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Birth Control Side Effects

Many forms of birth control are hormone based. While effective, these forms of birth control may present several possible undesirable side effects. Hormone based methods include an oral pill, a dermal adhesive patch, injections, or the ring. The different side effects from hormonal based birth control may vary depending on the person taking it, and the type of birth control being used.

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Birth Control

Birth Control

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Headache and Dizziness

This is usually just a short term side effect when you first start using a hormone based birth control. Sometimes a particular birth control will change an existing headache pattern, for a lucky handful in a positive way. Switching to some other brand or using a progestin only pill may help with headache and dizziness.


Nausea is an unpleasant side effect that can be present with use of hormone based birth control methods. Often, it will pass a few months after commencing use of the method. If you are taking a pill by mouth, you may find it beneficial to take your pill during or after a meal. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may recommend you switch to a different pill, or just a different method. Planned Parenthood also recommends taking the pill in the evening. Choosing a different method may be the only option if your nausea doesn’t pass and you are using the patch.

Spotting or Bleeding

This side effect of hormone based birth control is very unpredictable, and little is known about its cause. Taking the pill at exactly the same time every day may help. It is a more common problem with progestin-only methods which cause the lining of the uterus to be particularly thin. Taking ibuprofen may help, or occasionally taking some estrogen. Contact your doctor for advice on the best solution for you. On the plus side, you may experience lighter, or even no periods at all.

Breast Tenderness

While usually not a severely painful side effect, breast tenderness is still uncomfortable. It is most common during the first three months of using a particular method, and may be only during your period or throughout the month. Your doctor may recommend a different birth control method. Before deciding to switch, you may want to try exercising regularly to alleviate tenderness, and wearing a supportive bra. Taking ibuprofen when your breasts are tender may also help.


Hormone related bloating usually passes within three months of starting, changing, or stopping a particular hormone based birth control method. It may cause your body to retain water, leading not only to bloating of the abdominal area, but also in the breast, feet, and hands. Adjusting hormone levels in the body may also affect the gastrointestinal tract, resulting in either diarrhea or constipation, and gas. Again, this is usually a short term side effect.

Mood Swings

It may or may not be your hormone based birth control method causing your mood swings. If there is nothing else that may be causing your mood swings and it is really your birth control, then you switching to a different formulation of hormone based birth control methods is unlikely to alleviate the problem, as it is the hormones that are causing it. If you really want to stay with your chosen method of birth control, your health care provider may prescribe an antidepressant, although this is not usually a recommended solution.

Decreased Libido

It may be the formulation of your particular hormone based birth control method that is causing your decreased sex drive. Your doctor may prescribe you a different type of the same method with a different formulation. If trying changes like this doesn’t help, you may have to find a different form of birth control entirely.

Hair Loss

Women who have a history of female hair loss in their family need to be more concerned with this side effect. It is usually minimal, but there have been instances of drastic hair loss, or times when the effect is not noticed until the woman stops using the birth control method. This usually occurs with the oral contraceptive.


There are certain hormone based birth control methods that are actually approved for the treatment of acne when used in conjunction with another acne control method, as they reduce the amount of sebum being produced and thereby decrease the hormonal acne breakouts.

Weight Gain

This side effect is probably the most well known side effect of hormone based birth control. While the amount of weight gained will vary with each individual (including none at all) the average is ten pounds in the initial year. It is caused by easier fat depository, and possibly an increased appetite. Many women find it easy to lose the weight once they stop using the birth control method.

There are always solutions to the side effects of different birth control methods, but it may take a while to find your ideal answer.

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