Center for Young Women's Health

Birth Control Pills:

Side Effects


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What are the possible side effects of birth control pills?

Most women have no side effects when taking the oral contraceptive pill. However, it's possible to have irregular periods, nausea, headaches, or weight change especially during the first few months. Each type of oral contraceptive pill can affect a young woman differently.

If side effects occur, they're usually mild and go away in the first three to four cycles. If you do have side effects, talk with your health care provider. If the side effects are uncomfortable or if they don't go away, your health care provider may switch you to a different kind of birth control pill.


Are there any serious side effects of birth control pills that I should be worried about?

Most young women who take birth control pills have few or no problems. If you do have any of the following problems, call your health care provider right away.


Remember: ACHES

Blood clots: A blood clot in your leg or lung is a very rare but serious side effect. If you suddenly have pain or swelling in your leg and/or shortness of breath and/or chest pain, see your health care provider right away or go to the emergency room. If you have a history of blood clots, you should not take the Pill. Tell your health care provider if anyone in your family (blood relative) has ever had blood clots, especially when they were young. The Pill increases the risk of blood clots three to fourfold, which is less than with pregnancy. Blood clots are more likely to develop if you're also a smoker, overweight, having surgery, or sitting on a plane for a long time. To lessen your chances of blood clots, don't smoke, and if you're on a long plane trip, get up, walk around, and drink lots of water. If you're scheduled for surgery, and won't be able to move around much after surgery, ask your health care provider about stopping the Pill for 3-4 weeks before surgery and after the surgery until you are up and around.


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Written and reviewed by the CYWH Staff at Boston Children's Hospital

Updated: 7/25/2013


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