Side-effects from birth control pills

If you’re young, healthy and don’t smoke, it’s unlikely you’ll have serious side effects from birth control pills. Some women do however, experience side effects…let’s take a look at the more common ones and what can be done.

1. Breast tenderness/enlargement:

  • This often settles after the first 1-2 months. If not, your pill may need to be changed.
  • try wearing a supportive bra
  • decrease your caffeine and salt intake
  • see your doctor if you feel a lump in your breast

2. Abnormal menstrual bleeding:

  • although unpredictable bleeding is frustrating, this usually resolves in 90% of cases after completing the third pack of pills
  • be sure to take your pill at the same time every day and not to skip any pills
  • if no improvement after 3 months, see your doctor for a possible change in pill or to consider your other contraceptive options

3. Missed periods:

  • this can be due to hormonal changes, a thyroid condition, a time of severe stress or illness
  • do a pregnancy test if you miss your period or if it’s lighter than usual and see your doctor

4. Headaches:

  • mild headaches are quite common
  • if you have a new or severe headache, or a headache associated with eye symptoms, you need to see your doctor urgently

5. Nausea:

  • this is often mild and often settles within 3 months
  • try taking your pill at night and with some food
  • see your doctor if it’s severe or doesn’t improve

6. Acne and skin changes:

  • in many cases, acne often improves whilst on the pill
  • if you’re still getting breakouts after 3 months, see your doctor: your pill may need to be changed
  • brown pigmentation of the skin – this can occur with nearly all birth control pills. Your doctor may change your pill or consider a different contraceptive option
Read  More about the free contraceptive available in South Africa

7. Weight gain:

  • many of the modern birth control pills do not cause weight gain
  • if you have unexplained weight gain after 3 months, see your doctor to consider a different pill

8. Vaginal discharge:

  • rather see your doctor to check for a possible infection

9. Mood changes:

  • if you’re feeling down or sad, or have had a previous bout of depression, you should see your doctor
  • you may need to consider a non-hormonal method of contraception instead

10. Contact lens wearers:

  • birth control pills can cause changes in vision and contact lens tolerability. If so, you should see your eye specialist

Some birth control side effects are much more serious than others. You should see a doctor urgently if you experience any of the following:

  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • abdominal pain
  • weakness or numbness of the face or a limb
  • severe headache
  • eye problems
  • loss of, or blurry vision
  • swelling, tenderness, redness of legs or calves