Sunday, November 2, 2008

Facing Side Effects of Birth Control Pills

Loosely defined, birth control pills are female hormones in capsule or tablet form. The hormones in birth control pills or BCP control the functions of the ovaries and in general, the whole female reproductive system. They can alter and cause changes in a woman's regular hormonal cycle which will in turn prevent a pregnancy from occurring.

By releasing additional female hormones in the body, birth control pills or oral contraceptives, as they are commonly called, prevent ovulation. The process of ovulation pertains to the development of a young egg cell or ovum into maturity which makes it ready for fertilization. Aside from preventing ovulation, birth control pills can also cause the thickening of cervical mucus which will make it difficult for sperm to pass through. Another function of the pill is to thin out the uterine lining which will make it next to impossible for the mature ovum to attach itself and be fertilized. Its benefits notwithstanding, birth control pills or BCPs also cause some side effects:

Light bleeding in-between periods
Some women may experience bleeding in-between periods when they first start using oral contraceptives. While uncomfortable, this side effect is only a sign that the body is adjusting to the introduction of additional hormones. This side effect may last for up to three months but will eventually pass. Using low-absorbency tampons, sanitary pads, and pantyliners can make in-between period bleeding more manageable. It is also generally advised that women who experience this side effect should take iron supplements to combat anemia.

Missed periods
Alternatively, the body may skip periods in the course of adjusting to oral contraceptive use. While this is relatively better than bleeding, skipped periods can leave a woman feeling bloated. Decreasing sodium intake can minimize water retention and the bloated sensation. However, if pill use is inconsistent or there are times of missed pill intakes, medical attention should be sought especially if a woman engaged in unprotected sex for possible pregnancy.

Nausea or dizziness
Due to increased hormones in the body, a woman may feel dizzy and nauseous when taking oral contraceptives. The best way to manage this is to chart when the dizzy spells come or what triggers the nausea. For example, if dizzy spells are experienced an hour or two after taking the pill, a woman should consider changing the schedule of her pill intake to a comfortable time like before bedtime. Carrying smelling salts or soothing aromatherapy oils can make passing dizzy spells easier.

Weight change
Although some women lose weight when taking oral contraceptives, a larger number reports experiencing weight gain when taking birth control pills. While studies show that there is no causal relationship between weight gain and oral contraception, they indicate that a large percentage of the reported increase in weight of pill users are based on how women react to the mood swings and other side effects of pill use. Women can manage their weight when taking oral contraceptives by exercising portion control, staying active, and maintaining a healthy diet.

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Kristine Anne Gonzaga is a content writer and researcher who specializes in health topics and health-related issues. She delights in finding tips and ideas on simple and practical healthcare and sharing them through her writing.

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