opposite. Regular use of the pill actually reduces the risk of ovarian cancer.
  • The pill has also proved to help women who have symptoms of PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome).
  • Acne is noticeably reduced with regular use of the pill.
  • Another big advantage is that total fertility is restored when use of the pill is stopped.
It is always advisable to visit your gynecologist and get a thorough check-up done before you start taking the pill. If you notice any abnormal symptoms please consult your gynecologist immediately. Find out if you can continue taking the pill when you have been prescribed some other medication. There is no need to despair if you can't take the pill; there are many more safe options that you can still choose from.
Disclaimer: This HerHaleness article is for informative purposes only and does not, in any way, intend to replace the advice of a medical expert.