Birth Control Pills and their Side-Effects

Adverse side effects of birth control pills are a genuine concern and something that needs to be talked about more. The pill is a highly effective method of birth control when taken at the same time every day. The pill may also be prescribed for dealing with issues such as irregular periods, heavy and/or painful periods, acne, hirsutism et al.

Common Birth Control Pill Side Effects:

Breakthrough Bleeding: Approximately 50% of the people on the pill have experienced vaginal bleeding between periods. Generally, it happens within the first 3 months of using the pill and is resolved by the time they reach the third pill pack.

Nausea: Some women complain of feeling mildly nauseated during the first weeks of being on the pill. Experts suggest taking the pill with food or at bedtime can keep this nausea away, but if it doesn’t, one must consult a health-care provider for other viable options.

Breast Tenderness: One of the side-effects of continuously raised estrogen levels in the female body. This side-effect tends to improve over time, and studies suggest reducing caffeine and salt intake can decrease breast tenderness. Wearing a supporting bra also helps!

Headaches: Pill with different doses of hormones may result in varying headache symptoms. Women who suffer from migraine are advised not to take the pill and are asked to explore other natural or hormonal options.

Anxiety or Depression: On the one hand, experts suggest that any contraceptive that contains synthetic hormones can potentially improve a woman’s mental health because of its impact on her body. For women who have a personal or family history of depression and anxiety, methods without hormones are strongly advised.

Increased Cancer Risk: According to the Breast Cancer Organization’s website, “There are concerns that because birth control pills use hormones to block pregnancy they may overstimulate breast cells, which can increase the risk of breast cancer. The concern is greater if you’re at high risk for breast cancer because of: a strong family history of the disease, past breast biopsies showing abnormal cells, or you or someone in your family has an abnormal breast cancer gene.”

Risks for women in their 30’s and 40’s

Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Levels: Gynaecologists suggest that birth control pills can affect your cholesterol levels and blood pressure. The affect, in terms of what degree, depends of the type of pill a woman is taking and what concentration of estrogen and progestin it contains. Though, birth control pills with more estrogen can have a positive impact on the blood lipid levels.

Smokers and Migraineurs: Women who smoke, even those who smoke only when they drink, should definitely avoid the pill, for both estrogen and smoking, cause blood to clot easily and rapidly. Women who suffer from migraines are also advised to explore other methods of birth control, as the pill is thought to trigger headaches and raise the risk of a resulting stroke in some migraine cases.

Breast-Feeders: Women who are breast-feeding are prescribed progestin-only pill, as it does not reduce the milk supply. Specially in case of heart disease, estrogen-based oral contraception is ill advised, but progestin-based pills are prescribed.

Depletion of Nutrients and Decreased Bone-Density: Studies have indicated that long term hormonal contraceptive use can lead to vitamin B-6, B-12, and folic acid deficiency. Also, the decrease of normative levels of estrogen can have a negative impact on bone density.

Perimenopausal Women: The most common birth control method used by perimenopausal women is sterilization, even though other options can be just as effective. Perimenopausal women suffering from heavy menstrual bleeding are advised to switch to a combination estrogen-progestrone pill to regulate the bleeding.

Drug Interactions: Women taking other pills, antibiotics included, are advised to check with their doctors because there can be drug interactions that can lower the effectiveness of oral birth control.

If you’re a woman in your late 30’s and 40’s, you still have plenty of birth control options to chose from. Consulting a health-care provider and keeping the above precaution in mind, a natural or hormonal method can be chosen to prevent an unwanted/unplanned pregnancy.


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Neha Ramneek Kapoor

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