An estimated 9 out of 100 women taking combination birth control pills will get pregnant in the first year of use. With perfect use as directed, the pregnancy rate may be as low as 1 in 100 women every year. Although taking combination birth control pills during early pregnancy doesn't increase the risk of birth defects, it's best to stop taking birth control pills as soon as you suspect you're pregnant.
Combination birth control pills won't protect you from sexually transmitted infections.
Combination birth control pills can cause side effects such as:
- Breakthrough bleeding or spotting (more common with continuous or extended-cycle pills)
- Breast tenderness
- Elevated blood pressure
Some side effects — including nausea, headaches, breast tenderness and breakthrough bleeding — may last only a few months.
Combination birth control pills increase the risk of certain conditions. Some of these complications can be serious. They include the following:
- Blood clots in the legs
- Worsening of gallbladder disease
- Heart attacks and stroke (smoking greatly increases the risk of these complications)
- Liver tumors
Consult your health care provider as soon as possible if you're taking combination birth control pills and have:
Aug. 13, 2015
- Abdominal pain
- Breast lump
- Chest pain
- Difficulty speaking
- Eye problems, such as blurred or double vision or loss of vision
- Jaundice (yellowish discoloration of the skin)
- New or worsening headaches
- Severe allergic skin rash
- Severe leg pain or swelling
- Severe mood swings
- Two missed periods or signs of pregnancy
- Hatcher RA, et al. Contraceptive Technology. 20th ed. New York, N.Y.: Ardent Media; 2011:249.
- Martin KA, et al. Overview of the use of estrogen-progestin contraceptives. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Aug. 19, 2014.
- Frequently asked questions. Contraception FAQ185. Combined hormonal birth control: Pill, patch and ring. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Combined-Hormonal-Birth-Control-Pill-Patch-and-Ring. Accessed Sept. 4. 2014.
- Martin KA. Risks and side effects associated with estrogen-progestin contraceptives. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Aug. 19, 2014.
- Laughlin-Tommaso SK (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Sept. 22, 2014.