Managing Side Effects of Birth Control Pills

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Summary:

Birth control pills are the most popular form of contraception for women. However, since they work by introducing artificial hormones in the body, reactions and side effects can range from easy to severe. This article provides information on common and mild side effects of birth control pills and some tips on managing them.

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Birth control pills or hormonal oral contraception, as they are also known, are cited for different side effects like lighter and regular periods, clearer skin, less menstrual cramping, and decreased risks for certain cancers. However, different women may have varying reactions to the hormones in oral contraceptives. As such, the side effects of birth control pills can range from positive to negative depending on the body’s reactions to the artificial hormones. Below are some of the not-so-nice side effects of oral contraception and ways to manage them:

Light, in-between period bleeding

Some women may experience bleeding in-between periods when they first start using oral contraceptives. While uncomfortable, this side effect is only a sign that the body is adjusting to the introduction of additional hormones. This side effect may last for up to three months but will eventually pass. Using low-absorbency tampons, sanitary pads, and panty liners can make in-between period bleeding more manageable. It is also generally advised that women who experience this side effect should take iron supplements to combat anemia.

Skipped period

Alternatively, the body may skip periods in the course of adjusting to oral contraceptive use. While this is relatively better than bleeding, skipped periods can leave a woman feeling bloated. Decreasing sodium intake can minimize water retention and the bloated sensation. However, if pill use is inconsistent or there are times of missed pill intakes, medical attention should be sought especially if a woman engaged in unprotected sex for possible pregnancy.

Nausea

Due to increased hormones in the body, a woman may feel dizzy and nauseous when taking oral contraceptives. The best way to manage this is to chart when the dizzy spells come or what triggers the nausea. For example, if dizzy spells are experienced an hour or two after taking the pill, a woman should consider changing the schedule of her pill intake to a comfortable time like before bedtime. Carrying smelling salts or soothing aromatherapy oils can make passing dizzy spells easier.

Weight change

Although some women lose weight when taking oral contraceptives, a larger number reports experiencing weight gain when taking birth control pills. While studies show that there is no causal relationship between weight gain and oral contraception, they indicate that a large percentage of the reported increase in weight of pill users are based on how women react to the mood swings and other side effects of pill use. Women can manage their weight when taking oral contraceptives by exercising portion control, staying active, and maintaining a healthy diet.

The side effects listed above are commonly experienced by many pill users. They are also minor and are easily manageable. However, if any of the following side effects are experienced, a woman is advised to seek medical attention and talk to her gynecologist or clinician about other birth control options:

* severe chest pains or shortness of breath
* severe and persistent abdominal pain
* frequent migraine attacks or throbbing headaches
* moderate to severe leg pains
* vision impairment

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