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Data Insights

Survey findings on hormonal birth control side effects

Woman lying in bed with a pillow pulled over her head

Key takeaways

  • 89% of the survey respondents suspect that the negative side effects they had were caused by their hormonal birth control
  • Many were not aware that their birth control was causing the side effects

About 88% of those who have started using Natural Cycles since 2019 have previously been on some type of hormonal birth control. With this in mind, we wanted to learn more about the side effects those who switch from hormonal birth control experience and how they affect their lives.

We sent an in-app survey to new Cyclers who had used hormonal birth control in the last 12 months and got 2,674 replies. Over 90% of the respondents had been on hormonal birth control for at least a year, but the majority had used hormones for longer – 71% had used hormonal birth control for more than four years. The most used method was the birth control pill, followed by the hormonal IUD and the mini pill.

When asked about side effects, it was clear that many did experience them – 62% of respondents had experienced negative side effects from their birth control, and an additional 27% suspected that they had negative side effects. Only 11% stated that they didn’t have any negative side effects at all. 1 in 4 reported that the side effects were so bad that they couldn’t function normally on some days, while about 1 in 2 were affected to some degree in their daily lives.

The top three most common side effects were low sex drive (69%), mood changes (64%), and weight gain (42%). Other reported side effects were irregular bleeding, headaches, skin changes, breast tenderness, and nausea. 

For most, these symptoms went away within the first six months after quitting hormonal birth control, but 1 in 5 still experienced side effects after six months had passed.

Interestingly, many weren’t aware that the side effects they experienced were caused by their birth control method at the time they were happening. Only 1 in 4 was certain why they were having these symptoms, while the rest were either not aware of the underlying reason, or suspected that it was due to their birth control but weren’t sure. It’s also worth noting that only 1 in 6 were informed by their healthcare provider about all possible side effects of their birth control, while 1 in 3 weren’t informed about side effects at all.

Knowledge about side effects can be a big part of choosing a type of birth control, but it can also be a reason for changing methods. At Natural Cycles, we believe that everyone should have the information they need to make informed decisions about their body.

The results of this survey show that there is a knowledge gap about the side effects of hormonal birth control, and more information in this area could potentially help those looking to choose a birth control method that’s right for them. While the results presented here represent a group of NC° users who wanted to switch to a non-hormonal method and are not representative of the population as a whole, a growing number of people are seeking alternatives to hormonal birth control.