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Side effects of birth control pills/oral contraceptives

Introduction to side effects of birth control pills

Side effects of birth control pills otherwise known as oral contraceptives are many.
Some of these side effects are mild and well tolerated while some are not. Some occur rarely.
It is important to note that people react differently to drugs, therefore some women may experience other side effects of birth control pills other than those that are discussed here.
Like we stated earlier, some women may experience few side effects of these pills while some other women may experience additional side effects other than those listed here.
The severity and type of birth control pills\’ side effects varies among women. When they are serious and life-threatening, please inform your doctor immediately for a professional medical help.

What are birth control pills?

Birth control pills, otherwise known as oral contraceptives, are hormonal drugs that prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs during ovulation.
They thicken the cervical mucus, making it impossible for the sperm to fertilize the egg.
They are basically made to prevent pregnancies in women of childbearing ages. But then, there are other benefits or uses of these pills other than pregnancy prevention.

Types of birth control pills

There are two major kinds of birth pills.
They include the:

  1. Combined Oral Contraceptives: this involves pills that contain both estrogen and progestin.
  2. Progestin Only Pills: this contains only progestin as the name depicts.

Once these pills are taken appropriately, there is almost zero possibility of getting pregnant.
While this method of birth control is proven to be an efficient way of preventing pregnancy (with a 90 to 99% range of effectiveness), it’s certainly not without its disadvantages.

Side effects of birth control pills

The side effects of birth control pills vary among individuals in type and severity as we earlier stated.
They usually resolve after 3 months or thereabouts, though a handful number of cases has been recorded to persist after the expected few months.
In situations like this, the woman is advised to revisit her health care provider and discuss alternative methods of birth control.
Some of these side effects of oral contraceptives/birth control pills include the following:

1. Breast tenderness

This is one of the common effects affecting over 10% of the people using birth control pills.
This means that in every 10 women that use birth control pills, one of them will have breast tenderness and in every 100 women, 10 of them will have this side effect.
Breast tenderness often occurs at the onset of the consumption of the pills.
It can be reduced by wearing a comfortable and supporting bra.
There could also be slight breast enlargement as a result of the hormones.

2. Vaginal bleeding

Vaginal bleeding, otherwise known as spotting is another common side effect of the pills.
A first time user should not be alarmed at this occurrence because the body is still adjusting to the changes in the hormonal level as the uterus prepares to have a thinner lining.
It happens in between the cycles and occur as la brown discharge or light bleeding.
One should contact the health care provider if the bleeding is heavy or last longer than 5 days.

3. Vaginal discharge

There could be changes in the nature of the discharge.
This could either be a slight increase in amount of discharge or decrease in vaginal lubrication.
Lubricants can be applied to reduce dryness during sexual intercourse among women having a decrease in vaginal lubrication due to birth control pills usage.

4. Headaches or migraines

A handful of women develop headaches after starting birth control pills.
While on these pills, women with a history of migraine get them more often than before, especially when they are stressed.

5. Missed periods

Another side effect likely to cause unrest in women using oral contraceptives is the absence of monthly flow when due.
There are a lot of factors that can lead to this other than birth control pills. They include:

  • Stress (major cause)
  • Illness
  • Travel and change of environment
  • In few cases, hormonal and thyroid issues.

6. Mood changes

As our hormones are indirectly related to our moods and emotions, it is no surprise that birth control pills which contain hormones can affect our moods too.
Depression and emotional instability has been recorded with the use of these pills.

7. Nausea

A good number of women have recorded a little nausea and dizziness due to birth control pills usage.

8. Effect on contact lens

Those that wear contact lenses have discovered that they might have to change their lens due to a thickening in the cornea as a result of using birth control pills.
This particular side effect of oral contraceptives brings about an economic burden on the users of these pills.
Well, not just an economic burden alone, it brings discomfort of having to change one\’s contact lens frequently.

9. Decreased libido

Due to the hormones that are present in the pills, it can lead to a decrease in sex drive among its users.
Other rare side effects of oral contraceptives include the following:

1. Thromboembolism

Thromboembolism is a rare side effect of birth control pills. This means that it occurs seldomly.
There has been associated increased risk of thromboembolism with the use of oral contraceptives.
This blood clots can occur in the artery or vein and its symptoms is dependent on its location.
These symptoms can be one, or two, or all of the following;

  • Severe headaches
  • Pain in the chest
  • Leg pain with or without swelling and redness
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Eye problems.
  • Jaundice

2. Cervical and breasts cancer risk

It has been observed that women who are on birth control pills are at a slight higher risk of developing cervical cancer.
Although in theory, oral contraceptives should not predispose one to breast cancer, a study has reported a little risk based on the hormone receptor subtype.

3. Cardiovascular problems

Some women on birth control pills detected an increase in their blood pressure at the initial stage.
There is an increased risk of myocardial infarction and stroke among hypertensive patients using oral contraceptives.
It should be borne in mind that other options can be accessed should the individual become uncomfortable with the use of birth control pills because of its side effects.
They should not hesitate to visit their health care providers once these effects exceed more than 3 months.
And like we said at the beginning of this article, notify your doctor immediately when these effects are serious and life-threatening.

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