Side effects of the combined contraceptive pill

What you should know before taking the pill


The combined contraceptive pill is one of the most common methods of birth control. It's non-invasive, easy to start, and you can stop it at any time. The pill works by creating an artificial menstrual cycle, releasing estrogen and progesterone to prevent ovulation. It will also make the lining of the womb thinner and the mucus of the womb's neck thicker to make it harder for sperm to reach an egg.


What are the advantages of the pill?

The pill works well for many women. It's easy to take and makes for a convenient form of contraception. It can help combat PMS and period pain, so you can usually expect your periods to be lighter and more regular. It can also help to treat acne and reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.

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What are the side effects of the pill?

There are common side effects associated with taking the pill. These include headaches, mood swings, nausea and breast tenderness. When you first start the pill, it's common to experience continuous bleeding or spotting between your periods. This usually clears up after the first couple of months, but if you are still experiencing these side effects after a while, you might want to try a different pill. The combined pill isn't suitable for everyone so the progesterone-only pill could be a better option.


Can the pill cause any long term side effects?

The increased oestrogen contained in the pill can cause blood clots. These can then lead to clots forming in your leg or lungs and increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke. This side effect is uncommon; however, your doctor will check your blood pressure and assess your medical history to ensure nothing is underlying before prescribing you with the pill.

Research has also found a link between the pill and breast cancer; showing that women who use hormonal contraception have a slightly higher chance of developing it. This risk disappears ten years after you stop taking hormonal contraception.

Certain risk factors may mean the pill is not suitable for you. These include being susceptible to migraines, high blood pressure, obesity and smoking. Your doctor will be able to advise you if there is a chance that the pill could pose a risk to you.


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