About 60 percent of women in the U.S. take hormonal birth control, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While birth control side effects are mostly awesome (less cramps! no unwanted pregnancies!), they can admittedly also be sucky (ahem, blood clots).
FWIW: Hormonal birth control comes in two forms:
combination (certain types of pills, the vaginal ring, and the transdermal patch), which includes both estrogen and progestin, and progestin-only
(IUDs, shots, implants, and the mini-pill).
But both types of hormonal birth control come with pretty similar side effects—good, bad, and ugly.
These are the most common birth control side effects you should know about:
1. YOUR ACNE MAGICALLY CLEARS UP.“Some people have hormonal acne, so a regular cycle and a steadier dose of hormones can help,” says Christine Masterson, M.D., chief of the women and children’s service line at Summit Medical Group in New Jersey. But she also warns that breakouts can get worse before they get better, so it’s best to wait up to six months before judging whether or not your hormonal birth control has improved your acne.
While both types of birth control can help, the FDA has approved combination birth control for use against acne, so that might be your best bet if banishing pimples is a priority.
2. YOU'RE GAINING WEIGHTSome women experience a temporary amount of weight gain, says Masterson, but this side effect is typically correlated with the amount of estrogen in the particular pill you are taking (though it can happen on progestin-only options too).
“As the pill has evolved, we’ve been able to lower the amount of estrogen in the pill and still have it be effective,” she explains. “Less estrogen can mean less weight gain, so lower-dose pills are helpful for patients experiencing weight gain.”
3. YOU'RE HAVING SOME PRETTY SERIOUS MOOD SWINGS.Any time you introduce hormones into your body via birth control, it can cause mood changes. “Having crying spells, not seeing the joy in life, and having difficulty getting out of bed are all signs of depression,” says Masterson.
“If you’re experiencing any of those symptoms, or having harming thoughts, experiencing difficulty functioning at work, or your relationships are starting to become affected, you should have a conversation with your doctor," Masterson adds, especially if you've been feeling that way for longer than four to six weeks.
4. YOUR PERIODS HAVE GOTTEN LESS PAINFUL.Dysmenorrhea (a.k.a. period pain) can be painful, to say the least—but hormonal birth control can help with that. “Hormonal birth control is linked to shorter, lighter and less painful periods, so for women who are really suffering from dysmenorrhea, it can make a tremendous difference,” Masterson says.
TO BE CONTINUED. . .