21 Common Birth Control Pill Side Effects


The birth control pill is regarded as one of the most effective measures of birth control. It is also sometimes known as “the pill”. Only 0.1% of the users face unintended pregnancy. There are two types of such contraceptive pills containing synthetic forms of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. However, even though birth control pills are much effective there are few side effects.

The common birth control pill side effects include inter-menstrual spotting, nausea, breast tenderness, headaches, weight gain, mood changes, missed periods, decreased libido, vaginal discharge, visual changes with contact lenses among many others.

21 Common Birth Control Pill Side Effects You Didn’t Know About 

Inter-menstrual spotting

Light bleeding and spotting between periods is a very common side effect of birth control pill. About 50% of the women, using birth control pill, experience vaginal bleeding. This is also known as ‘breakthrough bleeding’. This happens within the first 3 months of taking the pill. This kind of bleeding occurs as the uterus adjusts a thinner endometrial lining. Sometimes bleeding occurs due to the change of hormonal level.


Nausea is one of the most common side effects of birth control pills. It is nothing vicious or dangerous. Some people face slight nausea and dizziness. But they recover soon enough. Intake of the pill at bedtime or along with food diminishes the chances of nausea.

Breast Tenderness

Birth control pills are likely to cause breast enlargement and tenderness. This common side effect is likely to recover within few weeks. However, if you feel a lump or continuous pain and discomfort then you must seek medical attention.


The sex hormones present in the birth control pills triggers headaches and sometimes migraines. Pills with different dosage cause different levels of headaches. Studies have revealed that there is less chance of headaches if the dosage of hormones is low in the pill. Headache and migraine related symptoms are likely to fade away within few weeks.


Weight Gain 

The increase rate of fluid retention in the breast and the hip area is a direct effect of birth control pill. This adds to the original weight of the user. For that reason, weight gain is a rather harmless but obvious side effect of birth control pills.

birth control pill

Mood Changes

A study published in Human Mapping in 2015 found out that birth control pills can trigger depression or sudden mood swings among the user. The hormones present in the birth control pills effect the part of the brain which is linked with reward response and evaluating incoming stimuli.

If you are experiencing unpredictable mood changes after using the pill you must consult with your doctor. Also if you are previously diagnosed with clinical depression then it is advisable that you consult with your doctor before using the pill.

Missed Periods 

Sometimes despite using proper and timely pills you might miss a period. The periods get skipped due to various factors including stress, illness, and exhaustion from travelling or hormonal or thyroid related abnormalities. If the period is missed, even after taking the pill on time, then it is advisable to undergo a pregnancy test.

Decreased Libido

The hormones present in birth control pills can affect the sex drive in a negative way. However, contraceptive pills alone do not decrease your libido. Many other factors like menstrual cramping, premenstrual syndrome, endometriosis and uterine fibroids can cause prominent discomfort in order to diminish your sexual appetite.


Vaginal Discharge

Some of the users experience vaginal discharge. It can be a fluctuating side effect causing increase or decrease in vaginal lubrication. This kind of side effect is not vicious but can alter your sex life. Usually this kind of side effects is not harmful but at the same time do check out for extremities.

Blurred Vision

The hormones present in birth control pills cause the corneas to swell or change shape. If you are wearing contact lenses, then they might not just fit. If you are experiencing drastic changes in vision, after using the pill, then you must consult your doctor.

Continuous Bleeding

Sometimes the light bleeding makes way for a heavier unnatural bleeding. A continuous spotting even after 5 days or heavy bleeding for 3 days is deemed unnatural. If you experience any such symptoms, you should contact your physicians.

Abnormal Stomach Pain

It is yet another undesired side effect of birth control pills. Constant and uncontrollable stomach pain is not a normal outcome. If you experience stomach pain within 1 or 2 days of intake of the pill, you must consult a doctor on an immediate basis.

Chest Pain

Along with stomach pain, sometimes chest pains also indicate that something is not right. It is also a prior indication that the pill has acted adversely and it is causing some serious threats. Sometimes chest pains can occur due to indigestion caused by the pill. But then it gets over on its own. However, continous and severe chest pains need medical attention.

Swelling of Legs and Thighs

Swelling of legs and things is also an adverse side effect of birth control pills. This normally happens when some vein or artery is blocked due to the wrongly intake of the pill. Seek medical attention in case you witness any such swelling.


Liver Disease

Contraceptive pills can seriously induce fatty liver syndrome in you. This is a very critical challenge as far as using birth control pills are concerned. The constant use of the pill can trigger the accumulation of fat around your liver and it can damage its functionality.

Gallbladder Disease

As typical birth control pills contain a form of progestin called drospirenone it is likely to damage your gallbladder. That is why physicians often advise against the regular usage of birth control pills. Instead they advise for other means of birth control.

Blood Clots

Oral contraceptive pills do not directly cause blood clots. However, the regular use of the pills increases the chances of blood clots by 3 to 4 times. This is due to the presence of estrogen and a progestin in the pills. Sometimes, the presence of the hormones affects adversely and causes blood to clot.

High Blood Pressure

The presence of estrogen in the birth control pills, trigger the secretion of other hormones in a woman’s body. These kinds of enhanced secretion sometimes spike-up the blood pressure, thereby harming other organs like heart.


Oral contraception or birth control pills can increase chances of ischemic strokes. Though the risk of having a stroke is less, but nonetheless the chances are there. Currently most of the pills contain as little as 20 to 35 micro grams of synthetic estrogen. Earlier amount used to be as much as 150 micro grams. It increased the risk of strokes among women. However, currently even though the chances of stroke are less, the threat persists.

Heart Diseases

The presence of certain hormones in birth control pills tends to raise the blood pressure. This might sometimes block or reduce the flow of blood, into your heart and can cause serious problems. For instance the amount of HDL “good” cholesterol could go down. At the same time, your triglycerides and LDL “bad” cholesterol may go up.


Cervical Cancer

Recent studies have found out that the use of contraceptive pills increase the chances of cervical cancer. But the chance of cancer decreases once the use of the pill is stopped. Constantly taking oral contraception for more than 5 years, at a stretch, doubles the chance of cervical cancer.

Birth control pills are definitely effective measures of restricting pregnancy. But at the same time one should remember that there are other safer forms of contraception. These alternatives include condoms, diaphragm, vaginal ring and injections. It is always advisable to consult doctors whilst taking the decision of being on contraceptive pills, on a regular basis.