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  • Dr. Gina Simone

Birth Control - Uncovering the Truth Part 1: Hormones

Updated: May 19, 2020

Be honest. Most of the bad things you have heard about birth control have been from one of three places; late night recall commercials, that friend who had “that one friend,” or the very “reliable” sources of social media.

Regardless of what you have heard, you are aware that there can be some drawbacks to hormonally based contraception.

Let’s get one thing out of the way; birth control with hormones is medication.

When your doctor asks you if you are on any medication, and you are taking birth control, the answer is “yes.” Please understand that with any medication there may be side effects. With hormonal birth control, some of the common side effects may include:

  • Irregular bleeding

  • Weight changes

  • Mood swings

  • Hair changes

  • Nausea

Are there ways to manage these side effects? Absolutely. For example, taking your birth control pill at night helps reduce nausea, or decreasing how much salt you have in your diet may help manage any weight gain. When you begin taking your birth control, it is really important to monitor for side effects and how it affects your everyday life.

In addition to the common side effects, there is a chance that more severe adverse effects may occur:

  • Heart attacks

  • Stroke

  • Blood clots in the legs and/or in the lungs

Contrary to what you may read on Facebook or see on TV, these severe adverse effects are less common. Ironically, during pregnancy, there is a higher chance of having more of these adverse side effects due to the increase of hormone levels.

Usually, healthy women are able to begin hormonal birth control with minimal side effects. However, women increase their risk for severe adverse effects when they have pre-existing health issues. Some of these issues may include: uncontrolled high blood pressure, diabetes, history of abnormal heart beat (i.e. a. fib), severe migraines, or genetic disorders that causes your blood to clot too quickly. In addition, being overweight and smoking also increases your risks.

QUICK NOTE: Review your medical history and know your family history before you take any hormonal birth control.

Taking hormonal birth control should not shorten your lifespan. It is important that you know your options for pregnancy prevention. If you are taking birth control to help with other health issues, make sure you talk with your doctor and weigh all options. Your healthcare provider has tools to help you choose the safest and most effective plan for you.

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