Most medications are used because of their one particular therapeutic effect. However, invariably, they affect other organs or systems and produce some good and some adverse effects. The same happens with birth control pills (BCPs), which are the most commonly used method of contraception. It is also the most effective method. It contains the female hormones estrogen and progesterone in various combinations and these have an effect on various body functions, so it should come as a surprise that regular use of BCPs leads to a number of side effects.
Read on to know more
- Intermenstrual bleeding: This is the most common side effect and occurs in about 90% of the women, but usually subsides within 3 months. They experience bleeding between their regular periods. While mere spotting can be ignored, bleeding for more than 4 to 5 days needs a visit to the doctor.
- Missed period: It is very essential to take the pill at the same time daily. Sometimes, a period might be missed or may be very light and this should be reported.
- Effect on libido: While some report a decrease in libido, there are others who experience an increased sex drive. This depends on the individual and not consistent.
- Vaginal discharge: The amount and type of discharge can change when on the pill. Decreased lubrication may lead to a reduced sex drive, as it might be painful. If the discharge is foul-smelling or looks suspicious for an infection, then a doctor should be consulted.
- Mood changes: Changes in mood and prominent mood swings are very common in women using contraceptives, with many feeling depressed often.
- Effects on breasts: While it is not yet proven if they increase the risk of breast cancer, most women experience breast enlargement, tenderness, and sometimes pain. This is more common in between their periods.
- Headaches and migraine: BCPs are also proven to have worsening effects on migraine and headaches.
- Circulatory effects: Oral contraceptives increase the chances of heart attack and stroke, especially in women who are over 35 and are smokers. Most women experience a slight increase in blood pressure and are more prone to form blood clots. It is essential that contraceptives are used under medical guidance only.
- Digestive effects: Oral contraceptives can cause loss of appetite, changes in body weight, diarrhea, and nausea. The weight gain is also attributed to increased fluid retention, especially in the hip and breast areas.
- Skin: Some women may experience skin rashes and acne and sometimes hair loss due to the increased level of hormones in circulation.
It is very important that the pill is taken at the same time for best results. Any suspicious symptom should be immediately reported to the doctor.