Medically reviewed on February 17, 2022 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
Nausea, headaches, spotting, depression—if these sound familiar, you’re not alone. For many women, taking birth control comes with several side effects.
But is it possible to find a birth control method that works and won’t cause side effects? The answer is a hopeful yes. It just comes down to individual health needs.
Between hormonal and non-hormonal birth control, most women can find a method that fits their lifestyle and works well with their bodies. To get started, here’s our guide to contraceptives and their side effects.
Just a few decades back, hormonal birth control came as a singular oral contraceptive pill. Today, hormonal options span an entire medicine cabinet, including:
Women have many hormonal contraception options from implanted devices to oral pills. But what are the side effects of birth control regarding hormones? Before choosing, let’s explore each hormonal contraceptive and its possible effects .
Known as “The Pill,” oral birth control is a popular and highly effective contraceptive. However, not all pills are created equal. Oral contraceptives (and all hormonal contraceptives) fall under combination or progestin-only categories.
The first generation of hormonal birth control, combination pills, use both estrogen and progestin. Some women might experience side effects like :
Progestin-only birth control delivers exactly what it states—just progestin. This hormone stops the ovaries from releasing eggs, preventing pregnancy at a 99% success rate. Progestin-only contraception typically has fewer side effects, but a few stick out above the rest:
A less popular option, the patch delivers contraceptive hormones via skin absorption. Like combination pills, it carries the side effects of estrogen and progestin—headaches, breast pain, and more . The patch also has a few specific side effects, including:
Inserted into the vaginal canal, vaginal rings emit progestin and estrogen to the surrounding uterus. Since these rings locally release hormones, they attempt to minimize side effects. However, a combination of hormonal symptoms are still possible in addition to ring-specific side effects like:
You might know the birth control shot by its brand name, Depo-Provera. A one-and-done method, each shot includes three months’ worth of combination hormonal protection. The flipside? Depo-Provera is known for its significant hormonal side effects, particularly:
Shaped like a mini “T,” hormonal IUDs are a durable and highly effective contraceptive. Medical professionals implement an IUD inside the uterus, where it releases progestin. Since IUDs release hormones locally to the uterus, side effects are typically weaker. However, many women still experience these symptoms:
Many women fear that an IUD will perforate their uterus or fall out. However, perforation and ejection are rare. For women with hormonal IUDs, only 0.01% experience uterine perforation and 5.5% experience expulsion [12, 13].
Similar to IUDs, hormonal implants are highly effective in lowering the chances of getting pregnant. However, implant devices lie inside the upper arm, not the uterus. Implants also release both estrogen and progestin into the bloodstream, not just progestin. As a result, women often experience more side effects with implants , particularly:
For some women, hormonal contraception simply doesn’t click. The cons outweigh the pros. Non-hormonal contraception offers an alternative that’s (mostly) free of symptoms. From IUDs to sponges, here are the top non-hormonal birth control methods and their side effects.
A copper IUD, also known as the Paragard , looks like a hormonal IUD. However, this uterine implant has zero hormones—instead, the copper naturally repels sperm. A drawback? Copper IUDs are one of the few non-hormonal contraceptives with physical side effects, such as:
For millennia, men and women have used physical barriers as contraceptives. While less effective than hormonal options, some barriers provide birth control with minimal side effects and STD protection—a huge advantage for safety. Here are the most common barriers:
Spermicidal products are more the supporting actor than the star. Due to low effectiveness, women typically pair spermicides with other contraceptives. At best, its success rate ranges from 72% to 88%. There are a few different spermicide options:
A great plus? Spermicidal products have few side effects. At most, frequent spermicide use can irritate genital tissues of either sex. Otherwise, they’re quite safe.
From spermicide to shots, there is no “right” birth control method. The best contraceptive is the one that fits your needs, whether that’s long-term use or limited side effects: minimum pain, maximum protection.
Evaluating your health is crucial before choosing any medication—and with Everlywell, you can evaluate from your own home. Test crucial hormone levels like estrogen, progesterone, luteinizing hormone, and more with our Women's Health Test (note that birth control methods can affect hormone levels). With one test, you can place wellness into your hands.
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