Possible Side Effects of Birth Control — From the Pill to IUDs

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Oh, the joys of being a woman: The additional cost tacked onto commonplace interactions, the obligation to deal with casual slut-shaming and bearing the bulk of the birth control responsibility. And then there are the little-known side effects that accompany most every form of contraception — the fun just doesn't stop.

Read more: Male Birth Control Could Soon Be a Thing — It All Depends on When Pharma Funds It

Birth control does many things, aside from the obvious prevention of pregnancy. We've compiled a list of some notable complaints attached to the most popular contraceptives, because of knowledge being power and all that jazz. 

The Pill

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While it can clear up problem skin and regulate a woman's menstrual cycle, the birth control pill can also result in more frequent yeast infections, dry eyes, more severe migraine headaches in women already prone to them and painful sex, which may be linked to a drop in libido. 

Then there's the risk of blood clots, which, according to HealthDay, is higher in newer pill brands (albeit still low). The estrogen and progestin in hormonal birth control can lead to the development of clots in the veins (deep vein thrombosis) and/or lungs (pulmonary embolism). Blood clots become dangerous when they circulate to the heart, lungs or brain. Women who are concerned should seek medical attention ASAP.

Depression is probably the most controversial side effect stemming from oral contraception. While the evidence is mostly anecdotal and doctors haven't reached consensus on the matter, according to Elizabeth Reynoso, M.D. in Shape, the synthetic hormones found in the pill "can wreak havoc with your mood," especially in women with a personal or family history of depression and/or anxiety.


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Because it's also a hormonal contraceptive, Nuvaring comes with many of the same side effects as the pill, such as blood clots, mood swings, weight gain, migraines and diminished sex drive, according to its website. Because it takes up temporary residence in the vagina, however, Nuvaring can also result in cervical irritation. 

And then, there's toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a health problem commonly associated with tampons left in too long. TSS is often heralded by a fever, rash, vomiting, diarrhea, fainting and dizziness. Caused by bacterial infection, TSS is rare but can be fatal; Nuvaring users should be diligent about switching rings on schedule.


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The intrauterine device, or IUD, is a much-touted thing, in part because it's the most effective form of reversible birth control. But it's not without its downsides. There are two types of IUD: hormonal and copper, both of which pose a small risk of uterine perforation — meaning the device could puncture the wall of the uterus — and expulsion, which is only dangerous in that it can result in unintended pregnancy if the woman doesn't notice that the device has left her uterus.

The hormonal IUD, of course, can result in the same side effects as the aforementioned forms of birth control. The copper option — typically, ParaGard — can mean torrential periods and, as such, more intense cramping and period pain. Anemia is also a possibility with copper IUDs, as is vaginal inflammation. Joy.  

These are the risks we take to keep our bodies from hosting babies before we're ready. At the end of the day, though, the likelihood that any one of these side effects will manifest remains relatively small. Any and all birth control concerns should be discussed with a healthcare provider.