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What Are the Side Effects of Birth Control Pills?

Dr. Nancy Shannon

Medically reviewed by Dr. Nancy Shannon, MD, PhD on January 13, 2020

Birth control pills deliver a dose of hormones to alter your body’s hormone levels and prevent pregnancy. Some birth control pills contain a combination of estrogen and progestin (combination pills); others progestin-only. The hormone fluctuation can cause common side effects that tend to fade over time as your body adjusts to the new hormone levels.

Common Side Effects of Combination and Progestin-Only Birth Control

Most common side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Mood changes
  • Breast tenderness
  • Period changes, including stopped or heavier periods
  • Heightened migraine pain
  • Irregular bleeding and spotting between periods
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Weight gain

Common Side Effects of Progestin-Only Birth Control Pills

The side effects most commonly associated with progestin-only birth control pills are:

  • Period changes, including cessation of periods or heavier bleeding
  • Irregular bleeding and spotting between periods
  • More intense cramping

Rare Side Effects of All Birth Control Pills

Rare side effects of birth control pills include:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Hypertension
  • Blood clots

If you experience common or rare side effects of birth control pills, tell your prescribing healthcare provider.

For a more detailed list of the possible side effects of birth control, see the insert that came with your birth control pills or contact a Nurx medical provider.

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