Birth Control’s Long-Term Effects: What They Mean for You

Reproductive health is one of the most serious health considerations that people of child-bearing age can make. Despite certain benefits, many people worry about the effects of taking hormone-based birth control for an extended period of time.

Should they be worried? Just how risky is a hormone birth control pill or patch? We’ll examine some of the long-term effects (both positive and potentially negative) that birth control can have on women.

How Hormones Respond to Long-Term Birth Control Use

A woman’s ovaries naturally produce the female hormones known as progestin and estrogen. Modern birth control utilizes synthetic forms of these naturally occurring bodily chemicals to alter the reproductive cycle; these chemicals are also used in many contraceptives.

When women take some form of birth control, the elevated hormonal levels prevent their ovaries from releasing any eggs–consequently, a man’s sperm cannot fertilize the egg. This all but eliminates the chance of unwanted or unexpected conception while on a birth control pill or patch.

One benefit of this hormone-based medication is that it improves the appearance of skin (many women see a vast improvement in the regularity of acne outbreaks) and hair.

For a majority of women, menstrual cycles return to normal once they’ve ceased their birth control regimen. Other women, however, might experience the loss of menstruation or heavier menstruation than usual. Out-of-balance hormonal levels can also mildly increase a woman’s chance of developing cervical cancer.

This change in hormone levels can also affect energy, mood, and sex drive. While rare, birth control can also cause uncomfortable problems like tender breasts, or vaginal irritation in some women.

How Weight Is Affected by Birth Control

Fluctuations in weight and appetite are common side effects of long-term birth control use. For some women, this might mean an increase in feelings of nausea and/or bloating. While this doesn’t necessarily point to any serious health problems, you should see a doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Regular vomiting (1x a month or more)
  • Severe stomach pain or cramps
  • A yellowing of your eyes or skin–signs of jaundice, a rare but notable side effect of birth control for some women.

Other Factors that Influence Birth Control Side Effects

Your body may also react negatively to birth control if you meet certain criteria. If any of the following describe you, you should take extra precautions before deciding to start taking birth control:

  • Tobacco user
  • Persistent High blood pressure or blood clotting problems
  • A family history of glaucoma
  • Substantially over your recommended BMI (obesity)
  • Regularly suffering from migraine headaches
  • Requiring bed rest or other long periods of immobilization

If you’re experiencing harsh side effects resulting from your birth control, you should speak with your health care provider to determine what issues may be complicating your reaction to birth control.

Listening to Your Body’s Signs and Making the Right Decision

Birth control can have many long-term effects for women; if you choose to take some form of hormone-based birth control, you should educate yourself about the potential pros and cons of a given pill, patch, or IUD. Above all, listen to your body’s signals–if the pill is causing discomfort and health problems, you may simply not respond to common birth control methods.

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