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Top 5 birth control pills side effects

Birth control pills can be considered as most popular contraceptive method which is widely spread in many countries. Actually it is a kind of medicine (hormonal tablets) which can prevent pregnancy if you take it every day according to instructions. Besides preventing pregnancy, birth control pills have also other health benefits for women. Most birth control pills contain two hormones (estrogen and progestin). Pharmaceutical companies produce different types of birth control pills but they all work in the same way – preventing unwanted pregnancies and producing birth control pills side effects.

Birth control pills mechanism of action is based on three components:

  • Combined hormones stop ovulation – eliminating the possibility of egg release and fertilization;
  • Pills thicken cervical mucus which makes it difficult for sperm to enter the uterus and reach possibly released eggs;
  • Birth control pills affect also endometrium (internal uterine lining) – making difficult fertilized egg implantation (attachment to the wall of uterus);
  • Pills alter internal lining of Fallopian tubes – creating problems for moving eggs through tubes toward the uterus.

It is well known that birth control pills interfere into personal monthly hormonal fluctuations of each woman which usually creates hormonal imbalance (key point for contraceptive effect). While insuring contraceptive effect, pills develop some side effects which can be inconspicuous or severe and disturbing. Birth control pills side effects could be different including nausea, sore breasts or breast tenderness, brown discharge, menstrual irregularity, fluid retention, weight gain, acne, unexpected bleeding, missed period, headache, mood swings, depression, anxiety and decreased libido.

Special attention should be paid to side effects triggered by missed pills. It is well known that highest contraceptive effect up to 98-99% can be achieved only if pills are used correctly – every day approximately at the same time. If women miss pills or use them wrongly, side effects can be different. Check what to do in cases of missed pills on next page.

Top 5 birth control pills side effects – menstrual disturbances

Top 5 birth control pills side effects

As hormonal pills change normal fluctuations of female hormones, several menstrual disturbances can be expected including missed period, late period, irregular bleeding or even amenorrhea (absence of periods).

If women with different hormonal dysfunctions (oligomenorrhea, thyroid malfunction, fibroids, endometriosis, PCOS, diabetes) use pills, they could experience missed period or late period. Unexpected vaginal bleeding is one of common complains during use of birth control pills. Scientists explain it by monotone estrogen levels and excessively build up uterine internal lining which could trigger random bleeding or irregular spotting.

In most cases regularly and properly used pills provide regular monthly menstrual periods with lessen menstrual flow.

Top 5 birth control pills side effects – unusual vaginal discharge

According to health experts, about 50% of women taking pills experience brown or reddish vaginal discharge between menstrual periods. This situation usually noted during first three month of starting the pill and resolves during next three months.

While birth control pills provide contraceptive effect, they are changing normal hormonal balance of menstrual cycle through decreasing levels of FSH and LH. Low levels of both hormones (FSH and LH) are responsible for decreased concentrations of estrogens and progesterone – both responsible for endometrial normal development. As a result the lining of the uterus is becoming so thin that it sometimes sloughs off a little bit (appearing as unexpected brown or reddish vaginal discharge).

Other reason for unusual vaginal discharge during birth control pills could be missed pills. Missed pills are disturbing the whole hormonal mechanisms and “upset” the endometrium. Taking birth control pills at precisely the same time every day may help to prevent unusual vaginal discharge.

Top 5 birth control pills side effects – weight gain

Weight gain is common side effect of pills. Scientists explain it by fluid retention. Changed levels of estrogen also can change the distribution and size of fat cells. Women who already suffer from digestive issues could experience weight gain more often.

Birth control pills can also increase breast size and weight. Hormonal components (estrogen and progestin) of pills lead to breast tissue growth, cause fluid retention and breast edema. Women could experience sore breasts, breast tenderness and increased breasts. Swell up breasts can become so tender that even wearing a bra hurts.

Top 5 birth control pills side effects – mood swings

Birth control pills can be responsible for mood swings, depression and anxiety. According to scientists pills affect very specific part of brain responsible for mood hormones. Hormones in pills affect the brain’s biochemistry in many ways, producing emotional effects as well as the desired physical effects. Hormonal birth control pills can provoke mood swings, depression and anxiety because of the effect hormones have on complicated balance of serotonin, dopamine, GABA and noradrenaline (“feel-good” neurotransmitters in brain).

Top 5 birth control pills side effects – nausea and headache

Nausea is one of first side effects of birth control pills. According to health experts, women could experience sporadic or on-going nausea during first months of use. Pills consumption on empty stomach can make nausea worse.

Some sensitive women could also experience headaches during first month. It is just body reaction and adaptation to changed hormonal balance. In most cases headaches disappear after one month.


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