Common Side Effects Of Birth Control And How To Manage Them

Common Side Effects Of Birth Control And How To Manage Them

Birth control pills are a type of contraception that are more than 90% effective at preventing pregnancy when used correctly. In addition to preventing pregnancy, birth control pills offer multiple other benefits, including lower risk for cancer and clear skin. Like any medicine, birth control does contain some associated side effects. In the following short article, we discuss common side effects of birth control, from menstrual cramps to mood changes. We also cover birth control patch side effects and discuss how to manage birth control side effects. 

10 Common Side Effects Of The Birth Control Pill

In general, birth control is safe and effective if taken at the proper time and in the proper amount. Birth control is a hormonal medicine, so it may cause minor changes in hormones resulting in mood changes, weight gain, and decreased sex drive. Most side effects are mild and should disappear within a few days or weeks. 

  • Spotting Between Periods

Mild spotting or bleeding between periods is common during the first few months of using any birth control pill. Breakthrough bleeding which at various times during your menstrual cycle is also quite common and is usually nothing to be concerned about. 

  • Breast Tenderness

Birth control pills may cause breast enlargement or tenderness, though this side effect is usually nothing to worry about. If this tenderness progresses to pain, or if you find a significant lump in your breast, talk to a healthcare professional immediately. These seemingly innocuous side effects may be early signs of breast cancer. 

  • Nausea

Many people experience mild nausea when first taking the birth control pill. Although this side effect is quite common, it often subsides within a couple of days. Taking the pill in conjunction with food or water can help mitigate nausea. If nausea resulting from the birth control pill lasts longer than a few days, talk to your doctor. 

  • Migraine

Birth control pills work to reduce estrogen levels in the body in order to prevent menstruation. Sometimes, this depletion of estrogen can have  The severity of these headaches can depend on many factors including type of birth control, individual hormonal levels, and diet. 

  • Mood Changes

Multiple studies have found that at least 40% of women experience mood swings while taking birth control pills. In addition, significant emotional side effects have been found to be some of the leading reasons for which women opt to discontinue their use of hormonal birth control. 

  • Weight Gain

Some women temporarily gain a small amount of weight when they first start taking birth control pills. This weight gain can be often attributed to water retention or increase in appetite, especially in women who take progestin-only birth control pills. Overall, the research on the relationship between birth control and weight gain is somewhat mixed. While one clinical study found that women gained over 4 pounds on average, others have shown no noticeable link between birth control and weight gain. 

  • Missed Periods

Some women have lighter periods while taking birth control, while others miss their period entirely. In addition, changes in birth control form, like switching from progestin-only to 

  • Vaginal Discharge

Many hormonal birth control pills thicken vaginal mucus in an effort to prevent pregnancy. In some cases, this thicker vaginal mucus can lead to vaginal discharge. It is quite common for women taking hormonal birth control to have vaginal discharge throughout the month. 

  • Decreased Sex Drive

Although birth control can lower sex drive, not everyone who takes the pill completely loses interest in sex. Sexual arousal is a complicated process that involves many factors including physical, mental, and emotional stimulation. If you do experience a decrease in sexual desire while taking the pill, there are a few possible explanations, including the following:

  • Some people remain worried about getting pregnant even after taking birth control. It’s understandable for worries about pregnancy to impact your libido. 
  • Hormonal birth control can lead to wide mood swings during which one feels either completely disinterested in sex or very engaged in sexual activity.


  • Changes  In Vision 

The estrogen in birth control pills can cause eye inflammation which may lead to vision problems. In some cases, this can interfere with the eye’s ability to produce oil, resulting in dry eyes and extremely blurry vision. Birth control pills that contain estrogen have also been found to lead to corneal thickening, which can significantly reduce vision.

Side Effects Of Progestin

Some birth control pills are classified as progestin-only pills in that they only contain the hormone progestin and not estrogen. The progestin pill works by thickening mucus between the uterus and vagina, stopping the ovaries from releasing an egg, and making it less likely for pregnancy to be initiated in the uterus. Although the progestin-only birth control pill is highly effective, it does have some associated side effects, including the following: 

  • Acne
  • Dizziness
  • Weight gain
  • Increased hair growth
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • Headaches 

Birth Control Side Effects First Week 

Within the first few days of starting birth control, side effects should remain relatively light or nonexistent. The most common side effect during this time is minor nausea, most often experienced in the morning for the first few days after initial dosage. 

Birth Control Patch Side Effects

The birth control patch is a reliable and easy birth control method if used correctly. Most people should wear the patch on their upper arm, upper chest, buttox, or lower abdomen. There are two brands of birth control patch available in the United States: Xulane and Twirla. Common side effects of the birth control patch include:

  • An increase in blood clotting problems, heart attack, stroke, or heart disease. 
  • Skin irritation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Breast tenderness or pain
  • Menstrual pain
  • Headaches

Birth Control Pros And Cons 

Like most medicines, birth control pills have many benefits and a number of side effects. While birth control can lessen menstrual pain, prevent pregnancy, and keep acne under control, it may also result in small blood clots and changes in sex drive. 


While the most important effect of the birth control pill is the prevention of pregnancy, there are numerous other benefits as well. Birth control pills are known to regulate periods, decrease menstrual cramps, and clear up skin and hair. 


If you take birth control pills, you may experience some minor side effects. Some of these side effects may occur only after your first dose, while others may be recurring. Birth control can cause nausea, vomiting, mild depression, breast tenderness, headaches, and changes in sex drive, among other side effects. 

How To Manage Birth Control Side Effects 

Most side effects of the birth control pill are relatively mild, and may disappear within just a few days. If symptoms are more severe, there are multiple ways through which you can receive treatment and alleviate symptoms. The following are a few tips that may help you eliminate the most common side effects of the birth control pill: 

  • To prevent nausea, try taking the pill at night or immediately after eating dinner.
  • To prevent headaches, try taking the pill at night. 
  • To prevent breast tenderness or mood changes, try eating anti-inflammatory foods such as fish, green leafy vegetables, and nuts. 
  • To prevent spotting: Make sure to take the pill at the same time every day. Failing to do so can decrease the effectiveness of the pills. 

Common Side Effects Of Birth Control And How To Manage Them: Summary 

Birth control pills are an effective contraceptive method that is more than 90% effective when used correctly. Birth control pills have multiple health benefits, including protecting against cancer, alleviating menstrual cramps, and mitigating acne. 

The side effects of the birth control pill include decreased sex drive, weight gain, mood changes, nausea, and breast tenderness. Some birth control pills are classified as progestin-only pills and have different side effects than other pills. 

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