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Birth Control Side Effects

Find out the most common side effects and risks of hormonal birth control methods.

By
Sanaz Majd, MD,

I saw a patient in my clinic recently who came in to discuss birth control options. She confided in me that even though she really wants to give it a try, she’s super afraid of hormonal contraceptives because of all the side effects she’s heard her friends complain about.  But at the same time, she knows she needs to start a method right away, because she is not yet ready to become a mother.

I encounter so many women who refuse or are terrified of the hormonal contraceptives. Instead, they prefer the “pull out” method or “natural family planning” methods, which are not very effective.  In fact, I often see women in my office who get pregnant using these methods. 

Every medication, including over-the-counter ones and vitamins, have side effect profiles.  Nothing is without risk.  And some medications work better for some people than others.  It’s important to weigh the risks and benefits of hormonal contraceptives and discuss these issues with your doctor before you make your choice.

Since it seems to be such a hot topic among my own patients, I have decided to devote this episode to the risks and adverse effects of contraceptives. Hopefully, it will answer some of your questions and help you make a well-informed decision.

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Most Common Side Effects of Hormonal Contraceptives

The most common side effects that I find my patients experiencing in response to initiating hormonal contraceptives are the following:

  • Nausea

  • Mild headache

  • Changes in mood

  • Breast tenderness

  • Irregular menstrual bleeding

  • Increased vaginal discharge

  • Weight gain

  • Skin changes

Now, most of these side effects are temporary and typically resolve within the first 3 months of use.  So if the symptoms are tolerable and you can hang in there, your body does typically adjust to the hormonal changes.

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