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Understanding the Side Effects Associated with POP and COC Birth Control Pills

Let's explore the potential side effects associated with taking POPs and COCs

Understanding the Side Effects Associated with POP and COC Birth Control Pills

When it comes to contraceptive options, birth control pills are among the most popular choices for women worldwide.1 There are two main types of birth control pills available: progestin-only pills (POPs) and combined oral contraceptives (COCs). While these pills provide reliable contraception, it’s important to be aware of the potential side effects that can occur while taking them. Understanding these side effects will help you make informed choices about your contraception. Let's explore the potential side effects associated with taking POPs and COCs.

Let's explore the potential side effects associated with taking POPs and COCs.

POP side effects:

  • Irregular bleeding: The most common side effect associated with POPs is a change in bleeding pattern. Periods may be less or more frequent, shorter or longer, lighter or heavier than before starting the pill. You may also experience some spotting or bleeding between your periods.2
  • Other side effects: Although less common, you may experience headaches, dizziness, nausea, increased appetite, abdominal pain, cramps or bloating.2

COC side effects: 

  • Risks of blood clots and cardiovascular events: COCs have been associated with an increased risk of blood clots, specifically venous thromboembolism (VTE). Individuals with a history of blood clots or clotting disorders and certain risk factors (e.g. smokers over 35) are typically advised against using COCs.3 COCs have also been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks and strokes. Individuals who have high blood pressure and smokers over the age of 35 are at a higher risk of cardiovascular events.3  If either of these apply to you, reach out to your healthcare provider who can help you find the best contraceptive option that suits your needs.
  • Other side effects: Some people may experience mild nausea, headaches, irregular bleeding, or breast tenderness and discomfort, especially during the first few weeks of taking COC pills.4,5 These are usually temporary and should subside or normalize within a few cycles. However, if symptoms persist, or become severe, speak with a healthcare provider.

      Final Thoughts:

      While birth control pills offer an effective and reliable way to prevent pregnancy, they also have potential side effects to consider. COCs, which contain both estrogen and progestin, can be prescribed by a healthcare provider. However, if you prefer a birth control pill without estrogen, a POP like Opill® is a great option. Opill can be purchased over the counter without a doctor’s visit or prescription at most major retailers and online. This convenience allows you to have more control over your reproductive health.

      References:

      [1] United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2019). Contraceptive Use by Method 2019: Data Booklet (ST/ESA/SER.A/435

      [2] Opill® over-the-counter [Consumer Information Leaflet]. Dublin, Ireland: Perrigo Co.; 2023

      [3] Curtis KM, Tepper NK, Jatlaoui TC, et al. U.S. Medical Eligibility Criteria for Contraceptive Use, 2016. MMWR Recomm Rep 2016;65(No. RR-3):1–104. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.rr6503a1

      [4] Bagshaw, S. The Combined Oral Contraceptive. Drug-Safety 12, 91–96 (1995). https:// doi.org/10.2165/00002018-199512020-00002

      [5] Sherif K. Benefits and risks of oral contraceptives. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1999 Jun;180(6 Pt 2):S343-8. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9378(99)70694-0. PMID: 10368519.

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