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Ortho Tri-Cyclen Side Effects

Nausea, breakthrough bleeding, and changes in sex drive are potential side effects that may occur with Ortho Tri-Cyclen. Side effects with this form of birth control are usually mild and do not require treatment (or are easily treated). There are, however, certain side effects of Ortho Tri-Cyclen that require immediate medical attention, including chest pain, breast lumps, or vision changes.

An Introduction to Ortho Tri-Cyclen Side Effects

As with any medicine, side effects are possible with Ortho Tri-Cyclen® (norgestimate/ethinyl estradiol); however, not every woman who uses the contraceptive will experience side effects. In fact, most tolerate it quite well. If Ortho Tri-Cyclen 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 Ortho Tri-Cyclen. Your healthcare provider can discuss a more complete list of Ortho Tri-Cyclen side effects with you. Ortho Tri-Cyclen is equivalent to Norgestimate and Ethinyl Estradiol, Tri-Estarylla™, Tri-Linyah™, Tri-Sprintec®, TriNessa®, and Tri-Previfem® birth control pills. The information in this article also applies to each of these medications.)

Common Side Effects of Ortho Tri-Cyclen

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). 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 usually possible to use a placebo in clinical trials for contraceptives, as this would lead to many unintentional pregnancies.
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, only vague information is available about Ortho Tri-Cyclen side effects. In fact, the side effects listed in the prescribing information for Ortho Tri-Cyclen are actually side effects of all birth control pills in general.
Some of these common bothersome (but not usually dangerous) side effects include:
  • Headaches (although birth control pills can improve headaches in some women)
  • 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
  • Breast tenderness or other breast changes, such as swelling
  • Changes in sex drive (often a decrease, rather than an increase).
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 Ortho Tri-Cyclen and Weight Gain).
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD
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