QUICK FACTS: Birth Control Risks and Long Term Health
Birth control methods have become commonplace and there are many more methods available today than the traditional “pill” and condom that have been around for decades. It’s easy to get confused with so many, so what are they and what are the risks to women’s long term health? Depending on the type of birth control you use and your own health concerns, there are varying health risks and side effects.
- Abstinence – no medical side effects or risks to long term health.
- Barrier Methods – (condoms, diaphragms, sponge, cervical cap) irritation, allergic reactions, urinary tract infections, used with spermicide may increase risk of HIV, latex could tear, break or slip out.
- Hormone Based Methods – (pills, patch, shot, vaginal ring) headache, upset stomach, nausea, sore breasts, changes in period, changes in mood, weight gain, high blood pressure. Also may raise risk for blood clots and high blood pressure which can cause heart attack or stroke. Increased risk of cancer – hormone based contraceptives are known to have the potential to cause cancers such as breast cancer or cervical cancer.
- Implants – headache, irregular periods, weight gain, sore breasts, possible difficulty removing the implant.
- Intrauterine Devices (IUD) – can raise risk of ectopic pregnancy. Risk of infection, shifting or puncture of the uterus/uterine wall, irregular periods, pelvic inflammatory disease, ovarian cysts. When placed too soon after giving birth, the uterus is still in the process of shrinking back to normal, this can cause IUDs to shift and cause puncture or bleeding.
- Natural Family Planning/Rhythm Methods – no medical risks or side effects, but requires planning and knowledge of the days when you are most fertile.
- Permanent Methods – (vasectomy/tubal ligation) possible short term pain or discomfort (up to two weeks) from the procedure, but generally no side effects or risks.
- Shot/Injection – bleeding between periods, missed periods, weight gain, change in mood, sore breasts, headaches, bone loss with long term use.
- Spermicides – known to have components that irritate the vagina, allergic reaction, can raise risk of HIV. Medicines used for treatment of vaginal yeast infection may make spermicide less effective.
The National Cancer Institute states that studies have shown “consistent evidence” of the increased risk of some cancers from hormonal based contraceptives; hormone base contraceptives are medically considered carcinogenic (having the potential to cause cancer). Many types of birth control pills contain synthetic versions of female hormones which can also increase your risk for cancer, and it is clearly stated in studies that the risks and benefits should be considered carefully before use.
A NOTE FROM OUR NURSE MANAGER: NO birth control method is 100% effective to prevent pregnancy. The CDC, established medical community and the companies that produce birth control products all acknowledge this. The only way to be certain you won’t become pregnant is to refrain from sexual activity.