What Are the Possible Side Effects of the Birth Control Pill?

What You Should Know Before You Fill That Prescription

Woman taking birth control pill
BSIP/UIG/Getty Images

While the majority of women who use the birth control pill experience no side effects at all, this oral contraceptive does carry some risks. Which is the case with any pharmaceutical product that alters your body chemistry in some way.

The birth control pill in particular works by preventing a woman's body from ovulating during her monthly menstrual cycle. Your cervical mucus can also thicken, and the lining of the uterus will change.

In fact, the uterine tissue may thin out or stop growing entirely, so as to lower the chances that implantation will take place.

Because of all of the changes occurring in your body, there is the chance you will experience side effects such as:

  • bleeding between periods
  • weight gain
  • nausea
  • breast tenderness
  • headaches
  • mood changes
  • blood clots (usually occur only in women over 35 who smoke)

Most of these side effects ease up after three months on the pill. If they don't, speak to your health care provider. They may be able to prescribe a different oral contraceptive that works better for you. 

On the flip side, some women experience some particularly positive side effects thanks to their birth control. These include:

Of course, in choosing your preferred method of birth control, you'll need to weigh the pros and cons of every option.

The only method that's 100 percent effective is abstinence, and that carries one major downside. (The whole "no sex" thing.) Every other method of birth control carries some sort of risk. Talk to your doctor about the options available to you: ask about how they work, how effective they are, and what risks they carry.

Sometimes, choosing your contraceptive isn't just about success rates, but about what fits your lifestyle best.

Recommended Reading

Before You Choose a Birth Control Method. What should you be asking your doctor? Information about effectiveness, failure rates, health risk, side effects, lifestyle implications, future plans, your comfort level, your sexual behavior, and a method's effectiveness against STIs are all important.

Pregnancy Rates for Different Birth Control Methods. Birth control effectiveness is typically measured from one of two vantage points: "perfect use" or "typical use." Find out what the research has to say about the track records for multiple types of contraceptives.

The Other Benefits of Oral Contraceptives. Learn more about what the pill can do beyond just preventing pregnancy.

The Pill: Pros vs. Cons. There's far more too it than just the (positive and negative) side effects.

Real Women Discuss the Pros and Cons of Birth Control Pills. Pharmaceutical products like the pill can affect every woman differently. Learn more about what other women are saying about their experiences on the pill.

Continue Reading