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How birth control affects the body

Most long-term birth control works by releasing hormones that stop ovulation and thicken the cervical mucus (making it more difficult for the sperm to swim up and fertilize the egg).

Specifically, different forms of birth control affect the body in different ways depending on how they are administered. Pills are consumed, shots are given, implants are inserted under the skin while rings are inserted into the vagina, patches are stuck onto the back, bottom, or arm, and IUDs are inserted into the uterus.

Separately, these various types of birth control can have similarly varying side effects on the body: (Most of these effects stem from our changing hormone levels after taking birth control)

  • bleeding between periods, or spotting
  • vaginal irritation
  • headaches
  • nausea
  • breast tenderness / enlargement
  • weight gain (due to bloating or diet changes)
  • mood swings
  • change in sex drive

For some women, pills and patches can also increase blood pressure. The pill can also help with getting rid of acne, though for some women it causes more breakouts or has no effect at all. Sometimes, hormonal birth control can also help decrease unwanted hair growth. Oral contraceptives are, however, the main treatment for hirsutism, a condition that causes coarse, dark hair to grow on the face, back, and abdomen.

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Alpha Medical is a telemedicine company that provides instant access to doctors who can diagnose and treat over 70% of conditions online, including mental health, primary care, skin & hair, and urgent care.

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