THE PHARMACIST: Effects of birth control pills

Monday August 7 2017

 Dr. Sajjad Sherally Fazel

 Dr. Sajjad Sherally Fazel 

By Dr Sajjad Sherally Fazel

“The pill” is a form of a hormonal contraception taken as an effective method of birth control if taken correctly at the same time, daily.

There are two types of contraceptive pills, both contain synthetic form of hormones oestrogen and progesterone hence they can be used for non-contraceptive medical purpose like regulating menstrual periods, heavy periods, painful periods and many more.

The pill is  known to have positive effects like decrease in the risk of breast cysts, pelvic inflammatory disease, clearer skin, fewer complication of anaemia and pregnancies in the fallopian tubes, however they are known to have negative effects too.

Here are some potential negative effects of the pill:


This usually happens when taking the pill for the first time. It usually subsides over time. Taking the pill with food or at bedtime can help, however, if you experience persistent or severe nausea then you should seek medical guidance.

Increased appetite:

When the oestrogen and progesterone levels are altered by the pill, this makes you super hungry, which could lead to weight gain. However, there is no definitive proof that it causes direct weight gain.

Mood swings:

Women with history of mood swings and even insomnia tend to see an increase in their symptoms when taking the pill. Hence women with history of depression or mood swings should discuss with their doctor before starting the pill.


Changes in your hormones can lead to water retention and bloating, these side effects are mainly seen in women who have irritable bowel syndrome and other gastrointestinal disorders.


Changes in the hormones may cause headaches and migraine, different doses of hormones may result in different headache symptoms. However, headache symptoms are likely to alleviate over time.

Blood clot:

New versions of the pill put some women at an elevated risk of blood clots, hence this needs to monitored. Women known to have high risk of having clots due to other risk factors should avoid taking the pill.

Breast tenderness:

The pill can cause breast enlargement or tenderness, this effect tend to improve over a few weeks after starting. However, if a lump is found on the breast or persistent pain or tenderness occur then medical attention should be taken.

Vaginal discharge:

Some women experience changes in the vaginal discharge when taking the pill. This can affect sexual intercourse due to the range of changes of increase and decrease of discharge.  This is not a harmful effect however if an infection is suspected then medical attention should be sought.

The above negative effects are reversible and not all of them are harmful. However, some serious negative effects of the pill include abdominal pain,  chest pain, severe headaches, blurred vision and swelling or aching in the legs and thighs.

If any of these serious side effects occur then immediately seek medical attention and the pill should be stopped. 

As these symptoms may indicate disorders like liver disease, gallbladder disease, blood clots, high blood pressure or heart disease.