Contraceptive pills commonly known as birth control pills or the pill are a form of hormonal contraception. In India, over 139 million women resort to modern contraception methods to prevent pregnancy. Oral contraceptive pills are a highly effective birth control method when taken in the prescribed manner, with only 0.1% of women experiencing an unintended pregnancy. The pills contain a synthetic form of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone, which are naturally produced in the ovaries.
Contraceptive pills prevent pregnancy by preventing ovaries from releasing an egg each month (ovulation), thickening the mucus to prevent the sperm from penetrating or thinning the uterine wall to keep the egg from implanting in the womb. Like all medicines, contraceptive pills can have adverse effects on one’s health that women should be aware of. Usually, the side effects are minor and disappear gradually, however, in some rare cases the pills can cause serious repercussions.
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Side Effects of Contraceptive Pills
Headaches & Nausea
One of the most common side effects reported by women taking contraceptive pills is headaches and nausea. This usually happens because of the oestrogen and progesterone in these pills that can trigger headaches or migraine. When first starting on birth control pills, some women may also experience mild nausea because of the hormonal changes in the body which may bring out nausea in some women. Taking the pill with food or before bedtime can reduce the likelihood of nausea. Both headaches and nausea tend to subside with time.
During the first three months of taking the pills, around 50% of women experience breakthrough bleeding or spotting. This is vaginal bleeding and occurs due to the thinning of the uterine wall and because of the changes in the hormonal levels. Spotting may occur with some menstrual cramps. However, by the third month, the spotting tends to subside. Women who experience light bleeding for more than five days or heavy flow for over three days should seek medical assistance.
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For some women, oral contraceptive pills can increase their blood pressure. The presence of extra oestrogen and progesterone in the body can also increase the risk of blood clots. However, these effects are most uncommon but when they do present themselves, they can raise serious health concerns. Additionally, women who smoke have higher chances of developing cardiovascular concerns. Women should seek immediate medical assistance if they experience trouble breathing or pain in the chest.
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Contraceptive pills can have a direct impact on a woman’s liver as the pills pass through the liver for metabolism. Oral contraceptives have been known to be associated with certain liver ailments such as sinusoidal dilation, peliosis hepatis, hepatic adenomas, hepatocellular carcinomas and hepatic vein thrombosis. Additionally, long-term usage of birth control pills may increase the risk of forming gallbladder stones and benign liver tumours. Women prone to liver ailments should be wary of oral contraception as it may aggravate their existing issues.
Some women may experience irritability, mood swings or even depression while on the pill. Ideally, all the hormones in the body should be perfectly balanced but the introduction of artificial hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, can cause hormonal imbalance in the body, leading to moodiness. Women who have previously dealt with depression may find themselves at a higher risk of experiencing mood-related side effects when taking the oral contraceptive pills. It is advisable to discuss the emotional changes or alternatives of the pills with a medical professional in such cases.
Although a highly effective and convenient method to prevent unwanted pregnancy, contraceptive pills do come with certain side effects and health ailments. While side-effects like headaches, nausea, spotting and breast tenderness subside with persistent use. Long-term usage can raise other serious health concerns such as hypertension, blood clots, liver-related complications and depression, among others. It is always recommended to visit a hospital or speak to an expert to find out which birth control method may suit your health the best.
Also, Read: 7 Early Signs and Symptoms of Pregnancy
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