What Happens If You Take A Birth Control Pill Late – Medically Reviewed by Alexandra Perez, PharmD, MBA, BCGP – By Ann Pietrangelo – Updated March 30, 2023
Hormonal birth control is not without side effects. As with all drugs, there are positive effects and potential risks that affect everyone differently.
What Happens If You Take A Birth Control Pill Late
Most people believe that hormonal birth control serves one purpose: to prevent pregnancy. Although it is very effective compared to other forms of birth control, its effects are not just limited to pregnancy prevention. In fact, they can even be used to treat other health issues such as menstrual relief, skin changes, and more.
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Birth control pills and patches are only available with a prescription. Hormone-based birth control pills are available in many forms, including:
Each type has similar benefits and risks, although each reacts differently to the hormones. If you are interested in birth control, talk to your doctor about which type is most effective for you. Effectiveness depends on how consistent your contraceptive use is.
For example, some people have trouble remembering to take a pill every day, so an implant or IUD would be a better option. There are also non-hormonal birth control options, which can have different side effects.
However, no form of hormonal birth control protects against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). You still need to use a condom to prevent STDs.
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Ovaries naturally produce the female hormones estrogen and progestin. Either of these hormones can be made and used in birth control.
Higher than normal levels of estrogen and progestin prevent the ovary from releasing an egg. Without an egg, a sperm has nothing to fertilize. The progestin also changes the cervical mucus, making it thick and sticky, making it harder for sperm to enter the uterus.
When using certain hormonal contraceptives, such as the Mirena IUD, you may experience lighter and shorter periods and a reduction in menstrual cramps and premenstrual symptoms.
These effects are among the reasons some women take birth control pills specifically for premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a severe form of PMS. Some women with endometriosis also take birth control pills to relieve painful symptoms.
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The risk decreases the longer the pill is taken, and the protection continues even years after a woman stops taking the pill.
However, the risk of breast and cervical cancer may increase in women taking birth control pills.
While birth control has many benefits, it can also cause side effects. Spotting between periods, also called breakthrough bleeding, is common in those on hormonal birth control.
Spotting is more common with very low and low dose hormonal birth control such as hormonal IUDs, the implant, and birth control pills.
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Birth control pills can also cause other side effects. Reproductive side effects as your body adjusts to oral, injectable, and patch contraceptives include:
In some women, birth control pills and patches can raise blood pressure. These extra hormones can also put you at risk for blood clots.
These side effects are rare for most women, but when they do occur they can be very serious. Therefore, hormonal birth control methods require a prescription and regular monitoring.
As the body works to maintain hormonal balance, it is possible that the introduction of hormones creates a disturbance that causes mood swings.
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But there is little research on the mental health effects of birth control on women and their well-being. Just recently, a 2017 study looked at a small sample of 340 healthy women and found that oral contraceptives significantly reduced overall well-being.
Some women experience changes in appetite and weight while taking hormonal birth control. But there are few studies or evidence showing that birth control pills cause weight gain.
Some women taking hormonal birth control may experience side effects including nausea and bloating. This tends to ease after a few weeks as the body gets used to the extra hormones.
Taking the pill with food can help with nausea. Switching to a pill with less estrogen may also help.
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See your doctor if you have severe pain, vomiting or yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice). Dark urine or light-colored stools can also be signs of serious side effects.
On the other hand, others may experience acne breakouts or notice no change at all. Every woman’s body and hormone levels are different, so it is difficult to predict which side effects will occur as a result of birth control.
Sometimes hormones in birth control pills cause unusual hair growth. More commonly, however, birth control actually helps with unwanted hair growth. Oral contraceptives are also the primary treatment for hirsutism, a condition that causes coarse, dark hair to grow on the face, back, and abdomen.
Talk to your doctor if you think your current birth control isn’t right for you. Being open and honest about your side effects and how they make you feel is the first step to getting the right dose and type you need.
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Our experts constantly monitor the health and wellness space, and we update our articles as new information comes in. Over 10 million women in the United States now use birth control pills, or “the pill,” to prevent pregnancy.[1, 2] The Pill. is the most widely used form of contraception.
Many women use birth control pills not only for family planning, but also because the pill can reduce some of the symptoms associated with their menstrual cycle or “periods” such as acne, heavy menstrual bleeding, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).[3, 4] PMDD is more than just premenstrual syndrome or PMS. Women with PMDD suffer from particularly severe depression, tension or irritability right before their period. Birth control pills can also be used to treat the often painful symptoms of endometriosis.
According to a report by the Guttmacher Institute, over 58% of women on birth control pills use them, in part because of acne, anemia, or PMDD. In August 2012, as part of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), birth control pills were made free through all health insurance plans, except plans provided by employers with religious exemptions.
Birth Control Pills: What Happens When You Miss Or Stop Taking Them
With dozens of FDA-approved birth control pills on the market, doctors and patients need to know how they work and are tested so they can decide which pill is best to use. Some give the same constant dose of hormones throughout the month. Others are different types of hormones and cause you to only have periods a few times a year. Certain pills also use different types of hormones in different doses. Newer types of oral contraceptives are introduced every few years, with some sparking controversy over potential harmful side effects. Understanding how birth control pills work and how the FDA determines whether they are safe and effective can help demystify the process of choosing the birth control pill that’s right for you.
During the menstrual cycle, two hormones, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and estrogen, increase, allowing a mature egg to form in the ovaries. Ovulation then occurs when another hormone, luteinizing hormone (LH), rises and causes the release of the hormone progesterone. Progesterone is important because it allows the endometrium to thicken, creating a favorable environment for a fertilized egg to attach.
Birth control pills contain synthetic forms of estrogen and progesterone. These synthetic hormones help keep the body’s natural levels of estrogen and progesterone stable so that the eggs do not develop and the endometrium never develops enough for a fertilized egg to implant. Regulating these hormones in this way also thickens the cervical mucus, making it harder for sperm to reach an egg.
If a woman takes birth control pills every day, she will never have a period. However, most monthly packs of birth control pills contain a week’s worth of pills that contain no hormones. These “placebo” or sugar pills reinforce the habit of taking a pill every day so that women do not forget to take the pills with hormones that actually prevent pregnancy. Women usually shed the lining of their uterus, leading to bleeding similar to a “period” during the four to seven days they take the placebo pills.
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The bleeding you experience while taking birth control pills is not a true period, because the lining of the uterus is not fully thickened and an egg has not been released. In other words, birth control pills don’t “control your period”, they just make it seem like your period is regular. This is why Seasonale and other birth control pills can safely time your “period” only four times a year. With these pills, you are simply opting for quarterly artificial periods instead of monthly ones. As a result, some women do not have normal periods for several months after they stop taking birth control pills. It can take time for your body’s natural hormonal responses to adjust. However, this does not affect a woman’s ability to conceive.
Emergency contraception (the “morning-after pill”) is used after intercourse has already taken place. They prevent pregnancy by delaying the release
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