Oral Contraceptive Pills: Side Effects To Know

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Oral Contraceptive Pills: Side Effects To Know

While birth control pills offer greater freedom and flexibility, they do come with certain side effects.

Oral Contraceptive Pills: Side Effects To Know

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Birth control pills, also known as oral contraceptives, contain hormones that prevent the release of eggs from the ovaries during ovulation. They also thicken the cervical mucus, creating a barrier to block sperm from reaching any released eggs.

The majority of side effects caused by OCPs are usually mild and tend to subside with ongoing usage or by switching to an alternative pill formulation. Breakthrough bleeding is combined oral contraceptive pills' most commonly reported adverse effect. Women may also experience symptoms such as nausea, headaches, abdominal cramps, breast tenderness, increased vaginal discharge, or a decrease in libido. Taking the medication before bedtime can help prevent nausea. Most of these other effects will typically resolve over time or by switching to a different type of OCP.

Common side effects of oral contraceptives


Despite its numerous benefits, spotting between periods, also known as breakthrough bleeding, is a frequent occurrence among women using hormonal birth control. This side effect is typically seen more often in ultra-low-dose and low-dose hormonal contraceptives, including hormonal IUDs, implants, and birth control pills

Cardiovascular Problems

In certain cases, the use of birth control pills and patches by women can lead to elevated blood pressure and an increased risk of blood clots due to the additional hormones they contain. While these side effects are rare in the majority of women, they can have potentially severe consequences when they do occur. Therefore, hormonal birth control methods necessitate a prescription and regular monitoring.


Some women may experience side effects like nausea and bloating when using hormonal contraceptives. These symptoms often subside after a few weeks as the body adjusts to the additional hormones.

Consuming the pill with food can help alleviate nausea. Switching to a pill with lower oestrogen content may also provide relief.

Weight Gain

Although weight gain is frequently mentioned as a potential side effect of birth control pills, it has not been conclusively proven through research. Theoretically, birth control pills might contribute to weight gain by causing fluid retention or increased water weight. They could also potentially result in an increase in fat or muscle mass. However, it is worth noting that certain people may actually experience weight loss while taking these pills.

Hair Growth

Hair growth can be influenced by hormones present in birth control. While it is possible for some women to experience unusual hair growth as a side effect, it is more common for birth control to actually aid in reducing unwanted hair growth. In fact, oral contraceptives are commonly prescribed as the primary treatment for hirsutism, a condition characterised by the growth of coarse, dark hair on areas such as the face, back, and abdomen.

Irregular Periods

The use of birth control pills can lead to either extremely light periods or the absence of periods altogether. These changes are attributed to the hormones present in the pills. In certain cases, women can intentionally skip a period by using specific types of birth control pills. 

Changes In The Eye

Certain studies have found a connection between hormonal fluctuations caused by contraceptive pills and an increase in corneal thickness. Although this doesn't imply a heightened risk of eye ailments, it could potentially lead to discomfort when wearing contact lenses.

Breast Tenderness

Birth control pills frequently lead to breast sensitivity, particularly during the initial stages of consumption. In addition to heightened sensitivity, the hormones present in the pill can cause breast enlargement. 

Mood Swings

When using contraceptives, certain women may encounter shifts in mood and feelings of depression. As the body strives to maintain a delicate hormonal equilibrium, the introduction of additional hormones can potentially disturb this balance, leading to mood alterations. Women who have previously experienced episodes of depression may be more prone to mood-related side effects.


If you already experience migraine attacks, oestrogen could potentially worsen them. However, it's worth noting that for certain women, taking oral contraceptives may actually help alleviate migraine symptoms.


The birth control pill is widely used and highly effective in preventing unplanned pregnancies, and it is generally considered a safe contraceptive method. Nevertheless, there are rare instances where it can lead to significant side effects. To make an informed decision, it is important to consult with your doctor about the advantages and potential risks associated with the pill. Additionally, your doctor can provide information about alternative contraceptive options such as the shot or patch.

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