How Common Are Negative Birth Control Side Effects?

Dr. Rashmi Kudesia

Most women can use hormonal birth control without experiencing adverse side effects. There’s no precise percentage of women who will experience negative side effects, as everyone’s body is different and the diverse range of side effects makes it difficult to quantify. However, there are certain risk factors that can raise your chances of experiencing serious complication with use of birth control. These include blood clots, heart problems, breast cancer, migraine headaches (specifically migraine headaches with aura), high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, or cigarette smoking. If you have any of these risk factors, talk to your doctor before going on hormonal birth control, as it may not be your best option.

This all being said, hormonal birth control changes your body’s hormonal rhythm, so there are many potential side effects you could experience. These include spotting, nausea, bloating, breast soreness, headaches, decreased libido, and temporary weight gain. All of these effects should wear off within the first three months of starting a hormonal birth control method, but if your birth control is making you feel awful, talk to your doctor about switching brands or methods. Oftentimes, symptoms are not due to the medication itself, but rather how it is formulated—so, sometimes women respond completely differently to different pharmaceutical formulations of the same pill! Hormonal birth control is not for everyone, but there are a number of other options available.

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