Top 16 Common Side Effects of Birth Control
Starting a new birth control regimen? We all know the positives of birth control (no unwanted pregnancies! yes!), but what can we say about the negative ones? Hormonal birth control can cause some not-so-hot side-effects, it’s true, and some you may not expect.
Whether you're starting a new birth control method and wondering what awaits you, or are interested in knowing whether your birth control could be responsible for an unwanted symptom, you've come to the right place.
However, before we begin we want to highlight that hormonal birth control has been found to deplete women of several key nutrients which can be extremely debilitating.
In fact, some of the symptoms in this list can be directly caused by vitamin depletion, which is why we invented the hello.me Top Up Tonic, designed to replenish your body of exactly the nutrients birth control takes away. For more information on our product, you can click the link below.
Without further ado, here are 16 unwanted birth control symptoms that we should all be aware of:
Probably the most common birth control symptom is nausea. Many women feel queasy when beginning their hormonal birth control regimen, and the seasick feeling can go on for up to 2 or 3 months. Ouch.
You can help prevent nausea, though, by taking your pill with food or taking it closer to bedtime. Luckily, once your body gets used to the new levels of estrogen and progesterone, your icky tummy will be a thing of the past. But, if the nausea persists for longer than a few months, it may be a safe bet to talk to your doctor.
Oof, do you feel that? If your breasts feel sore after starting the pill, it’s because of the increase in estrogen and progesterone levels in your bloodstream. Breast tenderness is one of the most common side-effects of hormonal birth control, but it often subsides over time.
One possible perk? Your breasts may become enlarged after first taking the pill–some women even go up a bra size. But the longer you are on it, the less your breasts appear fuller and the less they will ache.
Oh, weight gain. How we love to hate you. Though many researchers will try to tell you otherwise, weight gain is super real if you’re new to the birth control game. Too much estrogen can cause your weight to fluctuate while progesterone can up your appetite.
Hormonal birth control can also deplete much needed vitamins and minerals that can affect your thyroid gland and also cause the scale numbers to rise. Doctors are slowly diminishing the amount of estrogen needed in hormonal birth control (while still being able to prevent pregnancy), but as of now, the struggle is real.
Beware, that headache of yours may not be caused by that impending work deadline, it could be because of your birth control. Studies found that about 10 percent of women get headache-y when first starting the pill. Though oral contraceptives can’t directly cause headaches, they can make existing ones worse.
But like some other birth control symptoms, your headaches will ease up once your body gets used to the new hormones. If they don’t, you can consider reducing the placebo days in your pill pack (as headaches tend to occur during the menstrual cycle) or switching to another form of birth control. Follow this link to find out more about if birth control can cause you headaches.
One day you’re up, the next you’re down, and some days you’re in-between. You’re not imagining it: introducing new hormones to the body can cause serious mood swings and birth control can make you emotional beyond belief.
To get scientific, estrogen helps cell growth in the uterus, and while that may be good for your lady parts, a rise in estrogen levels can cause the “reward” part of your brain to thicken. Rewards keep us going, and without them, our moods can get funky. If your mood swings persist way after four to six weeks of starting the pill, you should see your doctor.
For more information, check out our article about how your birth control and mood swings could be linked.
Depression and Anxiety
In addition to mood changes, the pill can cause other emotional turmoil, like depression and anxiety. Taking hormonal birth control messes with the levels of estrogen and progesterone in your system, and these synthetic hormones can seriously affect the balance of neurotransmitters in your brain.
B12 depletion caused by the change in hormones can wreak havoc on your serotonin levels, leaving you with less of the “happy” neurotransmitter and more of the sad feelings.
Also, progesterone is known to have a calming effect on the system, and when you mess with its levels, you can experience heightened anxiety because of your birth control. If you already have depression or anxiety, or a family history of either, you’re at an elevated risk of exacerbating already present problems.
Don’t be quick to blame the feels on your hormonal birth control: depression and anxiety can be the result of many different factors, so if you’re continually feeling down and out, or up and anxious, a call to your doctor may be what’s best. Having said that, birth control and depression could well be linked, so bear that in mind.
Decreased Sex Drive
So, how many of you are on hormonal birth control so you can have sex without worrying about pregnancy? A large percentage. Now, how many of you are experiencing a lowered sex drive since starting the pill? Yep, the pill can kill your libido. But it’s not exactly what you think.
Many women feel a dip in their sex drive on hormonal birth control, especially at the start, but it’s not the levels of hormones that are cramping your vibe: it’s the pill’s other side-effects. Who feels like having sex when they’re bloated, nauseous or in pain? Not many of us.
Don’t worry, though, when the other birth control symptoms subside, your sex drive will get back into gear–with many women claiming their libido goes into overdrive after nine months on the pill. (Yes!)
Now, this symptom is two-fold. Some studies claim that the correlation between oral contraceptives and UTIs is behavioral: women on the pill tend to have more sex and therefore have more opportunities to contract them. (Always remember to pee after intercourse!)
Other studies show that the correlation is actually scientific, citing that those on hormonal birth control (as opposed to not) are more susceptible to UTIs because women on the pill have different types and levels of inflammatory cells in their vaginal walls.
Those on progestin-only birth control are especially susceptible because research has shown that this hormone can decrease the activity of other immune cells. If you experience an increase in UTIs, you may want to contact your doctor or consider switching your form of birth control.
Periods suck and bleeding between periods can suck more. Unfortunately, more that 50 percent of women will spot between periods when first starting the pill. Unexpected bleeding can seriously put a damper on your week (and ruin your white pants.)
The reason for spotting on birth control isn’t truly clear, but not having enough estrogen in your bloodstream can cause the lining of your uterus to build up, leading to random bleeding. Most spotting happens during the first 3 months of taking the pill, and will slow to a halt after another 3 months.
Smokers are at a higher risk of spotting than non-smoking women on the pill, so consider quitting before starting a hormonal birth control. If your bleeding persists or you’re getting super heavy periods, talk to your doctor.
Bloating, it’s the worst. It changes your mood, your comfort, and sometimes your pant size. Why is that we get the big, bad, bloat while on the pill? Changes in estrogen and progesterone levels lead to water retention which causes bloating to occur.
Hormonal birth control also affects the microbes in your stomach and can cause your gut to overflow with gas-producing bacteria. Though it may feel like the day will never come, many women find bloating to lessen around 6 months after starting the Pill. Still, this can be little comfort to those of us suffering right now! Check out our blog article on birth control and feeling bloated for more info on how to stop this pesky side effect.
Feeling sluggish? It could be the progesterone levels in your birth control. Changing levels of hormones can affect adrenal function, therefore making you a little more sleepy. While tiredness on the Pill is not a common side effect, it can be very real for some women. If you’re still feeling the slump after three months, you should definitely call your doc.
Birth control and tiredness are often related however, check out our blog post for more info on the topic.
We now know the pill can cause bloating, but did you know it can cause other digestive issues, too? Taking hormonal birth control can cause constipation, loose stool and irritable bowel syndrome. In fact, those taking oral contraceptive pills are 5x more likely to develop IBS than those who don’t. Wow.
The changing levels of hormones while first starting the pill can cause bad bacteria to grow in the stomach, leading to these digestive issues. Already have IBS? Hormonal birth control can worsen its symptoms. Make sure to take probiotics while on the pill, they will help replenish your gut with friendly bacteria.
Bring out the Monostat! Like the increased risk of UTIs, hormonal birth control can also increase the frequency of yeast infections. Lowered estrogen levels can cause the yeast infections, with a higher risk of those already suffering from weakened immune systems.
The rise in infection can also be due to tampon use and new patterns of bleeding caused by the pill. Over-the-counter creams or prescription medication can get rid of the infections, but if the infections persist, you definitely want to talk to your doctor.
Supremely rare, but supremely serious, blood clots can be a devastating side-effect of hormonal birth control. Three to 10 out of every 10,000 women will develop blood clots due to the pill. (If you’re overweight or a smoker, you have an increased risk.)
Blood clots usually occur in the legs or lungs, so be aware of breathing problems and chest pains, as well as pain and swelling in your lower legs. Even if you remotely think there may be a clot, get medical attention immediately. Really, you don’t want to risk your life.
Cramps, chocolate, and emotions, oh my! Though many hormonal birth controls are designed to help PMS, some exacerbate the symptoms to the nth degree. (Great, right?) Crazy PMS (and sometimes even PMDD–premenstrual dysphoric disorder) can be caused by the drop in hormones experienced during the placebo week of the pill cycle, especially with progestin-only birth controls.
What can we do to avoid becoming a raging maniac? One way is by skipping the placebo week all together. Another is to switch to a different method of birth control with lower doses of progesterone.
Check out our article for a more in-depth look into why birth control makes you more emotional.
No one wants to look like a pimpled teen in their 20s, but, unfortunately, some birth control pills can make your skin travel back in time. Like PMS, many hormonal birth controls can help sort out your acne, but there a few, especially progestin-only methods, that can actually make your skin worse.
Progesterone may make your pores smaller, but its production of sebum (basically the oily stuff) creates a deadly combination. Small pores + oil = breakouts. If your method of birth control causes the dreaded chin zit, try switching to one with less progesterone. If your skin feels irritated, or you have redness or swelling of the face, you could also be allergic to the pill. If you experience this, contact your doctor.
Your skin could also break out in non-acne related blemishes. For more information about how birth control affects your skin, check out our blog post on the topic.
The Top Up Tonic
So there you have it! 16 of the most common side effects of the hormonal birth control Pill. We hope you feel better informed! Remember, birth control affects everyone differently so don't go away thinking that you're going to come down with all of these symptoms!
However, if you are experiencing some of these symptoms, or just want to prepare your body as best you can for birth control, why not check out our Top Up Tonic?
The Top Up Tonic replenishes your body with the essential nutrients that the birth control pill is known to deplete you of. Balance the side-effects of hormonal birth control by replenishing low levels of nutrients that are needed to help you feel like yourself again! Want to learn more? Head over to the Top Up Tonic page to get the scoop.