You may preach an active, healthy lifestyle free of heavy alcohol use and smoking, but did you know your birth control pills might be a serious danger to your health? Millions of women each year depend on hormonal contraceptives to avoid pregnancy, and many also enjoy the benefits of shorter, lighter periods. While birth control can be an effective and easy way for women to manage their cycle, many don’t know that taking the pill each day can come with severe side effects, some even life threatening. Here are the five most dangerous side effects associated with birth control pills.
1. Blood clots
Even if you aren’t a smoker, you may be raising your risk for blood clots by taking birth control pills. Bottom Line Inc. explains that studies have revealed birth control pills contain drospirenone, a synthetic form of progesterone, which may greatly increase your risk for blood clots.
These blood clots can happen in any artery or vein. Though they can sometimes dissolve on their own, they can also be life threatening if they stop blood flow to the lungs, brain, or heart. If you believe you may be on a pill that contains drospirenone, ask your doctor for their opinion on whether or not you should switch to a different brand.
2. Benign liver tumors
Oral contraceptives have been linked to an increased risk of developing benign liver tumors. Though benign tumors are noncancerous and typically do not pose many risks to your health, the types that are associated with birth control pills can cause serious problems for some women. The American Liver Foundation explains that hepatocellular adenomas are one type that can occur, and they bear the risk of causing abdominal bleeding. The hormones in birth control may also cause these tumors to enlarge over time, and doctors sometimes wish to remove them surgically.
Starting hormonal birth control pills can be an adjustment to your body, meaning that you may experience mood swings that should settle over time. However, some women can link their depression to their birth control usage, and it not stopping until they are off the pill. Heathline says studies suggest depression is the most common reason many women ditch the pill altogether, though a concrete link between hormonal birth control and depression still remains murky.
Some think women taking a combination pill, one that contains both estrogen and progesterone, are more likely to experience signs of depression than those who are taking a pill with just one. If you have feelings of sadness, anxiety, hopelessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, or suicidal thoughts or tendencies while you’re on the pill, contact your doctor immediately.
4. Gallbladder disease
While some specific types of birth control pills may increase the risk of gallbladder disease more than others, MedPage Today explains that no matter what birth control pill you’re on, there’s always going to be some risk.
Your risk may also be raised for developing gallstones if you’re overweight, have diabetes, or smoke.
Healthline notes gallstones can cause extreme pain, as they’re hard masses formed in the gallbladder, a small organ that stores digestive fluids. These gallstones can cause a blockage in the bile duct, preventing your gallbladder from functioning properly. If you’re experiencing severe stomach pain as well as nausea, vomiting, fever, or a yellow tint to the skin, seek medical aid immediately.
5. Breast and cervical cancer
Studies have been trying to find a concrete link between birth control pills and cancer for years, and while nothing definitive has been found, studies have continuously reported both breast and cervical cancer risks are increased for those taking birth control pills. The National Cancer Institute explains naturally occurring progesterone and estrogen can influence certain cancers, so birth control pills deserve a certain amount of scrutiny.
Though there needs to be more research, the story reported the risk of both of these cancers is greater for those taking birth control pills. Interestingly, it diminishes over time after a woman ceases taking this type of contraceptive.
Routine breast exams and pap smears can be lifesaving, so don’t forget to schedule regular visits with your doctor, especially when taking birth control pills.