Contraceptive Pills Side Effects
The Birth Control Pill

Contraception

Smoking and the contraceptive pill
According to the FDA, heavy smokers should not take the birth control pill after the age of 35.

Birth Control Pill Side Effects

Contents

What Are The Risks?
Risk Of Blood Clots
Other Less Common Side Effects
More Common Side Effects
Beneficial Side Effects

Who Should Not Use Combined Contraceptive Pills?
Who Should Not Used Progestin Only Pills?
Pros And Cons Oral Contraceptives



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Birth Control Methods
What Are The Risks?

In the past dangers associated with the contraceptive pill were limited to women aged over 35 and who also smoked. Today, newer and safer formulas afford a reasonably safe long term method of birth control for non-smoking women up until menopause. For most healthy women (regardless of age) who do not smoke, the chance of suffering severe side effects from the Pill is extremely unlikely. In fact, pregnancy in itself is much more dangerous. But for some women who have specific health problems (obesity or a family history of heart disease), the Pill can cause unwanted problems including liver cancer, blood clots and stroke. While these side effects are very rare, they can be deadly. Smoking cigarettes makes these problems more likely. The risk of death from taking oral contraceptives in nonsmoking women is 1 in 63,000, compared to 1 in 16,000 for smokers. This risk increases with age and by how much you smoke (heavy smoking is considered 15 cigarettes or more a day).

Risk Of Blood Clots

About 2 to 4 women in every 10,000 will experience a nonfatal blood clot. If you have a history of blood clots, stroke or heart attacks, you should not be prescribed the Pill. A recent study by the FDA investigated whether combination pills containing drospirenone (synthetic version of progesterone/progestin) had a higher risk of pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis (DVT) - two rare but deadly types of blood clots. They concluded that they may be associated with a higher risk. Pills containing drospirenone include Yasmin, Yaz, Beyaz, Loryna, Syeda, Gianvi and Safyral.

Signs Of A Blood Clot: Symptoms occur suddenly:
• Severe and sudden stomach pain.
• Coughing up blood.
• Severe headache.
• Loss of coordination.
• Vision changes or loss of vision.
• Pain in the legs, especially calf of leg. Or pain in groin or chest.
• Unexplained shortness of breath.
• Slurred speech.
• Numbness, pain or weakness in the arm or legs.

Other Less Common Side Effects

• Headaches and migraines. Although some women report fewer migraines, others report more.
• Increased blood pressure. Read about the birth control pill and high blood pressure.
• Increased proneness to vaginal infections with vaginal itching or irritation, or thick, white discharge.
• Women with diabetes sometimes report a slight increase in blood sugar levels resulting in faintness, nausea, sweating and pale skin.
• Mental depression.
• Pain and tenderness in the upper abdomen.
• Women with a history of breast disease may develop breast lumps.
• Women who smoke may develop stomach or side pain, or yellow skin or eyes.
• Brown, blotchy spots on skin exposed to sunlight.
• Increased or decreased libido.
• Increased sensitivity of skin to sunlight.

More Common Side Effects

• Change in menstrual bleeding patterns, such as lighter periods, spotting between periods or bleeding for longer during menses.
Tummy bloating and cramps.
• Acne - generally occurs in the first 3 months if it is going to. Some women with acne however report improvements in their condition.
• Breast pain, swelling or tenderness.
• Weight gain, see will I gain weight on the contraceptive pill?
• Dizziness.
• Nausea.
• Increase or decrease in facial hair.
• Swelling of feet and ankles.
• Unusual tiredness or weakness.
• Vomiting.

Other problems not listed can occur in some women. If you notice anything unusual, talk to your doctor.

Beneficial Side Effects

While the pill is effective in preventing pregnancy, it can also have other potential benefits:
• Shorter, lighter, less painful and more predictable periods.
• Some women report fewer menstrual migraines.
• It may improve acne.
• Lowers the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
• May lower the risk of endometrial cancer and ovarian cancer.
• May improve bone density in women approaching menopause.
• Can help improve bleeding associated with uterine fibroids and endometriosis, two painful conditions.

Who Should Not Use Combined Contraceptive Pills?

Women who:
• Are pregnant or trying for a baby.
• Are breastfeeding.
• Have unexplained vaginal bleeding (before evaluation).
• Currently have breast cancer.
• Have a history of liver tumors, active hepatitis or severe cirrhosis.
• Are aged over 35 and smoke heavily (15 or more cigarettes a day).
• Have a serious risk of cardiovascular problems. That is those with blood pressure of 180/110 or more, diabetes with vascular complications, history of blood clots, stroke, ischemic heart attacks and severe headaches with focal neurological symptoms.

Who Should Not Used Progestin Only Pills?

Women who:
• Are pregnant or trying for a baby.
• Currently have breast cancer.

Pros And Cons Of Combined Oral Contraceptives

Pros
• Safe and 99 percent reliable if used correctly.
• Reversible and fertility returns quickly.
• Easy to stop taking.
• Pills do not interfere with intercourse.
• Have non-contraceptive benefits (improves periods, protects against ovarian, uterine cancer, PID symptoms and benign breast disease).

Disadvantages
• Need to remember to take it every day.
• It is easy to forget taking it.
• Needs regular resupply and prescription.
• Has common side effects (although serious complications are rare).
• Doesn't protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Related Questions
How long does it take to get pregnant after stopping the Pill?
When is it safe to get pregnant after stopping the Pill?
Is it safe to take the pill after 35?

Pros And Cons Of Progestin Only Oral Contraceptives

The same pros and cons as combined oral contraceptives apply. However the main difference is that progestin only pills require a stricter schedule. Given that they contain a lower dosage of active ingredients, they must be taken at the same time everyday to be effective.

Popular Myths
Oral contraceptives DO NOT:

• Cause birth defects if pregnancy accidentally occurs.
• Cause infertility.
• Require a rest period - there is no medical benefit in taking a ‘break’ from the pill.
• Generally reduce libido.
• Cause a buildup of chemicals in your body.

  Related Articles on Contraceptives

For more guides, see the following:

Reproductive System Disorders: Gyno symptom checker.
Male Contraception: Can you share the contraceptive burden?
Natural birth control methods: Calendar, herbs and more.

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