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The Side Effects Of Long-Term Use Of Oral Contraceptives

Most women rely on oral contraceptives to prevent pregnancy, improve acne, or balance hormonal levels. To ensure the effectiveness of the type of birth control method you are on, it might have to be taken daily or at specific regular intervals. Yet, particular health disadvantages come with being on the pill over a longer timeframe.

While some side effects are mild and temporary, others can pose life-threatening risks. Understanding the complications of the type and dosage of the contraceptive you decide to use is crucial. Read on to find out more about the common side effects of using oral contraceptives in the long term.

Common Side Effects of Oral Contraceptives

Headaches and Migraines

Birth control pills contain hormones that can trigger frequent headaches and migraines. In some cases, they can be severe and require medical attention depending on the type of pill you are on. For instance, a low-dosage birth control pill can cause mild symptoms.


It’s common to experience nausea when you start taking oral contraceptives. Intervals of nausea can settle when you take the pill with food or before you go to bed. If you have severe nausea, you should seek immediate medical attention.

Weight Gain

It’s possible to experience some weight gain when you start taking birth control. Factors such as changes in your diet, routine and hormones can increase the chances of weight gain. However, studies show that this is usually a result of water retention instead of fat build-up, and it can go away when you focus on a healthy lifestyle.

Spotting Between Periods

Spotting between your menstrual cycles can happen due to infections, hormonal birth control, or pregnancy. When you start taking oral contraceptives, your body tries to adjust to changes in hormonal levels, and the uterus adapts to a thinner lining, leading to spotting or missed periods. The best way to prevent spotting is to take your pill regularly, as a healthcare professional recommends.

Breast Tenderness

The primary hormones, estrogen and progestin, found in most oral contraceptives, are responsible for changes in your breasts while on birth control. Even though the changes are temporary, you can feel tenderness, requiring wearing a supportive bra to reduce discomfort. Sometimes, you may experience severe breast pain or develop breast lumps that may require immediate medical investigation.

Mood Swings

Did you know that hormones are crucial in regulating your mood and emotions? An imbalance caused by different hormonal levels can affect your mood. Additionally, research suggests that there’s a link between hormonal birth control and depression.

Long-Term Risks of Oral Contraceptives


Studies suggest that long-term use of high-dosage birth control can induce increased blood pressure levels. Estrogen is the primary hormone that is thought to cause a heightened risk of hypertension when taking oral contraceptives. Most importantly, the chances of complications are higher in people with existing high blood pressure before getting on the pill.

Cardiovascular Disease 

Combination birth control pills containing estrogen and progestin are the most common type of oral contraceptives in the world that work by stopping you from ovulating. However, long-term use can come with a slight risk of severe cardiovascular concerns. If you have underlying health problems such as high blood pressure, you should find out about alternative and safer birth control methods from your healthcare provider.

Blood Clots

Blood clots are considered rare in most women who are on birth control. The rate of developing them increases if you have a history of thrombosis, a medical condition that causes blood clots. If you suspect that you have blood clots soon after being on oral contraceptives, you should stop and consult with your doctor for detailed information on the health risks you can be exposed to.


According to research, naturally occurring female sex hormones can increase or reduce the risk of specific cancers. As a result, the hormones found in birth control can affect the risk of these types of cancers:

  • Breast cancer.
  • Cervical cancer.
  • Colorectal cancer.
  • Endometrial and ovarian cancer.

In summary, oral contraceptives are an effective and trusted method for preventing pregnancy. On the other hand, there are health risks associated with the pill that you should consider. Our Affinity Health Cover options provide healthcare solutions that prioritise your education on family planning. Contact us to speak to one of our consultants for suitable cover.

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