Side Effects: The Good, the Bad, and the Temporary
If you're worried about the side effects of birth control—or if you've had a bad experience—here are a few things you should know.
All bodies work differently, which means we all respond to birth control in different ways. You may not have any side effects using your method of birth control, but perhaps you’ve heard from your friends how that same method causes them to experience spotting or nausea.
Whether you’re on a method of birth control that is causing side effects or not, you can always talk to a provider at your nearest The Right Time health center. They’ll have answers to all your birth control-related questions, as well as be able to counsel you on managing any side effects related to the use of your method. They can also help you switch to a different method, should you choose to do so.
If you’re unsure you’re experiencing side effects from your birth control, here are some of the most common that people discuss with their providers:
- Spotting. Spotting, or bleeding between periods, is pretty common when you start using the shot, the implant, the hormonal IUD, or the mini-pill. There’s a good chance it’ll stop after a few months and your period might even go away altogether. Here’s a little more information about why spotting happens and what you can do about it.
- Headache, nausea, sore breasts, and/or a change in sex drive. These effects are possible with most of the hormonal methods, though lots of people don’t experience any of them.
Some birth control users also connect weight gain or depression with their birth control. Research with thousands of women has shown that some gain weight, some stay the same weight, and some lose weight when using hormonal birth control. (There is one exception: Research has found a connection between weight gain and using the shot.) Same for depression: based on studies of lots of women using hormonal birth control, some get depressed and some women come out of a depression. So, on average for those thousands of women, there is not a clear relationship between weight gain or depression and hormonal birth control. Still, you know your body best, so if you feel like your birth control method is having a negative effect, don’t suffer in silence. Talk to a provider at a The Right Time health center about trying a different method.
An important note about hormones in birth control
Keep in mind that not all hormonal birth control is the same. There can be significant differences in birth control especially between methods that contain both progestin and estrogen and those that contain only progestin. If you’re concerned about certain side effects or health risks, a health care provider at a nearby The Right Time health center can help you figure out which methods are least likely to cause those effects and risks.
Don’t assume that because you had a bad experience with one method, a different method won’t work for you, or that because someone else had a bad experience with a method, you will too. When it comes to finding a birth control method you love, never give up, never surrender!
But we’re not gonna lie—sometimes the side effects of birth control can suck. However, here are three reasons to consider continuing to search for a method you like.
1) Different strokes for different folks
Everyone’s body is unique and a method that doesn’t work for one person might be perfect for another. Don’t believe us? Check out all the different experiences people have with birth control.
Besides, one person’s negative side effect may be another person’s positive side effect. Take periods, for example: Some people love not having a period, others find it unsettling. The bottom line? The only way to find out how a method will work with your body and lifestyle is to talk to your health care provider and try different options until you find the perfect match.
2) Positive side effects
Not all side effects from birth control are bad. In fact, lots of women use hormonal birth control for reasons other than pregnancy prevention. For example, some methods of birth control can:
- help with heavy or painful periods,
- help with acne,
- help with ovarian cysts, or
- reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.
3) Time is on your side
Many side effects associated with birth control fade as your body adjusts to a new method. So, if you recently started a new method and are experiencing changes you don’t like, it may be worth hanging in there for a few months to see if things get better. If you still don’t like that method after 6 months or so, don’t settle—try something else!
Updated October 2019