Birth Control Pill Side Effects

Birht control pills
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

The oral birth control pill has liberated the lives of women for over 50 years, removing the fear of pregnancy. Though vigorously opposed by some cultures and religious movements, the pill remains in huge demand.

Women taking it have actually been in a laboratory! Over the years, science has tacitly admitted many mistakes, discovered only through the unpleasant side-effects reported by women.

Because of the enormous demand and because many national health services pay for it, manufacturers who don’t amend their contraceptive formulae quickly lose market and profit share.

Now there are implants and patches too. Still, according to an article in the Guardian, the pill and mini-pill remain by far the most popular female contraceptives, with 25% of the market. (Female sterilisation is at 9%)

Advantages of the Birth Control Pill

This is by no means a full list, but includes:

  • More women participating in the workforce
  • Economic growth improves because of fewer dependent children which means lower consumption of scarce resources
  • Women’s earnings improve
  • Their assets improve
  • Women’s body mass index and health improve
  • Children’s schooling and their body mass indexes improve
  • Women are more free to live their lives as they wish


What the Birth Control Pill Does

Birth control pill calculations!
Birth control calculations! – Photo by Hani Bdran

The birth control pill releases hormones into the body.

Which hormones depends on the pill. For example, the combined oral birth control pill (often called just “the pill”) contains estrogen and progestin (progestogen).

What these hormones do is one or more of the following:

  • Prevent female ovulation
  • Stop fertilization
  • Inhibit implantation of the fertilized egg to the wall of the uterus. This has the effect of depriving the egg of succour. This kills the egg so no pregnancy ensues.


Side Effects of the Oral Contraceptive

Manufacturers and doctors want to provide the contraceptive pill (ie the birth control pill) that is most suited to the woman and causes her the least side effects.

Until she gets that, what side effects might she experience?

This list is incomplete because every woman is different. The list may seem frightening! But virtually no woman gets all these birth control pill side effects, and many say they get none.

The Combined birth control pill:

  • Mild increase in cardiovascular risk
  • Venous and arterial thrombosis – some risk
  • May reduce body weight by reducing water retention
  • May help acne
  • Pre-menstrual emotions: some better, some worse …
  • … eg some risk of premenstrual sadness, sensitivity, loss of confidence, jealousy, depression, mood swings, fatigue
  • Heavier menstrual bleeding
  • Headaches
  • Painful periods – dysmenorrhea
  • Breast tenderness, pain or swelling
  • Nausea
  • Lack of appetite
  • Knee pain
  • Tinnitus, noises in the ears


Woman tired on bed
Photo by Yuris Alhumaydy on Unsplash

Also possible with the birth control pill are:

  • Night-time sweats
  • Dry throat
  • Thirst
  • Backache
  • Lack of interest in relationships and sex
  • Poor concentration
  • Food cravings and bingeing
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Heart palpitations
  • Joint or muscle pains, swollen face and nose
  • Bloating, feeling fat with real or imagined weight gain


Of course, please realise that many of these symptoms are also experienced by women before taking the birth control pill, and that the oral contraceptive often ameliorates them.

If it doesn’t ameliorate them, or if you get these symptoms from taking the birth control pill, your doctor will try another formula.

What’s going on in terms of Chinese Medicine?

There are three main syndromes in Chinese medicine caused by taking the birth control pill.

Many other syndromes may arise as a consequence of these three and although it is possible to be afflicted by all three, this is not common.

In terms of what the oral contraceptive actually does according to Chinese medical theory, it restrains


These channels are important, indeed vital, for life because they enable your body to make Qi and Blood.

With Qi and/or Blood deficiency, you either get no period or your body can’t nourish a fertilised egg.

Of course, that’s good if you don’t want to get pregnant, but having Qi and/or Blood deficiency is not conducive to your long-term health. (Why? Because Qi and/or Blood deficiency will make you often tired and dizzy, your resistance to disease – including coughs and colds – will be poor, so you won’t be so good at earning a living, AND you won’t enjoy life so much, always worrying about your health.)

What happens after stopping oral contraceptives if your periods don’t return?

Sometimes, after stopping the birth control pill, your body doesn’t revert back to proper functioning of these channels.
Then you’ll need treatment and we think you’ll get the least damaging treatment from someone who understands Chinese medicine.
Pulse Taking on Left Wrist
Pulse Taking on Left Wrist

Go and see an acupuncturist! He or she will take your pulse (as in the image above) the Chinese way, and you can talk about what’s happened. Your acupuncturist will probably want to look at your tongue as well.

If necessary there may be some palpation of your abdomen. Then a treatment may be suggested.

Here are the three basic syndromes most commonly seen in women who experience adverse side effects from the oral contraceptive.

1. Kidney Yang Deficiency

2. Liver Qi Stagnation


3. Liver and Kidney Yin deficiency

Western Medicine seeks a solution!

The difficulty is that every woman’s body is unique so getting the hormone mix exactly right for you takes your doctor’s time.

Manufacturers want to to produce large quantities of a one-size-fits-many pill. If you aren’t among the many, you’ll need patience, even forbearance, as your doctor or consultant experiments with you.

Acupuncturists are uneasy about the birth control pill

Well! Most are.


Because the pill messes with the very intricate workings of the female hormone system.

It’s hard to know what the very long-term effects will be on the woman, let alone on the health of the population.

But if your acupuncturist can diagnose which syndromes in Chinese medicine are your problem, he can treat them.

If you respond, you’ll feel much better and regain health and fertility without the need for more medication.

See an acupuncturist! Check the link below.

Are you concerned about Infertility?

Chinese medicine and acupuncture may be able to help, assuming your health can be diagnosed into one of the syndromes recognised in Chinese medicine – which is why you see an acupuncturist.

On this site we have a big section on problems of Infertility and what to do about it, including male infertility – which is the cause of inability to conceive 30% of the time!

Do you have Pre-Menstrual Syndrome?

See an acupuncturist! We’re trained to treat this as it nearly always falls into one or more syndromes in Chinese medicine.

Placing an acupuncture needle in treatment for Stomach Blood stasis
Placing an acupuncture needle

Many women will tell you how much acupuncture has helped.

In fact, if you find yourself stressed before your period, read my book on stress, see below.

You will discover many ways to deal with it, both short and long-term, based on 3000 years of Chinese medicine.


A Warning!

Acupuncture tends to make you healthier!

It makes your LiverKidneyHeartSpleenRen and Chong channels work better.

So by having acupuncture, you are likely to become more fertile. Don’t assume that because your periods have not returned that you can’t get pregnant. You can.

If you’ve come off the birth control pill, and your periods are slow to return, start acupuncture treatment some time before you want to get pregnant.

Meantime, discuss with your acupuncturist other methods of birth control until you are ready.

5 Elements – another way of thinking

If you’re not sure whether you want to get pregnant, there’s another system in acupuncture theory that can help you identify where you are in life and what you want to do with it. The Five elements system is not practised widely but can be powerful and transformative.

It’s also not that easy to do, so can take your practitioner (who would have had to been trained in it) a while to identify what is best for you.

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