The oral contraceptive pill, or simply the pill, is one of the most common and effective forms of birth control available today. It’s made up of synthetic hormones that mimic natural hormones in your body, including estrogen and progesterone. Side effects are common, and they vary from person to person – but what you might not know about are some of the less obvious side effects of birth control, like increased appetite and weight gain. Here are seven surprising side effects of birth control you may have never heard about before – and how to deal with them!
Many women find that their periods become less predictable, or even stop altogether after a year or two on birth control. This is usually nothing to worry about, but it can be incredibly frustrating and difficult for women who have planned life events based around their period—such as weddings, holidays and vacations.
Dizziness is a common side effect of taking oral contraceptives. The pill thins your blood, which can slow blood flow to your brain. Luckily, if you feel dizzy when you take your pill, it should pass in an hour or so—just make sure you’re sitting upright while reading or writing in case you do get dizzy.
Hormonal methods can cause breast tenderness, but for some women, it’s a highly variable side effect. Some women don’t experience it at all; others find it incredibly uncomfortable. Breast tenderness typically lasts only while you’re taking your hormonal method—usually no more than a few months in total.
The oral contraceptive pill does not prevent mood swings. In fact, some women report an increased incidence in pre-existing conditions such as depression and PMS symptoms. If you are already prone to mood swings, talk to your doctor before taking hormonal birth control methods. The symptoms could be exacerbated by taking birth control. Alternatively, your doctor may be able to prescribe a different form of contraception that will address both contraception and mood issues.
Almost one third of women experience migraines when taking birth control. For some, it’s because of fluctuations in estrogen levels. If you’re prone to migraines, look for a pill that won’t impact estrogen levels as much.
There’s not a lot of research on birth control and acne, but some doctors believe that hormones can aggravate acne for some people. If you’ve ever had a skin condition like eczema or psoriasis, you may also be more susceptible to breakouts from hormonal birth control. A study in Contraception found that out of 600 women surveyed, 5% said their acne got worse from oral contraceptives; 23% said it stayed about the same; and 28% said it improved.
Interference with Sex Drive
One of the most common side effects for women on hormonal birth control is that it impacts libido and may reduce sex drive. In some cases, women may actually lose their interest in sex altogether. This is because hormones influence sexual desire, so when a woman’s hormone levels are higher than usual she may be less likely to feel aroused by her partner or less inclined to initiate sex herself. If you experience an unusual lack of interest in sex while on birth control, talk to your doctor about other options.