Women have several options when choosing birth control, including hormonal birth control methods such as the pill, the patch, injections, vaginal ring, and an intrauterine device (IUD). Other popular types of birth control include barrier methods, such as a condom. Barrier methods may cause some women mild vaginal irritation, but there are usually cause few side effects. Women are much more likely to have side effects when starting hormonal birth control methods.
All women react differently to the hormones in birth control, and side effects may differ depending on what form of hormonal birth control is used. For example, an intrauterine device may cause more cramping during menstrual periods. Birth control pills containing progesterone only, and they may cause longer periods and abdominal pain. Hormonal birth control containing estrogen and progesterone may have common side effects–such as spotting between periods, nausea, mood changes, and weight gain.
Side effects from hormonal birth control methods may start at anytime. However, they tend to be more common in the first three months. Some women find some or all side effects may lessen or resolve completely after a few months. Certain side effects may occur more often in older women. For example, blood clots occur more commonly in women over thirty-five, especially those who smoke cigarettes.
Since the estrogen in various forms of hormonal birth control methods is often the cause of side effects, a solution may include switching to birth control pills which contain only a low dose of estrogen. Exercising several times a week and eating healthily foods–such as lean meats, fresh vegetables and fruits–is also a solution in many cases. Watching calorie intake may also help reduce weight gain associated with birth control. For women who experience nausea, taking birth control pills with food may help. Quitting smoking may help reduce the risk of blood clots.
Although most side effects which occur when starting hormonal birth control are minor, occasionally very serious side effects can happen. Serious side effects include blood clots and high blood pressure. IUD users can also develop a serious infection. Watch for signs of serious problems, such as severe abdominal or pelvic pain, fever, severe headache, sudden shortness of breath, or chest pain. Serious side effects need immediate medical attention.
It’s important to remember side effects are what occur in addition to the intended effect. Not all side effects are negative. Although all women may respond differently to birth control, some may have positive side effects when starting birth control. For example, less bleeding with periods is common and can improve anemia caused by excess blood loss. Other positive side effects include an improvement in acne and less cramping with periods.