Birth control pills are a common form of hormonal contraception used to prevent pregnancy. The pill, and other birth control options, contain hormones that may lead to side effects including breakthrough bleeding, nausea, and more. As always, the critical thing to remember is to stay protected. Read on for more tips to navigate this familiar issue, or jump to the section most relevant to you:
What's the relationship between birth control and nausea?
Nausea is one of the most common side effects of taking birth control pills alongside bloating, breast tenderness, irregular periods, and headache. Here's the good news: it's almost never the sign of a medical issue; it's more common when you first start taking the pill and usually dissipates with time.
Why does birth control make you nauseous?
All birth control pills contain hormones to prevent ovulation. This is by design: by releasing estrogen and progestin, which are naturally found in the body, to stop the release of eggs, your risk of becoming pregnant is significantly reduced. In fact, if you use it perfectly, the pill is 99% effective.
Of course, it's hard to keep up a perfect record. And taking two pills in one day to make up for missing a day's dose could increase the risk for nausea. The Cleveland Clinic says that the higher dose of hormones could make you feel queasy.
The bottom line is that increases (and decreases!) in hormone levels often cause nausea. Let's dive into the details.
How long does nausea from birth control last?
Can progestin-only pills make you nauseous, too?
While we've focused on the side effects of combination birth control pills that include estrogen and progestin, there are also progestin-only pills, also known as the "mini-pill." These birth control pills only have the hormone progesterone (they skip the estrogen).
While Mayo Clinic also lists nausea as a side effect of the mini-pill, there may be reason to believe that you'd experience less nausea with a progestin-only pill. Research on side effects when people switched from the combination birth control pill to the progestin-only pill found that they experienced less nausea. It's important to note that mini pills may cause more break-through bleeding or irregular bleeding in general than the combination pill.
Could the nausea be a sign of pregnancy?
If you're taking your pill as directed, your risk of pregnancy after unprotected sex is low. With typical use (meaning you may forget to take it sometimes), the pregnancy risk is 9%. With perfect use (taking it every day as directed), the pregnancy risk while on the pill is less than 1%.
The best way to be sure you're not pregnant is by taking a pregnancy test. If you've had unprotected sex and feel that your nausea could be related to pregnancy, it's best to ask your health care provider.
How to prevent nausea from birth control
To prevent nausea try taking your pill after eating a meal. A lot of medications don't sit well on an empty stomach.
Nausea can also be avoided by taking the pill at bedtime so you avoid feeling symptoms overnight.
If you experience nausea from the aftertaste of the pill (some pills just might not jive with your taste buds!), reach out to your provider or pharmacist to discuss trying a different generic equivalent of your pill.
You can also ask your doctor about anti-nausea medication for nausea from birth control pills. Doctors have prescribed these kinds of drugs when women and people who menstruate take emergency contraception. Taking emergency contraceptives like Plan B One-Step™ can cause minor side effects like irregular periods as it contains levonorgestrel (a type of progestin). While it's also known to cause nausea, the CDC says newer formulations are less likely to do so.
Should you switch to another type of birth control?
While switching to another brand of combination birth control pill may not solve sustained nausea, it may be worth considering another method of hormonal contraception, like the vaginal ring. Researchers found that those who used the vaginal birth control ring (Nuvaring™) had less nausea than women who used the combination birth control pill, the hormonal IUD (intrauterine device), and non-hormonal contraception. It's worth noting that the effectiveness of the majority of reversible non-hormonal birth control methods is lower than birth control pills. There is one big exception, though: the copper IUD, which is highly effective and doesn't contain any hormones.
If sustained nausea is disrupting your life, talk to your doctor and be sure to use barrier methods like condoms if you decide to take a break from the pill. See if birth control pills are right for you with an online health consultation. Our medical team will work with you to find the best birth control method for your needs. If you're medically eligible, you'll get your birth control prescription online and delivered to your door.
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