The Most Common Side Effects of Birth Control Pills

Jun 05, 2009
Birth control pills are commonly used by a great number of women who need a reliable form of contraception.

Birth control pills are available in various forms and brands, like combined pills, progestin-only pills, morning-after pill and extended cycle pills.

All birth control pills have a number of side effects ranging from the mild to more serious ones.

The most common side effects of birth control pills include:

Mid-cycle spotting

There can be several reasons why you may spot while on birth control pill. Breakthrough bleeding often occurs in the first two or three months after starting birth control pills. It is normal to have some spotting during this time and you can expect the spotting to subside by the forth cycle or earlier.

Keep in mind that if you missed one or more pills, it may result in spotting. Also some medications and smoking that influence the way the birth control pills are absorbed may have such side effect as mid-cycle spotting.  

If spotting occurs, your doctor may suggest you witch to another formulation of birth control pills. If you use low-dose birth control pills, it might be helpful switching to higher-dose pills and if you are spotting on biphasic or triphasic pills, it might be better to use monophasic pills instead.

Weight gain

Some women notice weight gain after starting taking the birth control pills. Nowadays, weight gain is not as wide-spread as it was a dozen of years ago with the higher dose pills. Weight gain is more common for women using combined birth control pills. This may happen due to increase in the appetite. If weight gain while on the pill is the problem, you might consider watching over your diet. Changing your eating habits, like avoiding snacks between the meals, eating smaller portions and including more of low-calorie food might help.

Loss of libido

Many women also notice decreased libido while on the pill. There are a number of studies that suggest that hormonal birth control methods can affect woman's sex drive. This is explained by the fact that many hormonal methods change the usual hormonal pattern, which often leads to lower level of own androgens. Many women will benefit from switching to more androgenic form of birth control pills. If this method will not work and woman continues experiencing low libido while on the pill, it might be reasonable to switch to another form of birth control method.


Some women say that their birth control pills lead to mood swings, including depression. If you had a history of depression, you may be at increased rsik of developing depression while on the pill.  For some women switching to progestin-only pill may be enough to stop mood swings. However, if this doesn't work, you may consider other methods like IUD, diaphragm and condom. Some specialists suggest taking antidepressants while on the pill.


Women with a history of migraines should be careful with hormonal birth control methods. If you experience frequent headaches while taking the pill, it might be useful to discontinue your birth control pills and consider other methods of contraception.

You may choose from progestin-only pill, the progestogen injection, IUD (intra-uterine devices) and barrier methods like condoms.


It is not very common nowadays to have acne as side effect of the birth control pills. However, in some cases, progestin-only pills may cause some skin problems. If you are using birth control pills that lead to acne, it would be helpful switching to another formulation like combined pills.

Birth control pills like Dianette and Diane are often prescribed for women who have acne problem.