Table of contents
Medically reviewed by
Dr Daniel Atkinson
GP Clinical Lead
on August 02, 2022.
Meet Daniel  
Daniel
Was this article useful?

Combined pill side effects

Combined birth control pills are oral contraceptives that contain two hormones oestrogen and progesterone. These hormones can stop the release of an egg from the ovaries and also keep sperm from fertilising an egg, by causing changes in the cervical mucus and the lining of the uterus (endometrium) to keep sperm from joining the egg.

There are different types of combined oral contraceptive pills. They contain different versions of progesterone and oestrogen or have a higher dose of them.

When you start a new medication, there are chances that you may get some side effects. Some of the most common birth control pill side effects are breast tenderness, headaches, nausea, bloating, rise in blood pressure levels, menstrual cycle changes and breakthrough bleeding or spotting. In most cases these present as pretty mild and go away in time.

Although uncommon, there can be some serious side effects of going on the pill. Blood clots or liver, gallbladder and heart problems to name a few.

Contraceptive pills and their side effects may vary from one another. But you should always seek immediate medical help if you have any of these rare side effects:

  • severe abdominal pain,
  • skin infection,
  • depression,
  • vision problems,
  • persistent heavy bleeding,
  • severe headache,
  • seizures,
  • jaundice,
  • swelling in your legs, or
  • two consecutive missed periods.

How safe is the pill?

The pill is safe and can be 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. This means 1 in 100 people taking the pill will get pregnant each year if it’s taken correctly and continuously. But like all other medications, it isn’t a one-size-fits-all thing. It might not be as right for you as it is for others.

You should always let your doctor know about any medical conditions that you have during consultation. They’ll be able to advise if the pill is safe for you.

If you are over 35 years and smoke, you shouldn’t take combined contraceptive pills or any other kind of pills which have the oestrogen hormone. Avoid taking the pill if you have liver problems, deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism, uncontrolled high blood pressure, unexplained bleeding from vagina, uncontrolled blood sugar levels, heart problems or are breastfeeding.

Clinical studies have shown a relationship between the pill and breast cancer . While some indicate that oral contraceptives increase the risk of breast cancer, others conclude that only high-dose oestrogen birth control pills can trigger this risk . There is no definitive result on this yet but you can always discuss your concerns with your doctor.

Can the pill cause headaches?

Some women report that birth control pills give them some relief from migraines. While for others, they can trigger headaches or worsen their symptoms. This depends on how your body responds to the medication and the level of hormones that your pills have.

Some women can be sensitive to the hormones that are present in birth control pills, especially oestrogen. When there’s a dip in the oestrogen levels, they experience symptoms of headaches or migraines. This drop in oestrogen is mostly seen in women just before their period starts.

However, if you already have menstrual migraines, the combined contraceptive pill can balance your oestrogen levels during your menstrual cycle and help prevent headaches.

Headaches are one of the most common side effects of contraceptive pills. But if you’re getting birth control headaches everyday or they have worsened, get in touch with your prescriber and let them know. They’ll be able to suggest an alternative that might be more suitable for you.

Can the pill cause hair loss?

Some birth control pills have been linked to hair loss. One of the synthetic hormones used is progestin, which is the synthetic form of the natural hormone progesterone. These progestins act like androgens (male hormones) in the body. When there is a rise in androgenic activity, it can lead to hair thinning or hair loss. The natural hormone progesterone is anti-androgenic.

But not all women taking birth control pills experience hair loss problems. It depends on how your hair follicles react to the hormones in the pill that you’re taking. And also if you are sensitive to hormonal changes happening in your body.

If you have a family history of hair loss, let the prescriber know during consultation. They’ll consider a treatment that has more oestrogen (and less progestin) as it can trigger hair growth. You can also opt for a non-hormonal form of birth control such as the copper coil.

So, although some birth control pills have been linked to hair loss, birth control pills and hair growth is still possible.

Birth control: what are the emotional side effects?

Oral combined birth control pills are well-tolerated by most women. But some women go through physical and emotional changes while taking them. Depression, mood swings, anxiety, fatigue, low sex drive and premenstrual mood worsening are just some of the reported emotional side effects of birth control pills.

Though the link between birth control depression and the pill hasn’t yet been clear, some studies find that there have been higher scores of depressed mood in women taking combined contraceptive pills.

In most cases these side effects usually occur when you start the pill and go away within a few weeks but if they linger on for long, let your prescriber know. They might advise you to try an alternative.

It is possible to use birth control without experiencing mood swings but it may require some patience to find the best pill for you.

One option might be to go for low dose combined contraceptive pills as they don’t cause mood swings. Mini pills are another good way to reduce the likelihood of mood swings on the pill as they have low levels of hormones.

One study found that the use of oral contraceptives lead to structural changes in the brain and emotional processing of women . This altered the way they react to certain stimuli and tolerate different levels of stress, potentially making them more vulnerable to mood-related problems. So, how your brain reacts on birth control could be different to how it would normally react.

Another mental aspect to think about is stress, and if it can cause birth control to fail. Whilst it’s not proven to impact the pill’s efficacy, there is a chance that stress can impact its effectiveness if left uncontrolled. So it’s always important to try and keep your stress levels in-check and speak to your doctor if you’re struggling with your mental health.

Birth control and your safety

Your birth control pills protect you from unwanted pregnancies, but how safe are they?

Most women using them are satisfied with their results, but there are a few who experience side effects and give up on their treatment halfway. Some of the most common side effects are: vomiting, nausea, headaches, bloating and a rise in blood pressure levels. These often go away after a few weeks.

Although rare, there is a birth control blood clot risk with contraceptives. Women using oestrogen-containing birth control, like the combination pill or vaginal ring, have a higher risk of blood clots.

The normal ratio of blood clots in women is 1 in every 10,000 while for those taking oestrogen-containing birth control for over a year it increases to around 3 in every 10,000.

For the average woman taking birth control pills, the absolute risk of a blood clot is still small. Only one in 3000 women per year who are taking birth control pills will develop a blood clot; but for the woman with thrombophilia or a history of thrombosis, the risk becomes substantial. But alternative methods are available. One alternative is progestin-only contraceptives.

Birth control blood clots can lead to deep vein thrombosis, hypertension (high blood pressure), heart attack, stroke or pulmonary embolism. Not everyone has the same risk profile, it can depend on your medical history. You might be more at risk of these conditions if you already have high blood pressure, are overweight or have any other medical condition. It is down to the prescriber to assess your risk and prescribe the best contraceptive to suit you.

Can birth control make you infertile?

No. Studies have found that hormonal birth control pills don’t positively or negatively affect fertility.

So, if you have taken birth control for a long time, don’t worry. And no matter which birth control method you have used — birth control pills, vaginal ring, intrauterine device (IUD), implant or injection - your chances of getting pregnant remain the same as someone who’s never used them.

Once you’re off the pill, your body will ideally get back to ovulating. Your menstrual cycle should be back to normal within 1–3 months. If it isn’t, consult your clinician.

Can I take birth control if I have a family history of breast cancer?

The use of oral contraceptives does not affect or modify the risk of breast cancer in women with a family history of breast cancer.

But some clinical studies have found that women with a family history of breast cancer, who used oral contraceptives before 1975, had a higher risk of breast cancer than those who took it after that.

Prior to 1975, oral birth control pills had a high volume of oestrogen and progestin hormones. Today, oral contraceptives use a lower dose of these hormones which make them much safer to use.

But there are studies which do not totally refute the relative link between the two. One such study showed that the risk varied with age — older women (above 35 or 45 years) who were still taking hormonal birth control pills had a greater risk. In women older than 35 years, there was one person diagnosed among every 7,690 women. And for women younger than 35 years, there was one among every 50,000 women.

To come to a definitive stand regarding the risk of breast cancer involved in using hormonal contraception is difficult as studies have conflicting conclusions. But yes, we can conclude that if at all there is a risk among users of hormonal birth control, the risk is relatively very low.

There is, however, enough evidence to show that hormonal contraceptive pills can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer and colorectal cancer.

Can you overdose on birth control?

If you take more than one pill in a day, you might not experience any side effects and can continue with your usual dose the next day. But if you’ve taken many birth control pills either purposely or accidentally, you might feel sick, vomit or have vaginal bleeding. This kind of discomfort is most likely to go away in a day.

Though there aren’t any serious or harmful effects of overdosing on birth control pills, you should stick to the dosage prescribed by your clinician.

Why does spotting while on birth control happen?

Spotting, irregular bleeding or breakthrough bleeding is a common symptom which most women experience when they start birth control.

You can have spotting while on birth control if you’ve missed or skipped a dose, you smoke, there’s an interaction with another medication you’re taking, you’re on continuous birth control like progestin-only pills or you have a sexually transmitted infection (STIs), vomiting, diarrhea or yeast infection.

Besides contraception, birth control pills are also prescribed for treatment of other health conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), uterine fibroids, endometriosis or perimenopause. Spotting or irregular bleeding might also happen due to this.

One good way to reduce or prevent spotting on birth control is to take your contraception at the same time everyday. This will help balance the hormonal changes in your body.

Spotting on birth control isn’t a serious condition and usually goes away in a few weeks as your body gets used to the new hormone levels brought about by the medication. If you start bleeding heavily or your spotting continues even after 6 months of you starting it, consult with your clinician.

Brown haired woman with glasses looking down and smiling indoors

Contraceptive ring side effects

The vaginal ring (or contraceptive ring) is a safe and effective birth control method. Like the combined pill or patch, it contains oestrogen and progesterone hormones which protect you from unwanted pregnancies.

You’re likely to get some side effects when you start using the contraceptive ring. The most common side effects (affecting about 1 in 10 women) are the ring coming out, migraine, headache, decrease in sex drive, nausea, vaginal itching, vaginal discomfort, pelvic pain, acne, pain in breasts, painful periods or weight gain.

The side effects should only give you discomfort for a short period of time and, for many, they will reduce altogether. But if they’re causing you too much trouble and significantly affecting your day-to-day life, speak to your doctor.

There are some serious contraceptive ring side effects to be aware of such as blood clots in veins or arteries, severe chest pain, sudden shortness of breath, continuous leg pain, allergic reactions, high blood pressure, gallbladder problems, liver issues, trouble in speaking, diarrhoea or sudden high fever.

Though the chances of experiencing these side effects are slim, in case you suffer from any of these after starting the ring, seek medical help immediately.

Nuvaring is the only licensed contraceptive ring used in Australia. It gives women 99% protection against pregnancies when used ‘perfectly’. But it can cause some side effects too. Some uncommon Nuvaring side effects (affecting about 1 in 100 women) are dizziness, swelling in abdomen, fatigue, visual problems, mood swings, gallbladder infection, problems during intercourse, difficulty in passing urine, back pain, leg or arm pain changes in menstrual cycle, vaginal infection, vaginal dryness, hair loss, itching, vomiting, constipation or diarrhea, problems during intercourse like bleeding or pain, sore breasts, lumps in breast, rise in blood pressure, rashes or spasms of the uterus.

Which contraception has the least side effects?

To pick out the best birth control pills with the least side effects isn’t easy. The different forms of contraception are safe and effective, but your body may respond differently to each of these methods. What works well for you may not work in the same way for everyone. It all depends on your medical history and your choice of contraception.

It’s also important to remember that some side effects are more serious than others. Extensive studies have shown that women who use the combined pill are around 1.6 times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than those who don’t. If your risk is low anyway, this doesn’t increase it by much. But if you have risk factors for these problems then it’s definitely something to consider.

When you start with birth control, it might take a few tries to be able to decide which one works best for you. Your doctor will be able to help you out.

Can birth control cause loss of libido?

Some women using birth control have noticed that they’re less interested in sex. Few women have reported an increased libido while some didn’t see any change in their sexual desire.

In a 2013 study out of 8,422 women using oral birth control, 1,826 reported an increase in their sex drive, 5,358 noticed no change and only 1,238 reported a decrease.

So, we can say that birth control low sex drive isn’t a factor for everyone. It is a potential side effect that differs from person to person.

Can birth control cause joint and muscle pain?

Joint pain or muscle pain isn’t typically a birth control side effect. Only a few women have reported it while using contraceptives, though there might have been other factors triggering it.

Will I get cramps on birth control?

Most women using birth control have mild or no cramping in the pelvis. This basically happens when you start taking birth control and your body is trying to adjust to the hormonal changes taking place. But pelvic pain on birth control should decrease or stop within a few weeks.

But if you experience severe pelvic pain, get in touch with your doctor. You may also notice bleeding, vomiting, fever, dizziness or nausea along with it.

Are there any long term side effects of birth control pills?

Long term use of birth control can have some good, as well as some not-so-good, effects. It depends on the person’s overall health condition, age and medical history.

Birth control can decrease the risk of ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer and colorectal cancer. But can increase the risk of developing blood clots and heart attack. The risk becomes higher if you smoke, are over age 35 and already have high blood pressure, diabetes or heart problems.

Most women tolerate birth control pills well and don’t experience any serious side effects. If you’ve been using contraception for many years and haven’t had any problems with them, it tends to mean that you should be able to continue using it for as long as you want. But in doing so, it’s important to keep checking in with your doctor. They’ll be able to advise you about the safety risks involved with using birth control for a long time.

Side effects of stopping birth control

Stopping birth control may have different side effects for different women. Some women may experience cramping, acne, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), mood swings, changes in weight, sex drive, irregular menstrual cycles, tender breasts, headaches and heavy periods.

If you are stopping birth control in order to become pregnant then there might also be a delay of a few months in conceiving.

Generally, coming off birth control is simple and hassle-free. If you’re taking oral birth control pills, you can simply stop taking them. If you’re using Nuvaring, you can easily remove it by yourself but if you’re using an IUD (intrauterine device), you’ll only be able to get it removed by a doctor. In case you have sudden fever or heavy vaginal bleeding after removing the IUD, seek immediate medical help.

It is good to take advice from your doctor before you stop taking birth control. They’ll be able to guide you how to do it safely and correctly. Ideally, your body needs 2-3 months to readjust but if it doesn’t, consult your doctor.

What should I do about side effects on combined birth control?

The side effects on combined birth control are normally mild and reduce as the body gets used to the medication. However, if they continue for too long and interfere with your daily activities, speak to your doctor.

They may suggest an alternative contraceptive like progestogen-only pills (or mini pills) or an IUD depending on what works best for you.

Combined contraception: where to start?

There are lots of contraceptive options available. If you want to see what our contraceptive subscriptions have to offer, our experts can help narrow down your options so that you can choose the best contraceptive for you.

Evelyn side effects

Like other combined contraceptive pills, you may experience some side effects while taking Evelyn. The common ones (affecting 1 in 10 women) are

  • headaches
  • bleeding or spotting between periods
  • mood swings
  • depression
  • low libido
  • inflammation of the vagina
  • nervousness
  • stupor
  • dizziness
  • abdominal pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • fluid retention in tissue (oedema)
  • acne
  • breast pain
  • breast enlargement
  • breast tenderness
  • nipple discharge
  • changes in vaginal secretion
  • changes in cervical secretion
  • painful or irregular periods
  • absence of periods
  • weight gain or loss

For most women, these side effects are mild, and disappear after a few weeks. But if you find that they persist, or if you experience any side effects that cause you discomfort, contact our prescriber. They may advise you to switch to a different pill, and they can suggest alternative options.

For a full list of side effects you should read the consumer medicine information.

Yaz side effects

You may have some side effects when you start taking Yaz, though not everyone gets them. The most common Yaz pill side effects are:

  • mood swings
  • headache
  • nausea
  • breast pain
  • irregular periods
  • absence of periods

For a full list of side effects you should read the consumer medicine information.

Levlen side effects

Like other combined pills, you may get some mild side effects when you start taking Levlen.

Most common among them are:

headache
stomach ache
increase in weight
depressive mood
mood swings
sore, tender or painful breasts

For a full list of Levlen pill side effects you should read the consumer medicine information.

Microgynon side effects

It’s possible you’ll experience side effects while taking Microgynon. Most of the side effects associated with birth control aren’t serious, and many occur just after you start taking it and go away on their own as your body adjusts to the new hormone levels.

Common Microgynon 30 side effects (may affect between 100 and 1000 in every 10,000 women)

  • nausea
  • stomach ache
  • weight gain
  • headache
  • depressive moods
  • mood swings
  • tender or painful breasts

For a full list of Microgynon pill side effects you should read the CMI.

NuvaRing side effects

Women who don’t want the hassle of a pill every day may find NuvaRing a more low-maintenance option. It is a very safe method of contraception.

You may get side effects when starting a new birth control method, but they’re usually mild and go away on their own after a month or two.

Some common side effects of Nuvaring (affecting up to 1 in 10 women) are:

  • the ring falling out
  • abdominal pain
  • feeling sick
  • vaginal yeast infection (like ‘thrush’)
  • discomfort in the vagina due to the ring
  • itching in the genitals
  • secretion from the vagina
  • headache
  • migraine
  • depressive mood
  • low sex drive
  • breast pain
  • pelvic pain
  • painful menstruation
  • acne
  • weight gain

For a full list of NuvaRing side effects you should read the CMI.

Rigevidon side effects

Mild side effects are fairly common when you first start using the pill or switch to a new one. A lot of the time these go away on their own after a couple of months of use. But if these continue for long, let your prescriber know and they’ll be able to discuss switching to a new pill with you.

Below are the common (affecting up to 1 in 10 women) side effects reported in women using Rigevidon:

  • Vaginitis, including vaginal candidiasis
  • mood swings
  • low sex drive
  • nervousness
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • abdominal pain
  • acne
  • breast pain
  • breast enlargement and discharge
  • painful periods
  • irregular bleeding
  • no or reduced bleeding
  • abnormality of cervix (change in cervical ectopion) and vaginal secretion
  • fluid retention/edema
  • changes in weight.

For a full list of Rigevidon pill side effects you should read the patient information leaflet.

Triphasil side effects

You may get some mild side effects when you start taking Triphasil. These aren’t serious and go away in a few weeks.

Commonly reported side effects (affecting up to 1 in 10 women) are:

  • headache
  • feeling sick
  • mood swings
  • depressive mood
  • pain in breasts
  • tender breasts
  • bleeding or spotting
  • weight gain
  • bleeding from uterus that isn’t due to menstruation
  • cholelithiasis
  • chloasma (yellow, brown patches on the skin)

For a full list of Triphasil pill side effects you should read the CMI.

Yacella side effects

Yacella side effects are usually mild in nature when they occur. These often subside as the body gets used to the medication. But if you have effects that persist or are uncomfortable, let your prescriber know.
Some common side effects of Yacella are:

  • menstrual disorders like bleeding between periods, breast pain, breast tenderness
  • headache
  • low mood
  • migraine
  • nausea
  • changes in vaginal discharge
  • vaginal yeast infection.

For a full list of Yacella pill side effects you should read the patient information leaflet.

Yasmin side effects

The most commonly observed side effects associated with Yasmin are:

  • headache
  • migraine
  • depressive mood
  • nausea
  • breast pain
  • tender breasts
  • menstrual disorders
  • bleeding between periods
  • thick whitish vaginal discharge
  • vaginal yeast infection

For a full list of Yasmin side effects you should read the CMI.

Zoely side effects

Like other medicines, you may experience some side effects while taking Zoely. But they tend to go away on their own in a few weeks.

Some very common side effects of Zoely are:

  • acne
  • changes to menstrual periods (e.g. absence or irregularity)

Some other side effects are:

  • decreased interest in sex
  • depression/depressed mood
  • mood changes
  • headache or migraine
  • feeling sick (nausea)
  • heavy menstrual periods; breast pain; pelvic pain
  • weight gain

For a full list of Zoely side effects you should read the CMI.

Reference Popover #ref1
Reference Popover #ref2
Reference Popover #ref3
Reference Popover #ref4
Reference Popover #ref5
Reference Popover #ref6
Reference Popover #ref7
Reference Popover #ref8
Reference Popover #ref9
Reference Popover #ref10
Reference Popover #ref11
Reference Popover #ref12
Reference Popover #ref13
Reference Popover #ref14

How we source info.

When we present you with stats, data, opinion or a consensus, we’ll tell you where this came from. And we’ll only present data as clinically reliable if it’s come from a reputable source, such as a state or government-funded health body, a peer-reviewed medical journal, or a recognised analytics or data body. Read more in our editorial policy.

This page was medically reviewed by Dr Daniel Atkinson, GP Clinical Lead on August 02, 2022. Next review due on August 02, 2024.

Add a treatment to compare.

Suggest a treatment

If there’s a particular treatment or condition you’re looking for, tell us and we’ll look into it for you.

Ask or suggest something.

Submit your question here, or tell us if you’ve found an issue on our site.

We may email you about your query, but you can opt out of these communications any time you like.
4.8

Our average rating based on 3254 reviews.

Tell us about a problem

I accept the terms of use.
We may email you about the problem, but you can opt out of these communications any time you like.

What did you like about it?

What didn't you like about it?

We’ll get back to you very soon. We aim to respond to all queries in one working day.

You’re signed up to our newsletter. Keep an eye on your inbox for our latest update.

news-letter

Sign up to our newsletter for all the latest on and more.

By clicking 'Subscribe now' you're agreeing to our Privacy Policy.

Is this your first time with us?

You can continue as a guest, or sign in with your Treated account if you have one. 

4.8

Our average rating based on 3254 reviews.