birth control pillsBirth control pills are one of the most effective forms of contraceptive on the market today but they come with side effects, just like other medications. Many side effects of the pill are mild and many of them will go away after the first few months of use. Some side effects, however, can be dangerous.

The ten most common side effects associated with birth control pills are:

  1. Breast Tenderness — Breast enlargement and tenderness usually go away once the pill has been taken for a few months. A supportive bra helps but so does reducing salt and caffeine intake. Let your doctor know if you find a lump in your breast or if the tenderness becomes painful and lasting.
  2. Decreased Libido — The hormones in the pill can reduce one’s interest in sex. Discuss the problem with your doctor if the problem persists.
  3. Headaches — In rare cases, the pill can cause strokes. See a doctor immediately if headaches develop.
  4. Intermenstrual Bleeding — Vaginal bleeding between periods often occurs during the first few months of taking the pill. As the body adjusts to the hormones in the pill, the bleeding usually stops. If bleeding continues longer than the first few months, if it lasts more than a few days, or is heavy, consult a physician.
  5. Missed Periods — Some birth control pills can cause missed periods. Missed periods could be a sign of illness, stress, or abnormalities with the thyroid and other hormones. When a period is light or doesn’t occur at all, take a pregnancy test before taking the next month’s pills and let your doctor know that your periods seem irregular.
  6. Mood Changes — The hormones in the pill affect one’s mood. Women with a history of depression or who experience dramatic mood changes after starting the pill should discuss symptoms with a physician.
  7. Nausea — Women sometimes become nauseated during the first few months of taking the pill. Many find relief by taking the pill with food or at bedtime.
  8. Vaginal Discharge — The pill can alter vaginal lubrication; some women report too much lubrication while others experience too little. If infection is suspected, see a doctor.
  9. Visual Changes When Wearing Contact Lenses — Contact your prescribing doctor and your ophthalmologist if vision changes occur while taking the pill.
  10. Weight Gain — Fluid retention is common when taking the pill. Reducing one’s salt intake can sometimes help.

Some side effects require immediate medical attention. Learn the ACHES symptoms and contact a physician at the first sign of symptoms:

A — Abdominal or stomach pains
C — Chest pain, including shortness of breath
H — Headache, especially if severe
E — Eye problems, including blurriness or loss of vision, regardless of contact lens use
S — Swelling, aching, or redness in the legs and thighs

Birth control pills are not advised for women 35 and older who smoke. Some medical conditions also make taking the pill risky. Be sure to discuss your medical history in full with your prescribing physician before taking birth control pills. There are other forms of contraception that are better suited to some women.


  1. Smith, Lori. "10 most common birth control pill side effects." MNT. MediLexicon International Ltd, 5 Mar. 2015. Web. 16 Mar. 2015.
  2. "Reproductive Health / Contraception: How effective are birth control methods?" CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 24 Feb. 2015. Web. 16 Mar. 2015.