Health Risks of Hormonal Birth Control

Women have been using hormonal birth control methods for years. The rise and development of contraceptives like the birth control pill have meant a positive change in the lives of women, and has been associated with a woman's freedom over her body as well as her lifestyle.

But controversy over some of the health risks and side effects of using hormonal birth control methods have surrounded the use of contraceptives like birth control pills. In an attempt to prevent unwanted pregnancy, these methods are often taken for granted. It is important to consider what some of the effects these contraceptives may have on a woman's body, and what the potential birth control risks and complications are, so that women can make informed decisions regarding their personal health.


What Is Hormonal Birth Control?

There are four main types of hormonal birth control methods available. The most popular of these birth control options is the oral contraceptive or "The Pill." Others include the birth control shot, birth control patch, birth control implants and the contraceptive ring.

All hormonal birth control methods have one main objective: to prevent a mature egg from developing in the female reproductive system. This is achieved by inhibiting the two key hormones that trigger ovulation: the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and the luteinising hormone (LH).

Both FSH and LH are triggered by decreased levels in oestrogen and progesterone hormones that are normally produced in the ovaries, and are decreased in preparation for ovulation. Hormonal birth control methods work by administering regular supplies of oestrogen and progesterone (or progestin) and maintaining constant hormonal levels in order to prevent ovulation from taking place.


Is Hormonal Birth Control Safe?

Although the Pill is often used to treat medical conditions such as endometriosis, the side effects and complications that are otherwise associated with hormonal birth control methods range from mild to severe. While many will assert that the use of hormonal birth control is safe, it is important to understand what the risks and side effects of these methods are, as each birth control method and birth control product carries its own risk factors. In addition, the individuals who may be at greater risk of experiencing complications vary depending on their medical history as well as the product being used.


Hormonal Birth Control Side Effects

Individuals with certain medical conditions such as a history of liver tumors or liver disease, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, breast cancer, reproductive cancer, or blood clotting may not be prescribed certain birth control methods. Some of the side effects that are otherwise commonly experienced as a result of oestrogen and progesterone birth control use include:


  • Nausea, vomiting, constipation, or bloating
  • Irregular menstruation and spotting
  • Breast swelling or tenderness
  • Decreased libido
  • Weight gain or loss of appetite
  • Mood swings, anxiety, nervousness or depression
  • Changes in vaginal discharge and vaginal infections
  • Headaches, dizziness and fatigue
  • High blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Acne or permanent discolouration of the face
  • Fluid retention
  • Bone density loss
  • Hair loss or changes in hair growth
  • Enlarged ovarian follicles


Birth Control Risks and Complications

The potential link between oral contraceptives and breast cancer is not yet understood, and further research is required in order to determine this connection. However, there are some risks and long-term complications associated with the use of hormonal birth control methods. These include the following birth control risks:


  • Eye problems or vision impairment
  • Gallbladder disease and gallstones
  • Embolism
  • Resistance to Insulin
  • Immune system suppression
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Breast tumors and liver tumors
  • Ectopic Pregnancies
  • Links with certain cancers such as cervical cancer
  • Blood clots in legs, lungs, heart and brain
  • Jaundice

Many of these conditions are considered rare, and further research must be conducted in order to determine the exact links between hormonal birth control methods and their effects on a woman's body.

A health care professional can help you make the birth control decision that's right for you based on your personal concerns and lifestyle as well as your medical history. Ask your health care provider any questions you may have concerning any serious complications of a birth control method and the risk factors that are relevant to your case. Being aware of your medical options and alternatives can only benefit your health in the long run.


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