The Pill - Pros vs. Cons

Benefits, Risks, and Side Effects of the Pill

The Pill - Pros vs. Cons
The Pill - Pros vs. Cons. Lea Paterson/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

Women have been enjoying the benefits and advantages of the birth control pill since it's FDA-approval on May 9, 1960. The Pill is actually one of the most researched and studied of all medications. Most women can safely use birth control pills, but pill use may carry some risks and/or side effects. So what are some of the pros and cons of the Pill?

Pros of the Birth Control Pill:

Noncontraceptive Benefits of Combination Birth Control Pills:

Additional pill pros... Combination contraception can also provide health benefits! Birth control pills may offer you some protection against:

        → See: Noncontraceptive Benefits of Birth Control Pills

    Cancer Protection and the Pill:

    Research suggests that women who use birth control pills are only 1/3 as likely to get cancer of the ovaries (ovarian cancer) or lining of the uterus (endometrial cancer) than those who do not.

    Protection against developing these cancers can last up to 30 years after stopping combination birth control pills.

    Plus, this protection increases with each year of use. So, if you use combination pills for 6 years, your pill use can lower your the risk of ovarian or endometrial cancer by up to 60%.

    The most recent research suggests that the Pill has little, if any, effect on the risk of developing breast cancer. However, studies show that there is an 18 percent reduction in the risk of developing colorectal cancer among women who use the pill.

    Cons of the Birth Control Pill:

    If you use birth control pills, you may experience some unwelcome side effects. The good news is that most of these side effects will go away by the second or third month of use—as your body adjusts to the progestin and/or estrogen in the pill. Birth control pill side effects may include:

    Additionally, combination birth control pills could:

    Progestin-only birth control pills may lead to irregular spotting and bleeding (at least, more frequently than with combination pills).

    More About the Side Effects/Cons of the Birth Control Pill:

    You should talk to your doctor if you are still experiencing side effects from your birth control pills after three months—this may mean that your birth control pill brand may need to be changed.

    You can take your birth control pill with an evening meal or at bedtime to help decrease nausea and/or vomiting. Try not to stop taking your pill—even if you are feeling really nauseous.

    You should read the paper insert that comes inside your specific pill pack for more detailed information about the use and risks of your birth control pills. Additionally, the insert should also explain when to take take your birth control pills (and what to do if you miss a pill... or 2).

    Possible Birth Control Pill Risks and Complications:

    Serious problems do not occur very often with the Pill. Typically, birth control pills are much safer than pregnancy and childbirth.

    Women who use combination birth control pills may have a slightly greater chance of certain medical issues than nonusers. The risk increases:

    • With women who smoke
    • Being age 35 or older
    • Having conditions associated with a heart attack (such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and conditions that increase the risk of blood clotting)

    The most serious complication of combination birth control pill use has to do with developing a blood clot in your heart, lungs, brain, or legs. Women using combination pills who are confined to bed rest or are wearing a cast seem to have a higher likelihood of developing a blood clot. If you are planning to have a major operation, you should inform your surgeon that you are using combination birth control pills.

    If you have a history of depression, you may not be able to continue to take birth control pills if your depression worsens.

      → For More on Side Effects and Medical Complications of the Pill:

    Additional Pill Cons/Risks to Be Aware Of:

    There is a link between pill failure and weight. This means that the effectiveness of the pill may be compromised if you are overweight.

    You must also pay attention to the medications you are taking while using the Pill. Certain medications can lower the pill's effectiveness. Drospirenone-containing pill brands like Yaz and Beyaz can suppress the hormones that regulate your body's water and electrolyte-levels, so these pills may have an interaction with medications that increase potassium.

    When you visit any doctor, it is very important that you include your pill brand under the "list of medications" that you are currently using.

    Pros vs. Cons?

    When deciding whether or not to use the Pill, you and your doctor should discuss the pros and cons as they relate specifically to you. If you both feel that the pros outweigh the cons, and you are a good candidate for the pill. Most women who stop using the pill do so for reasons that are unrelated to side effects. That being said, keep in mind that it may take some trial and error with various pill brands until you find the brand that works best with your body.


    The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. "Practice Bulletin No. 110: Noncontraceptive uses of hormonal contraceptives." Obstetrics & Gynecology. Jan 2010; 115(1):206-218. .

    Westhoff CL, Heartwell S, Edwards S, Zieman M, Stuart G, Cwiak C, Davis A, Robilotto T, Cushman L, & Kalmuss D. "Oral contraceptive discontinuation: do side effects matter?" American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. April 2007; 196(4):412.e1–412.e7. 

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