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Oral Contraceptives (OCPs)

Side Effects of Oral Contraceptives

Different brands of oral contraceptives may have slightly different medications and doses, and may be taken in slightly different ways, which means they have different risks, side effects and benefits. Thus, it’s important for you to talk to your doctor about your specific oral contraceptive choice. In addition, women on birth control should talk with their doctor before trying to become pregnant or using tobacco products, products that contain potassium (e.g., potassium iodine and dietary salt substitutes), heparin, anticonvulsants or antibiotics.

Common side effects of oral contraceptives include: nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps or bloating, diarrhea, constipation, gingivitis, increased or decreased appetite, weight gain or weight loss, brown or black skin patches, acne, unusual hair growth, bleeding or spotting in between menstrual periods, changes in menstrual flow, painful or missed periods, breast tenderness, enlargement or discharge, vaginal swelling, redness, burning or irritation, and white vaginal discharge. If any of these side effects seem severe, please contact your physician immediately.

Less common side effects can include: severe headache, severe vomiting, speech problems, dizziness, weakness or numbness of an arm or leg, chest pain or heaviness, coughing up blood, shortness of breath, leg pain, vision problems, bulging eyes, severe stomach pain, yellowing of the skin or eyes, loss of appetite, fatigue or weakness, fever, dark urine, light-colored stool, swelling of the hands, feet, ankles or lower legs, depression, unusual bleeding, a rash or menstrual bleeding that is unusually heavy or lasts longer than seven days. If you have any of these side effects, please contact your physician immediately.

In addition, taking oral contraceptives may also increase your risk of developing noncancerous liver tumors; these tumors, though not cancer, can break and cause serious internal bleeding. Oral contraceptives may also increase your chances of developing breast or liver cancer, or having a heart attack, stroke or serious blood clot. Women who take oral contraceptives that contain drosperinone (e.g., Beyaz, Gianvi, Loryna, Ocella, Safyral, Syeda, Yasmin, Yaz and Zarah) may be more likely to develop a life-threatening condition called deep vein thrombosis, in which blood clots that form in the veins move through the body and to the heart, than women who take oral contraceptives without drosperinone, though research on this subject is disputed and controversial. 

Locations for Oral Contraceptives (OCPs)