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.
We’re not gonna lie—sometimes birth control has side effects, and sometimes those side effects can suck. But we can think of (at least) three reasons why this shouldn’t get you down or make you give up on protecting yourself from accidental pregnancy.
1) Different strokes for different folks
Besides, one person’s plus may be another person’s minus. 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 till 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:
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 effects 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!
What are the most common side effects from birth control?
Every method is different and every body is different, and lots of people don’t experience any side effects from birth control. For those who do, these are some of the most common:
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, 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 you provider 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, especially between methods that contain both progestin and estrogen and those that contain only progestin. So if you’re concerned about certain side effects or health risks, a health care provider 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!
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