Birth control pills are one of the most used and popular ways of preventing pregnancies. Also referred to as oral contraceptives or ‘the pill’, these types of contraceptives come in two types: combination pills and progestin-only pills. The combination pills come with synthetic hormones—progestin and estrogen. On the other hand, the progestin only pills do not contain estrogen. Both types of pills offer effective and convenient means of preventing pregnancy. Even so, we have to realize the potential oral contraceptives side effects.
Oral Contraceptives Side Effects
Healthy women who are non-smokers have a lower chance of experiencing severe oral contraceptives side effects. For most women, most of the complications occur mainly with the pregnancy that occurs from the taking of contraceptives. However, women with special health conditions can experience unwanted side effects from taking oral contraceptives.
Smoking of cigarettes when taking oral contraceptives has been linked with the possibility of experiencing severe side effects. To reduce the likelihood of experiencing these side effects, it is advisable to quit smoking when taking oral contraceptives. The risk is directly proportional with the age of the person and how much they smoke.
Warning: Some unwanted effects can include benign liver tumors, blood clots, liver cancer or related complications such as strokes. Even though these effects are rare, they can lead to possible death. It is, therefore, advisable to discuss these effects with the doctor. Watch out for signs of stomach pain (abdominal pain), eye problems, headaches, chest pain and extremity swelling.
Common Oral Contraceptives Side Effects:
- Mood swings
- Swollen or sore breasts
- Changes in the pattern of your menses or the decrease in the amount of bleeding
- Spotting or breakthrough bleeding between menses
- Prolonged bleeding or complete stopping of menstrual flow that can go on for several months
- Occasional stopping of the menses
Less Common Oral Contraceptives Side Effects:
- Migraines and headaches that occur suddenly
- Increase in the blood pressure
- Vaginal infection characterized by itching and irritation as well as thick-white or curd-like discharge
Severe Oral Contraceptives Side Effects: The severe side effects listed below may be as a result of blood clots. It is advisable to seek emergency help if you experience:
- Coughing of blood
- Stomach or abdominal pain
- Loss of coordination
- Sudden change or loss of vision
- Pains in the groin, chest or leg (calf of led especially)
- Unexplained or sudden shortness of breath
- Sudden slur of speech
- Unexplained pain, weakness or numbness in leg or arm
Rare Oral Contraceptives side effects:
- Mental depression
- Pain, swelling and tenderness in upper abdominal area
Side Effects in Women with Special Conditions:
- For women with diabetes: Mild increase in blood sugar levels characterized by nausea, faintness, sweating and pale skin.
- For women who smoke tobacco: Pains in abdomen, side or stomach; yellow skin and eyes.
- For women with breast disease history: Lumps in breast.
There are some side effects that may occur in these women that do not necessarily require a doctor’s attention. The side effects will disappear as the body adjusts to the medicine. The health practitioner can help you by offering ways to reduce or prevent the side effects.
You should check with your medical practitioner in case you experience prolonged oral contraceptives side effects like:
- Bloating and abdominal crumping
- Tenderness, breast pain and swelling
- Unusual weakness and tiredness
- Swelling of the ankle and feet
- Loss or gain of facial hair
- Brown and blotchy spots on skin
- Weight loss or gain
- Increase sun sensitivity of the skin
- Decrease to increase in sexual intercourse interest
How to Correctly Make Use of Oral Contraceptives
You should take the medication with food or immediately after a meal to prevent the development of stomach upsets. Make it a habit to take oral contraceptives at the same time every day. This makes it easy for your body to adjust and ensures you do not forget to take them. Learn how to properly use the particular brand of contraceptive pills and follow dose recommendations to the letter. Make sure you use a supplement form of contraception during your first week of use since it takes a while before they can be effective. Follow the doctor’s guidelines if you are using the pill as a morning after pill.
Precautions for Taking Oral Contraceptives
- It is important to reveal your medical history to your doctor before you start taking oral contraceptives. Note that the use of contraceptives increases your chances of suffering from stroke, heart attacks, blood clots, vision problems, gallbladder disease and liver tumors.
- Also, consult with your doctor if you are above the age of 40 and are thinking of taking oral contraceptives as there may be health risks involved.
- Women who are near sighted and wear contact lenses may experience vision problems, and the sensitivity to the lenses may decrease. Seek medical attention if this occurs.
- If you are planning for surgery or you have been confined to a chair for a long time, notify your doctor before the prescription is made.
- You cannot use contraceptive pills while pregnant. Ensure you are not pregnant before commencing with the daily pill. Inform your doctor if you suspect you are expectant. This medication can be passed to breast milk and is, therefore, advisable not to take oral contraceptives while breastfeeding. The medication can affect breast milk production and may have harmful side effects on the infant.
Here is a brief video that explains the more common oral contraceptives side effects: