Food, Health and Wellness

Do you know about these birth control risks?

Food, Health and Wellness Mary Swick

Birth control is an essential facet of women's healthcare these days. In the United States, 62% of women of reproductive age use birth control, while in the United Kingdom that figure rises to 74%. While contraception has many benefits for the user, each method also contains certain risks that you need to know about. This article will talk about the risks to the most common and popular methods of birth control. Discover these birth control risks below, and consult your doctor or gynecologist for more information or to discuss your options.

Common Types of Birth Control

According to Planned Parenthood, there are 18 different categories of birth control, ranging from the methods we’ve all heard of, like the oral contraceptive pill, to more obscure ones, like the birth control sponge. 

The most common methods used today are:

  • Oral contraceptives, also called “the pill”.
  • An injectable contraceptive that is injected every few months into the body.
  • An intrauterine device (IUD), a tiny T-shaped device made that a doctor puts into your uterus. 
  • A birth control ring that is inserted into the vagina. 
  • Condoms that are placed over the penis to create a barrier and prevent sperm from entering the vagina.

birth control risks pregnant woman

Birth Control Risks for Each Option

Finding the right method for you often means balancing the side effects and seeing what works best for your body. Discover some of the most common risks associated with each method of birth control. 

Oral contraceptive pill

One of the most popular and widespread birth control methods is the pill, or oral contraceptives. There are two types: combined estrogen and progestin (with 3 weeks of contraceptives and one week of placebo) or progestin-only pills (no placebo). The progestin-only pill is usually prescribed to women who are breastfeeding or who cannot use estrogen for some reason. 

Oral contraceptives are easily prescribed by your doctor and are taken daily, at the same time, for better effectiveness. If you forget to take the pill or take it at random hours of the day, it could cause intended pregnancy. Some pills alter your period, some cause you to not have your period at all or have it every so often. 

Side effects and risks:

  • Breast tenderness or pain
  • Bloating, nausea, and diarrhea
  • Mood swings
  • Changes in weight and menstrual flow
  • Bleeding between periods and vaginal discharge
  • Blood clots: Increases the risk of developing blood clots in your leg veins, which can be life-threatening if they reach your lungs. 
  • High cholesterol: Progestin may cause "good" cholesterol to lower and "bad" cholesterol to rise, especially if you have other conditions that contribute. 
  • Migraines: Some oral contraceptives may trigger a migraine, especially those containing estrogen.
  • High blood pressure: These pills may increase the risk of high blood pressure, especially if you have other conditions that contribute. 
  • Cardiovascular Disease: Women over 35 who smoke and take birth control pills have an increased risk of having a heart attack or stroke, with this risk increasing in combination with other conditions like high cholesterol/blood pressure.

Injectable contraceptive

An injectable contraceptive is the hormone progestin being injected into the body to prevent pregnancy. The brand Depo-Provera (the only injectable contraceptive available in the United States) is administered every 3 months. It is delivered by an injection into the shoulder or backside, but a newer formula can be injected into the skin above the abdomen or thigh. Noristerat is another progestin-only injectable contraceptive. It has similar efficacy and side effects as Depo-Provera and is used widely in Europe, the UK, Latin America, and Africa. People who choose this method seem to experience the most side effects, or the most unpleasant ones, so much so that many women switch or stop using this form of birth control. 

Side effects and risks:

  • Injection site reactions and swelling
  • Irregular bleeding or loss of period
  • Hair loss
  • Cravings and weight gain
  • Acne
  • Depression
  • Hot flashes
  • Decrease in breast size and sex drive
  • Joint pain

Intrauterine device (IUD)

An IUD is a tiny, T-shaped device a doctor puts into your uterus. There are two types of IUDs: copper (non-hormonal) and hormonal (progestin). The copper IUD brand is called ParaGard®, while the options for the hormonal IUD include Mirena®, Kyleena®, and Skyla®. Depending on the type you get it may last 5-10 years, but it can be removed at any time if you wish to start a family, switch birth controls, or simply stop using it. Intrauterine devices seem to have the least noticeable side effects, which is why they have become such a popular option for birth control. 

Side effects and risks:

  • Pain during the insertion of the IUD
  • Heavier and more painful menstrual cycles on copper IUD 
  • Cramping
  • Irregular bleeding and periods
  • Risk of ectopic pregnancy

Birth control ring

A birth control ring, or vaginal ring is a small, flexible ring placed inside your vagina. It prevents pregnancy 24/7 by releasing hormones into your body. There are 2 kinds of birth control rings: NuvaRing and Annovera. The NuvaRing brand is inserted into the vagina for 21 days and then you take it out for seven days so you can have your period. The next month you put in a new ring. The Annovera ring lasts for 1 year. You put the Annovera ring in your vagina for 21 days (3 weeks), then take it out for 7 days and safely store it before inserting the same ring back in your vagina. This method offers a low dose combination of estrogen and progesterone, and it has very few side effects.

Side effects and risks:

  • Vaginal bleeding, irritation, or increased discharge
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Breast tenderness


Condoms are tube-shaped barrier devices made of latex, plastic, or other materials. They are actually a form of male birth control, but many women use this option with their male partners. If you are using condoms as your main form of birth control, it is always a good idea to look into the brands and types you like best–your sexual partners may not always carry condoms with them or use the brands you prefer. 

Side effects and risks:

  • Allergy to the condom material
  • Condom breakage or leakage

birth control risks ecography

While these are the most common forms of birth control, there are many others, such as a progestin arm implant, contraception patch, diaphragm, cervical cap, etc. To find out more about these, visit Planned Parenthood. 

Remember, no option is 100% effective, especially if used incorrectly or if you miss a dose. That means that there is always a slight possibility of unintended pregnancy. Make sure to consult your doctor to know the risks. If you’re looking for a healthcare provider or family-planning services in Spain, discover Caser Expat Insurance.

Download Free Guide: Cost of Giving Birth in Spain


Mary Swick

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