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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.

Updated on January 6th, 2015.

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

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 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:

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!

So...this whole "article" on 'side effects' only lists 3 [obvious] positive side effects? And talks about how people can get hyped up and freaked out over negative side effects...but doesn't list ANY? I'd like to think you all believe in me enough to let ME handle the news of side effects (you're acknowledging I can have sex by my own choice); that I can be trusted with the truth. And then it goes on to link us to a page about ASPIRIN? You say you want to give the good, bad and everything in between? So where is that information? How about the longer you're on birth control the harder it CAN be to get pregnant in the future, when you actually want kids. Headaches, depression, reduced libido and weight gain can - or cannot- happen as well. I was hoping to gain more information from this site. The summary of this: Side Effects: yeah, there are some, but hey, people overreact about it, just like aspirin. The End.

2011-11-15 06:11:26 UTC

Kat

I don't like that negative side-effects of hormonal birth control are so downplayed. I have had a horrible time with birth control - depression, anxiety, loss of libido from the Pill has really done some damage in my life.  Does everyone experience these side effects? No. But that doesn't mean they don't exist and are not important. If we don't shine a light on what is wrong with the contraceptives we have available, there is no push to come up with new ones.

2011-11-15 21:14:13 UTC

Peg

Kat, thanks for your note, too.  You are right that information is power, and any decision about using birth control is ultimately up to you.  There is lots of information about side effects on this site—since the side effects of various methods are distinct, that info is on the pages about each method (e.g., the pill: http://bedsider.org/methods/the_pill#side_effects_tab).  Finally, you’re right that getting pregnant becomes more difficult as women get older, but that’s definitely not because of a reversible birth control method (http://bedsider.org/features/76).  It has to do with age and their own personal medical history.

2011-11-19 20:05:41 UTC

Dr. Grace Shih

Peg, thanks for your comment.  You are right—different women have different experiences with birth control and side effects.  I hope you’ve had luck finding a method that doesn’t have those negative side effects for you.  And I couldn’t agree more: more birth control options would be good for everyone!

2011-11-19 20:14:14 UTC

Dr. Grace Shih

Look, I love the idea of this website -- accurate, accessible, sex-positive birth control advice.  But your information just isn't complete enough yet to be truly useful to women.  Yes, I'm another person who's going to harp on your lack of information about side effects!  My sister and I both suffered crippling depression when we tried the Pill back in college, and we both struggled with it for months before we figured out what the problem was.  If the potential mood-altering side effects of the Pill were more widely reported, we might both have solved our problem a lot sooner!  I've looked at the individual entry for the Pill and that information is not there.  Please don't talk down to women or try to sweep this stuff under the rug.  Birth control is way too important for that.

2012-01-03 16:39:41 UTC

Opal

I've tried the ring, the pill (multiple brands), and my libido is horribly low. I tried to get the IUD but my doctor could not get it in because me cervix was too shut (that was traumatic). I want something better that helps my be excited for love! Not 'hope it's over soon'..

2013-04-23 03:50:18 UTC

disqus_EHwaXJfBYg

I just found this article and I am going to echo other commenters. I love your website, and appreciate that your mention alternative types of birth control aside from hormonal birth control and actually give them legitimacy. (I use a Cyclotest monitor to track my fertility and a FemCap during fertile times.) That being said, this artificial basically says nothing, which thereby devalidates the millions of women who suffer terribly from reduced libido, depression, headaches or other side effects.

2014-08-19 16:53:59 UTC

greenishgal

I just found this article and I am going to echo other commenters. I love your website, and appreciate that your mention alternative types of birth control aside from hormonal birth control and actually give them legitimacy. (I use a Cyclotest monitor to track my fertility and a FemCap during fertile times.) That being said, this artificial basically says nothing, which thereby devalidates the millions of women who suffer terribly from reduced libido, depression, headaches or other side effects.

2014-08-19 16:53:59 UTC

greenishgal

Hi Rachel – Thanks for taking the time to comment. We’re happy you’ve found a method that works for you and we know that sometimes side effects are a reality of using birth control. We worry that people hear a lot about bad effects of birth control and don’t hear so much about the good effects – that’s where the idea for this article came from way back when we launched the site. That said, we absolutely agree that people should have all the facts about birth control and know what to expect. We have more information about side effects on our method pages and in our features section, but we totally agree that this article needs a refresh. We’re on it – thanks again for your feedback!

2014-11-17 19:51:32 UTC

Bedsider Staff

I recently quit the pill after being on it for almost four years. I had mood swings, I gained weight, and my period was *not* more regular/predictable. Now my husband and I sometimes use condoms, sometimes combine withdrawal and spermicide. I feel so much better. I am calm. I don't become irritable or depressed throughout the day. I enjoy sex more. I like the freedom of not needing a doctor's prescription for birth control.

2014-11-19 18:42:22 UTC

Mrs. L.

I recently quit the pill after being on it for almost four years. I had mood swings, I gained weight, and my period was *not* more regular/predictable. Now my husband and I sometimes use condoms, sometimes combine withdrawal and spermicide. I feel so much better. I am calm. I don't become irritable or depressed throughout the day. I enjoy sex more. I like the freedom of not needing a doctor's prescription for birth control.

2014-11-19 18:42:22 UTC

Mrs. L.

I recently quit the pill after being on it for almost four years. I had mood swings, I gained weight, and my period was *not* more regular/predictable. Now my husband and I sometimes use condoms, sometimes combine withdrawal and spermicide. I feel so much better. I am calm. I don't become irritable or depressed throughout the day. I enjoy sex more. I like the freedom of not needing a doctor's prescription for birth control.

2014-11-19 18:42:22 UTC

Mrs. L.

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