All birth control methods, besides natural family planning (abstaining during the projected days of ovulation), have some side effects. Some are more serious than others, and you should take time to think hard about what kind of birth control will be both the most effective, as well as the safest, for you and your partner.

Oral Contraceptives

The most serious side effect of oral birth control is secondary to smoking. If you are taking any kind of birth control that has hormone therapy, like the pill, you should make a serious attempt to stop smoking or use a method that does not include any hormones in the method of preventing pregnancy.

If a smoker uses oral contraceptives, she runs the risk of developing blood clots. This serious side effect can lead to stroke, heart attack, pulmonary embolism, and death. 

Luckily, most people have no side effects with the pill or just minor side effects. Various kinds of oral contraception, such as DepoNova or Tri-Sprintec side effects are minor. Most people experience them in the first three months of use. 

Side effects include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Soreness in the breasts
  • Changes in the menstrual cycle (It might suddenly come early or late; it might also stop entirely while you are on the pill.)
  • Spotting or brownish discharge between periods

Other side effects that are less common are complaints about mood swings related to various cycles of the pill, and bouts of acne that the users of the pill relate to various parts of their pill or menstrual cycle. Evidence that these two problems are directly caused by birth control pills is debated by some experts, and more information is needed to establish a solid link.


Like the pill, the Depo shot also uses hormone therapy to regulate the body’s release of viable ova (eggs). The depo shot needs to be scheduled about 4 times a year to give you a steady dose of a hormone that will prevent any eggs from being released for fertilization. 

Because Depo uses hormone therapy as well, the mild side effects are the same as in BCP. (birth control pills)

Because the dosage is delivered as an injection, the Depo shot has a potential side effect of local allergic response at the injection site. Similarly, on rare occasions, the injection site may develop redness, swelling, and even abscesses at the injection site. It’s normal to have some soreness at the site for up to 24 hours after the injection. Any significant swelling, redness, pain, drainage, or fever should be addressed immediately by a healthcare practitioner ASAP.


IUDs (intrauterine devices) may or may not incorporate hormone therapy to work. They are tiny devices that are inserted into the opening of the cervix by a practitioner. They can last several years to prevent pregnancy and need to be removed by a practitioner if you want to try to get pregnant, or if you want the IUD removed. 

In the 1980s, an IUD called the “Dalkon Shield” was the subject of a massive group action lawsuit, because of problems that arose from the design of the device. This early IUD led to generations of women swearing off that method of birth control. The IUDs used today are much safer than designs used in the past, and the Dalkon Shield is out of use, but the use of IUDs unfortunately still carries a stigma with some women.

There are two kinds of IUD in use: a copper IUD, and an IUD that releases hormones slowly into the body. Aside from sometimes causing discomfort for a few days after insertion (cramping or back pain), and occasionally becoming dislodged — copper and hormonal IUDs have different side effects.

Copper IUDs have no hormones and are great for women who have issues with hormone-based birth control. However, some women complain about very heavy periods in the first six months after insertion.

Hormonal IUDs have many of the same side effects as the pill and other hormone-based birth control. They also may cause spotting between periods and irregular periods. 

Find The Right One For You

Modern women are lucky to have such a broad choice in birth control. No one kind of birth control is perfect, but the amount of choices out there means that you should be able to find a method that suits you and your partner, and makes family planning something that is low stress and non-problematic.