What are the side effects of birth control pills and the patch?

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Birth control pills

The most common side effects of the birth control pills include nausea, headache, breast tenderness, weight gain, irregular bleeding, and mood changes. These side effects often subside after a few months’ use. Scanty menstrual periods or breakthrough bleeding may occur but are often temporary, and neither side effect is serious. Women with a history of migraines may notice an increase in migraine frequency. On the other hand, women whose migraines are triggered by fluctuations in their own hormone levels may notice improvement in migraines with oral contraceptive use because of the more uniform hormone levels during oral contraceptive use.

Uncommonly, oral contraceptives may contribute to increased blood pressure, blood clots, heart attack, and stroke. Women who smoke, especially those over 35, and women with certain medical conditions, such as a history of blood clots or breast or endometrial cancer, may be advised against taking oral contraceptives, as these conditions can increase the adverse risks of oral contraceptives.

Ortho Evra

WARNING

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Ortho Evra is intended to prevent pregnancy. It does not protect against HIV (AIDS) or other sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia, genital herpes, genital warts, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, and syphilis.

The most common side effects of Ortho Evra include:

• nausea and vomiting,
• breast symptoms,
headache,
menstrual cramps, and
abdominal pain.

In addition, change in appetite, nervousness, depression, dizziness, loss of scalp hair, rash, and vaginal infections may occur.

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Skin Irritation

Skin irritation, redness or rash may occur at the site of application. If this occurs, the patch may be removed and a new patch may be applied to a new location until the next Change Day. Single replacement patches are available from pharmacies.

Vaginal Bleeding

Irregular vaginal bleeding or spotting may occur while you are using Ortho Evra. Irregular bleeding may vary from slight staining between menstrual periods to breakthrough bleeding which is a flow much like a regular period. Irregular bleeding may occur during the first few months of contraceptive patch use but may also occur after you have been using the contraceptive patch for some time. Such bleeding may be temporary and usually does not indicate any serious problems. It is important to continue using your contraceptive patches on schedule. If the bleeding occurs in more than a few cycles or lasts for more than a few days, talk to your health care professional.

Problems Wearing Contact Lenses

If you wear contact lenses and notice a change in vision or an inability to wear your lenses, contact your health care professional.

Fluid Retention or Raised Blood Pressure

Hormonal contraceptives, including the contraceptive patch, may cause edema (fluid retention) with swelling of the fingers or ankles and may raise your blood pressure. If you experience fluid retention, contact your health care professional.

Melasma

A spotty darkening of the skin is possible, particularly of the face. This may persist after use of hormonal contraceptives is discontinued.