Hormonal Birth Control Side Effects Explained

All of our bodies are different so we will react to changes differently. Birth control is no exception. While some of us will experience absolutely no birth control side effects, others may notice signs and symptoms associated with taking hormonal, or in some cases, non-hormonal contraception. In this post we’ll look at the most popular methods of preventing pregnancy out there and the different side effects of these birth control methods….

Woman with her hand to her forehead looking in pain or stressed

Different birth control side effects

Please keep in mind that we’re all different and it’s always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional if you have concerns or questions regarding your birth control. Below is a breakdown of the different side effects associated with birth control: 

Side effects of the birth control pill

Containing the hormones progesterone and estrogen, the contraceptive pill or combined pill works by thickening cervical mucus and preventing ovulation. The pill is manufactured by several brands and comes in many different dosages. Not everyone will experience side effects when taking the birth control pill, but some common ones include:

  • Decreased sex drive
  • Changes in menstrual bleeding or spotting
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Breast tenderness
  • Changes in mood

Side effects of the progesterone-only pill or minipill

The progesterone-only pill, or minipill, doesn’t contain the hormone estrogen which is found in the combined pill. It’s often a hormonal birth control option for those who face risks taking the combined pill, e.g. those with a family history of blood clots. Side effects of the progesterone-only pill include: 

  • Acne
  • Breast tenderness
  • Changes to mood
  • Migraines or headaches
  • Nausea
  • Small ovarian cysts

IUD side effects

The IUD is a small t-shaped device that is inserted into the uterus. It’s a long-acting reversible contraception with a high efficacy rate. The IUD requires fitting by a healthcare professional, but once fitted, the IUD can be used as birth control for many years. Common IUD side effects are:

Side effects of the birth control injection

Administered every 3 months, the contraceptive injection is another hormonal option of birth control that doesn’t contain estrogen. Some reported side effects of the birth control injection include:

  • Headaches
  • Hair loss
  • Changes in menstrual bleeding (or this may stop completely)
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Weight gain
  • Mood swings

Side effects of the NuvaRing

The NuvaRing or birth control ring is a small device inserted into the vagina, releasing hormones to prevent pregnancy. Once inserted, the ring has enough hormones to last for up to 5 weeks, after which it should be removed and changed. The side effects of the NuvaRing include:

  • Headaches
  • Breast tenderness
  • Spotting and changes to menstrual bleeding
  • Decreased sex drive

Side effects and non-hormonal birth control

Historically, there haven’t been many contraceptive options for women who want to avoid hormones due to their side effects, but two common options are the copper IUD and condoms.  While the copper IUD is non-hormonal, women choosing this method can still experience cramping and heavier periods, as with the hormonal IUD. Condoms are great for protecting against sexually transmitted diseases, but cause irritation for people with latex allergies or sensitivities

Fertility awareness-based methods such as the rhythm method (or calendar method), offer non-hormonal protection, but are notoriously laborious. While withdrawal, or the pull-out method, is hard to time and is less effective than hormonal options. Check out more details on non-hormonal birth control methods and their effectiveness here

At Natural Cycles we are proud to bring to market the first birth control app. Our non-hormonal birth control uses the science behind the basal body temperature method, paired with a smart algorithm that learns your unique cycle in order to predict the fertile window so you know exactly when you are fertile. With a global community of users, Natural Cycles is a growing hormone-free birth control option. And the only known side effect? Learning more about your body.

Discover Natural Cycles° today

Jen on the roof terrace at Natural Cycles headquarters.

Written By

Jennifer Gray

A writer with a passion for women’s health, Jennifer Gray has years of experience writing about various reproductive health topics including birth control, planning pregnancy, women’s anatomy, and so much more.

Jack in a suit and tie holding a microphone and giving a presentation.

Scientifically Reviewed

Jack Pearson

With 10 years of experience working in the field of fertility, Jack Pearson is Natural Cycles’ in-house expert. As Medical Affairs Manager, he dedicates his time to conducting groundbreaking research and educating healthcare professionals.

Want to learn more about a hormone-free future?

Subscribe to our newsletter for access to our latest articles, exclusive promotions and more.