Does Progestin-Only Birth Control Have Side Effects?

Progestin-Only Birth Control Side Effects
Progestin-Only Birth Control Side Effects. Tara Moore/Getty Images

Question: What Are the Side Effects of Progestin-Only Birth Control?

Progestin is a type of hormone found in hormonal birth control. Progestin-only birth control does not contain any estrogen. These methods include Mirena, Skyla, Depo Provera, progestin-only pills, and Nexplanon. As with most hormonal contraceptives, common side effects of progestin-only birth control may occur. These side effects are usually the result of your body adjusting to the new hormone levels and usually go away after the first few months of use.


Answer: The Following are the Most Frequent Side Effects of Progestin-Only Birth Control

If you do experience any progestin-only birth control side effects, the following are the most commonly reported:

  • Dizziness
  • Spotting and irregular vaginal bleeding
  • Amenorrhea (no period)
  • Headaches
  • Longer periods
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Loss of libido
  • Increase or decrease in acne
  • Mood changes
  • Anxiety and nervousness
  • Appetite changes
  • Enlarged ovarian follicles
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Skin rash or darkened patches of skin
  • Bone density loss
  • Possible hair loss
  • Pain or itching (at the site of your Depo Provera injection or Nexplanon insert)
  • Decrease or increase (hirsutism) in facial and body hair
  • Breast tenderness
  • Minimal weight gain - 2 lbs. on average (this may occur because the progestin can cause you to be more hungry. Weight gain will not occur if you stick to your regular eating habits)

In addition to the side effects listed above, here are some side effects specific to these progestin-only birth control methods:

  • Nexplanon Users: Because Nexplanon is implanted under the skin, you may have bruising, pain, itching, irritation, tingling, burning, numbness, bleeding, scarring, and/or infection at the location where your Nexplanon was inserted. 
  • Mirena or Skyla Users: There can be possible complications during insertion of the Mirena or Skyla IUD -- these could include the risks of perforation (the IUD is pushed through the wall of the uterus), infection, and expulsion (the IUD could fully or partially fall out).

Less Common Health Complications/Side Effects of Progestin-Only Birth Control:

  • Although progestin-only birth control methods are very effective, if birth control failure occurs, you are more at risk for having an ectopic pregnancy if you are using progestin-only birth control.
  • Melasma/Chloasma -- the darkening of your skin on the upper lip, under your eyes, or your forehead.
  • Progestin-only birth control is safe for breast-feeding mothers. But if you use progestin-only birth control after having gestational diabetes during your pregnancy, research suggests that you may be more likely to develop diabetes.
  • Depression.

Back to Main Page: Common Questions About Hormonal Birth Control Questions

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Raymond EG (2007). Progestin-only pills. In RA Hatcher et al., eds., Contraceptive Technology, 19th ed., pp. 181-191. New York: Ardent Media.

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