10 common undesirable side effects of hormonal contraceptives

  1. Weight gain Weight gain – This is mainly due to the effects of hormones on fluid retention. This means that a person gains weight that is noticeable and may affect their self-esteem. Some people gain weight around the lower abdominal area and realize that they can no longer zip up their trousers. Others may develop swollen feet and ankles while others may just note that their clothes no longer fit. The good news is that this weight gain is usually reversible once the effects of the hormone on one’s body have stopped being felt.
  2. Acne – No one likes to have acne at whatever age. It is even worse when you realize than the acne is caused by something you are using like hormonal contraceptives. There is no way to tell who will and who will not develop acne. It’s like playing Russian roulette. You may or you may not get acne and thus it is a risk than one just has to take when they begin hormonal contraceptives.
  3. High Blood Pressure – All people on any hormonal contraceptive should monitor their blood pressure regularly. Rapid increase or very high increases in Blood Pressure warrant the withdrawal of the hormonal BPcontraception for a different method. It is important to note that High Blood Pressure may have no symptoms at all until severe complications are seen like stroke, heart attacks and kidney failure.
  4. Irregular or heavy periods – Periods may be irregular in that there may be spotting in between periods, they do not come at regular times as expected or come when you do not expect them to come. On the other hand, periods may become very heavy or last for many days and this warrants withdrawal of contraceptives, removing implants or coils as this may lead to symptomatic anemia. Some women are known to request a different hormone to counter-act the effects of the first hormone whereas the solution lies in withdrawing the first hormone especially if its effects are on-going.
  5. Painful periods (dysmenorrhea) – Period pain (cramps) may worsen when using hormonal contraceptives. The irony is that for some people, contraceptives are used Dysmenorrheato manage severe cramps. The bottom line is that different people respond differently to hormones and as such,  there is no specific way to gauge how one will respond to a hormonal contraceptive.
  6. Lack of periods (amenorrhea) – This means that the periods disappear completely and one can no longer say when they expect their next period. This may not necessarily be a bad thing to many women and it does not mean that there is anything wrong with you. The challenge lies in that it becomes difficult to know if one conceives and periodic pregnancy tests become necessary if one grows suspicious of their pregnancy status.
  7. Headaches – Hormonal contraceptives can provoke migraine-like headaches or worsen migraines for those already suffering from the condition. This may be so severe that your health practitioner recommends withdrawal of the contraceptive method and change to something that is more tolerable to the user.
  8. Unplanned pregnancies – All contraceptives have a risk of failure even when used unplannedperfectly. Of course the more imperfect the use the higher the risk of an unplanned for pregnancy. Imperfect uses includes; missing a pill, not taking the mini pill at the EXACT same time every day, poorly placed IUCD (Intra-uterine Contraceptive Device),  burst condoms among others. The statistics that quantify the exact risk of failure are so varied as I did my research so I will intentionally not quote any one reference point. I instead picked the more commonly accepted figures across different sources of information and have placed them here sorely to give you an idea. The figures may vary with different sources as well as to whether the contraceptives are used properly or improperly.
  • 8-9          in 100    for progesterone – only contraceptives
  • 1-2          in 100   for combined pills
  • <1           in 100    for IUCD
  • 5 – 15% failure    for condoms
  • 15-29     in 100    for spermicidal gels
  • 1              in 1000 for implants
  1. Delay in getting pregnant – Once again, it is important to note that different people respond differently to hormonal contraception. It is important however, to note that hormonal contraceptives alter the way the body functions and thus the body may need some time to revert to its normal self for conception to occur. There are people who get pregnant immediately they stop the hormones while others may take up to a year or more. There is no way to tell someone how soon they will conceive after cessation of hormonal contraceptives.
  2. Breast changes – Common changes include breast tenderness as well as breast Enlarged breastsenlargement. This may be appreciated by people who are small breasted but for women with big breasts, this can be a very depressing development. They are forced to change bra sizes, may experience back pains if breasts are too large or they may become self conscious if the breast size increase is not in tandem with the rest of their bodies.

2 thoughts on “10 common undesirable side effects of hormonal contraceptives

  1. Sure this side effects are a great concern to many women during there reproductive age,thank you for the assurances that it is normal to experience them.

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