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Birth Control Pill Warnings and Precautions

Specific Birth Control Pill Warnings and Precautions

Warnings and precautions to be aware of prior to using birth control pills include the following:
  • Combined oral contraceptives (most of the pills currently available) increase the risk of blood clots, strokes, and heart attacks. These risks are quite small for healthy, young nonsmokers. However, tell your healthcare provider if you have ever had a blood clot, stroke, heart attack, or chest pain. Smoking cigarettes greatly increases the risk of serious birth control pill side effects, such as heart attacks, strokes, and blood clots. This risk is particularly high for smokers over the age of 35.
  • Hormonal contraceptives can increase your blood pressure. This can be a problem if you already have high blood pressure.
  • Birth control pills do not protect against HIV, AIDS, or other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). In many cases, women are advised to use condoms in addition to birth control pills.
  • Birth control pills can interact with a number of different medications (see Birth Control Pill Drug Interactions).
  • Combined oral contraceptives, which are most of the pills currently available, may slightly increase the risk of breast cancer or cervical cancer, although this is an unresolved and controversial issue. However, combined oral contraceptives seem to help protect women against ovarian and uterine cancer.
  • Oral contraceptives increase the risk of benign (noncancerous) liver tumors. In rare cases, these tumors can rupture and cause serious problems.
  • Hormonal contraceptives may make gallbladder disease worse. Therefore, if you have had a problem with your gallbladder, birth control pills may not be the best contraceptive method for you.
  • Birth control pills may increase blood sugar, particularly in women with diabetes. Your healthcare provider may need to monitor you more closely in this case. Let your healthcare provider know if you have any sudden vision changes, as this may be a sign of a blood clot in the eyes (a possible side effect of birth control pills and other hormonal contraceptives).
  • Birth control pills can change your menstrual bleeding patterns. Some women have breakthrough bleeding (bleeding between periods), while others may not have a period at all. It is normal to have shorter and lighter periods while using birth control pills. However, if you notice any unusual changes in your bleeding patterns, let your healthcare provider know. If you miss a period, you should make sure you are not pregnant.
  • Birth control pills can affect your cholesterol. Your healthcare provider may need to check your cholesterol levels after you start birth control pills, especially if you already have high cholesterol.
  • Sometimes, hormonal contraceptives may make depression worse. Let your healthcare provider know if you develop new or worsening depression symptoms while taking birth control pills.
  • Occasionally, birth control pills can cause eye changes that make it more difficult to wear contact lenses.
  • Birth control pills are considered pregnancy Category X medications. This means that they should not be used during pregnancy (see Birth Control Pills and Pregnancy).
  • Contraceptive hormones, such as the ones in birth control pills, pass through breast milk. Therefore, if you are breastfeeding or plan to start, discuss this with your healthcare provider prior to taking a birth control pill (see Birth Control Pills and Breastfeeding).
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD
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