Alesse Side Effects

While most women have no problems with Alesse, side effects are possible. Some of the most commonly reported side effects include breast tenderness, nausea, and bloating. Contact your healthcare provider immediately if you develop any serious side effects of Alesse, such as migraines, signs of an allergic reaction, or signs of liver damage.

An Introduction to Alesse Side Effects

As with any medicine, side effects are possible with Alesse® (levonorgestrel/ethinyl estradiol); however, not all women who use the contraceptive will experience side effects. In fact, most tolerate it quite well. If side effects do occur, in most cases, they are minor and either require no treatment or can easily be treated by you or your healthcare provider.
(This article covers many, but not all, of the possible side effects with Alesse. Your healthcare provider can discuss a more complete list of Alesse side effects with you. Alesse is equivalent to Aviane®, Lutera™, Falmina™, and Orsythiabirth control pills. The information in this article also applies to these medications.)

Clinical Studies and Side Effects

In the United States, medications must undergo clinical studies before they are approved for use. In clinical studies for most medications, one group of people is given the actual medication, while another group is given a placebo (a "sugar pill" with no active ingredients), and the people are not told if they were given the real medication or the placebo. The side effects in both groups are carefully documented and compared. This way, it is possible to see what side effects occur, how often they appear, and whether they are actual side effects of the medication. However, it is not possible to use a placebo in clinical trials for contraceptives, as this would lead to many unintentional pregnancies.

Common Side Effects of Alesse

Since it is difficult to obtain much information about side effects from studies that do not use a placebo, because there is no way of knowing if any particular problem is actually a side effect of the medication, only vague information is available about Alesse side effects. In fact, the side effects listed in the prescribing information for Alesse are actually side effects of all birth control pills in general. Some of these common bothersome (but not usually dangerous) side effects include but are not limited to:
  • Breast tenderness and swelling
  • Headaches (although birth control pills can improve headaches in some women)
  • Acne (although birth control pills can also improve acne)
  • Breakthrough bleeding and spotting between periods (especially for the first few cycles)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Changes in your eyes that make it more difficult to wear contact lenses
  • Bloating
  • Changes in sex drive (typically a decrease in sex drive).
Women are often concerned about weight gain due to birth control pills, but recent research suggests that birth control pills probably do not cause weight gain for most women (see Alesse and Weight Gain).
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD
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