From acne to weight gain, here are 7 possible side effects of birth control depending on the method

Stock image | Photo by AntonioGuillem/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

FEATURE — Whether you’re considering the pill, an intrauterine device or the patch, there are a lot of differences between methods of contraception. This means there are a variety of side effects with each method that should be considered.

Here are seven things to consider to help you choose the right type.

1. Acne

Your type of birth control can make a difference in your acne. If you have significant acne, birth control pills are an excellent treatment as they decrease the amount of testosterone the ovaries make. Testosterone makes your skin oily. Oily glands get infected.

Depo-Provera and Nexplanon can make bad acne worse. IUDs usually don’t make much of a difference.

Be aware of this as you choose. If you have mild acne, it probably doesn’t matter. But if you have moderate or severe acne, it should be a part of the overall discussion when you choose.

2. Menstrual cycles

Progesterone IUDs are highly effective, and in experienced hands, they are easy to insert. Once in, they’re very easy to manage and can be in for up to six years (Mirena type). Cycles are very light.

A copper coil intrauterine device used for contraception. Stock image | Photo by Flocu/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

Be aware that copper T IUDs are less expensive but do not offer the light cycles. Cycles with the copper IUDs tend to be normal to heavy and regular.

Cycles with birth control pills are typically very regular. Nexplanon cycles are less predictable but lighter than normal. Depo cycles are typically gone altogether.

3. Long-term vs. short-term

The progesterone IUD can be in for six years. The Nexplanon is left in for three years.

My advice for young women is that if getting a pelvic exam gives you the heebie-jeebies, you can get a Nexplanon placed without one.

If you want the advantage of a six-year contraceptive that doesn’t affect your natural hormone cycles and allows you to have very light cycles, a progesterone IUD is a great option. You don’t need to have had a baby, or even have been sexually active, to have it placed.

In the shorter-term, Depo shots are administered every three months, and pills are taken every day.

4. Moods and depression

Depo can sometimes make bad depression worse. Nexplanon theoretically can, too. If the depression is mild, either one is fine to use.

All of the rest shouldn’t affect it much.

5. Weight gain

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Depo is really the only contraceptive where a certain percentage of women, about 25 percent, have been proven to gain weight.

Other hormonal birth control methods will cause short-term water weight gain that resolves in a month or two.

6. Better hair?

Only one form of contraceptive offers an advantage to hair quality — birth control pills.

They mimic pregnancy and estrogen increases scalp blood-flow, and voila — thicker, shinier hair.

7. Effectiveness

Nexplanon and IUDs are highly effective, with less than a 1 percent failure rate. These are followed by Depo Provera at 96 percent and birth control pills at 93 percent (theoretic 99 percent, but lower due to missed pills).

Emergency contraception

One last note on emergency contraception. Levonorgestrel (Plan B, et cetera) is available without a prescription and is effective if taken within 72 hours. Ulipristal (Ella) is by prescription and is effective for five days after. Placing an IUD will also work if done within five days.


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  • hiker75 January 28, 2019 at 8:33 am

    Good article. Decide how you will prevent an unwanted pregnancy!

  • ladybugavenger January 28, 2019 at 10:45 am

    Some bloating and weight gain is better than an Oops, I’m pregnant!

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