SIX Side Effects Of Contraceptive Pills 

Source: Wikipedia Commons

Source: Wikipedia Commons

ORAL contraceptives are a popular method used for preventing unwanted pregnancies. They typically contain a combination of the hormone progesterone and oestrogen or may be based on progesterone alone. Their mechanism of action is characterised by the prevention of ovulation. While they are one of the more effective methods of contraception out there, they also come with some serious and not-so-serious adverse effects to be aware of especially for certain groups (e.g those who might have experienced certain disease of the reproductive system such as fibroids). This can help ensure the right choice of contraceptive pill is made. 

  1. Nausea and vomiting: This is one of the most common side effects of contraceptive pills and can affect the effectiveness of this method of contraception. It often is a problem that resolves itself and may not require a change of contraception.  
  2. Headache and dizziness: Severe neurological effects such as serious prolonged headache, disturbances in perception and even fainting spells may arise due to the use of contraceptive pills. This can often be a reason for immediate termination of their use or pain medication may be used alongside to manage symptoms. 
  3. Irregular vaginal bleeding: Uncomfortable bleeding that is not a part of the normal cycle may occur. The bleeding is often light though some women may experience substantial bleeding. This may resolve after a couple of cycles. It should usually be investigated to confirm the cause. If it turns out to be a side effect of hormonal fluctuation that can be attributed to contraceptive pills use and does not go away on its own, withdrawal of contraceptive use is advisable to avoid excessive blood loss. 
  4. Fluid and salt retention: There is a tendency for bloating due to oedema as a result of the use of hormonal contraceptive pills. This may be addressed with the use of diuretics. Alternatively, a different form of contraception may be chosen such as intrauterine contraceptive device (IUCD). 
  5. Abdominal pain: Discomfort originating from the abdominal region may be experienced. This is often self-limiting. This may be treated with pain medication such as paracetamol. If the pain is severe it might be worth considering changing contraceptive method. 
  6. Breast symptoms: Some women may experience unusual milk let-down as a result of contraceptive pill use. This may be accompanied by breast swelling and soreness; these symptoms may be in one breast or both. It may be due to the hormonal nature of birth control pills. If symptoms do not resolve on their own it is advisable that non-hormonal methods of contraception be considered.  

It is often the case that contraceptive pills with the lowest oestrogen and/or progestogen content which help achieve optimum cycle control with little to no side effects in the individual user be chosen. If in doubt about which contraceptive pill to use or about the effectiveness and safety of the contraceptive pills you are using, it is advisable to speak to health workers that can be found in clinics and pharmacies. 

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