Contraceptive Pill
3 minute read

What Are The Side Effects of Birth Control?

Written by
Reviewed by
Dr Ai Nhi Bui

The birth control pill is one of the most popular types of contraception for women. In fact, many women start taking it before becoming sexually active due to its positive impact and benefits related to periods and acne. However, it is still a prescription medication and does have some side effects to be aware of. In this guide, we’ll go over how the pill works, the benefits of taking it and what side effects are possible. 

How does the pill work?

There are two types of birth control pills: the combined pill and the mini pill. The combined pill contains a combination of estrogen and progestin, while the mini pill only contains progestin. Both of these are hormones that help prevent pregnancy by:

  • Thickening the cervical mucus to make it difficult for sperm to enter the womb
  • Thinning the uterine lining (the endometrium) to make it difficult for fertilised eggs to implant
  • Preventing ovulation from happening, meaning there is no egg to be fertilised 

Regardless of what type of pill you’re on, you’re meant to take it at the exact same time everyday so you can maintain the correct level of hormones within your body to help prevent pregnancy. 

Benefits of the pill

Beyond preventing pregnancy, there are several benefits of taking oral contraceptives. Most women experience lighter, shorter periods, more regular cycles and lessened cramps and period pain. It can also help with managing hormonal acne. These are two of the primary reasons why women might take the contraceptive pill even if they aren’t sexually active. 

Other non-contraceptive benefits of the pill include decreased risk of ovarian and endometrial cancers, ectopic pregnancy, ovarian cysts and excess androgen production from PCOS

Birth control side effects

Like any prescription medication, there are potential side effects. Common but not serious side effects of birth control pills include:

  • Breakthrough bleeding or spotting 
  • Breast tenderness
  • Headaches
  • Nausea 
  • Weight gain
  • Mood changes 
  • Skin changes like pigmentation 
  • Low libido (not common) 

When you start taking the pill for the first time, or when you switch to a new brand, it will take your body a few months to adjust to the new hormones. These side effects are more common during the beginning stages and typically subside after 3 to 4 months. 

If you’re still experiencing any of these side effects after 4 months, talk to your doctor. 

More serious, but uncommon, potential side effects of birth control pills include:

Are there any long term side effects of birth control pills?

Many women start taking the pill in their teenage years and continue taking it well into adulthood. If you don’t experience any problems during your first year of taking oral contraceptive pills, then you can probably continue using them without any issues for many years. However, as you get older the risks of more serious side effects increases. 

Women over age 35 who are on the pill have an increased risk of developing blood clots, especially with a pre-existing cardiac disease or diabetes. There is also an increased risk of gallstones and heart attack. 

While smoking in general is not good for your health, smoking while taking the pill can have serious adverse effects. It increases your risk for blood clots, heart attacks and stroke if you combine smoking and the pill, and this risk increases further for women over age 35.

Some studies have shown a link between hormonal contraceptives and an increased risk of breast cancer and cervical cancer. However, there is a reduced risk of endometrial, ovarian and colorectal cancers. 

If you are over age 35 and want to use some form of contraception, talk to your doctor about the best options for you. There are non hormonal forms of birth control that may be better suited to your needs and health. 

Getting the contraceptive pill online with Rosemary Health

Now you can get the pill online and delivered straight to your home through Rosemary. Fill out our online, text-based questionnaire, tell us which pill you’ve been taking and our doctors will write you a script within hours. With our annual subscription care plan, you get free delivery for a whole year and unlimited follow-ups and messaging with your doctor. Get the pill online with Rosemary


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