Birth Control Pills
Birth control pills are a very popular form of hormonal contraception. Some women taking birth control pills experience no negative side effects, but some women experience side effects and may want to switch to a different brand, a different dosage, or to non-hormonal contraception.
There are both potential side-effects and benefits to taking the birth control pill. Spotting The most common side-effect of the birth control pill is breakthrough bleeding, or spotting between menstrual periods. The unpredictability of this side-effect can be annoying, but it is not a serious health risk.
The birth control pill may cause blood clots in certain susceptible groups. It may be dangerous to take the birth control pill if you are a smoker, especially over age 40, if you have a blood clotting disorder, or if you have pre-existing cardiovascular disease.
There is no conclusive evidence that the birth control pill causes slightly higher rates of breast cancer. The data has been interpreted to suggest that the slight correlation may actually be due to women who are taking the birth control pill being slightly more likely to detect breast cancer early because they have to have an annual examination in order to obtain a prescription for the birth control pill.
Some women taking the birth control pill report some weight gain, but the data is controversial and newer studies suggest that modern forms of the birth control pill with lower doses of estrogen do not cause significant weight gain. Impact on Sexuality Some women report an increase in libido when taking the pill, some report a decrease, and many report no change at all.
Some women report that the birth control causes or worsens acne, but some report that their acne is less severe when they take the birth control pill. The pill is sometimes used to treat severe acne.
This side-effect is more common with older higher-dose pills, but may still occur. Nausea may be prevented by taking the pill with food, or switching to a pill with a lower dose of estrogen or a different type of contraception.
Depression/ Mood Swings
Low-dose combined oral contraceptives are not likely to cause or worsen depression, but progestin-only “minipills” are implicated in worsening depression in women who are already depressed.
High Blood Pressure
Taking the pill may increase blood pressure in some women.
Potential Health Benefits
The birth control pill decreases the risk of ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer significantly. The pill may also have a positive effect on colorectal cancer.
Birth control pills are used to treat polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis and anemia from heavy menstrual bleeding. In some women, symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and discomfort from uterine cramping can be reduced by taking the birth control pill.
If a woman has naturally irregular and unpredictable periods, the birth control pill can help regulate them. Overall, the risks of taking oral contraceptives are slightly lower than that of the risks of pregnancy and birth, and some of the side effects of the pill can be beneficial.
However, the birth control pill is not right for everyone. Other types of hormonal and non-hormonal contraceptives may be a better choice for some individuals.