The feeling when the list of potential side effects of your birth control is approximately the same length as your high school calculus textbook. 😅
Have you ever read the side effects sheet that comes with every pack of birth control pills?
Towfiqu Barbhuiya / Getty Images/EyeEm
Doctors are really sending people home with a birth control side effects list the size of a fucking newspaper
08:24 PM – 18 Oct 2021
Twitter: @actuallyvvgross / Via Twitter: @actuallyvvgross
Like, ridiculously long…
Sometimes I wonder what’s wrong with me, and then I remember that my birth control side effects pamphlet literally looked like this shit:
03:43 AM – 14 Oct 2021
Twitter: @legitlaney16, GIF: Nickelodeon / Via Twitter: @legitlaney16
Not to mention, it can actually be kind of disturbing at times.
Twitter: @phonecracked, GIF: Disney / Via Twitter: @phonecracked
Sometimes, those side effects can be rather unexpected and kind of life-changing.
well well well if it isn’t the personality that my birth control pills have been suppressing for 13 years
08:09 PM – 10 Oct 2021
Twitter: @bellykachman / Via Twitter: @bellykachman
One TikTok user teamed up with her roommate to put their boyfriends’ birth control knowledge to the test. In the now-viral TikTok, the women had their boyfriends read over the long, long list — seriously, that thing is the very definition of fine print — and they were appropriately horrified.
The entire TikTok is both wildly funny and pretty illuminating when it comes to exactly how shocking some of the possible birth control side effects can be.
Mia, the creator who posted the TikTok, said that she and her boyfriend had been discussing hormonal birth control pills when she decided to show him the side effects page.
TikTok: @squishxy / Via TikTok: @squishxy
“After reading a few symptoms he immediately ran out to my roommate to see if hers was the same,” she said. “After about a minute of collectively freaking out with my roommate’s boyfriend, I began recording [their reactions]!”
From their sheer disbelief when they realized their girlfriends have two different brands of birth control with completely separate side effects, to the fear in their voices as they read about angina pectoris (which are severe chest pains, btw), the video illustrates what birth control users everywhere have been thinking about for, well, pretty much forever: the potential side effects of birth control are no joke.
While some people find major benefits from taking daily birth control pills, others have dealt with some pretty intense side effects ranging from elevated blood pressure to nausea, headaches, and an increased risk of depression. And if you’re at risk for certain conditions like blood clots or liver disease, birth control pills have the potential to make that worse.
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To get the scoop on the severity of the side effects, I reached out to Dr. Jessica Ritch, a minimally invasive gynecologist at the Florida Center for Urogynecology in Hollywood, Florida and a medical advisor for Elix Healing, a menstrual wellness brand that creates personalized herbal relief treatments for hormonal health.
Dr. Jessica Ritch/Florida Center for Urogynecology / Via Dr. Jessica Ritch/Florida Center for Urogynecology
Dr. Ritch explained that the side effects sheet is so long because pharmaceutical companies need to cover all of their bases when it comes to any potential issues.
Even though the risks from birth control aren’t necessarily all that different from the possible risks that come with any other type of medication, Dr. Ritch believes people tend to view them differently.
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“People tend to look at [birth control pills] differently because they are not ‘treating’ anything, so the risks/benefits analysis is a little different,” Dr. Ritch explained. “With birth control, the immediate results are less tangible and the treatment is more long-term, which shifts the risk/benefit analysis and may make the side effects less acceptable to some.”
To figure out the best birth control method for you, Dr. Ritch recommends sharing your medical history with your doctor to identify potential risks, and having a discussion about the possible side effects. “Birth control is safe, effective and tolerable for most people, but as with any medication or supplement, it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach,” she said. “Women with certain medical conditions, or who are taking certain other medications, should not be on combined hormonal birth control as the risks may outweigh the benefits.”
Dr. Ritch emphasized that while it is important to know the potential risks that come with birth control pills, the side effects likely won’t be an issue for most users. And if your birth control throws you off? Good news: Many of the most common side effects tend to resolve themselves once your body gets used to your new birth control.
Carol Yepes / Getty Images
“The most common side effects that people worry about are weight gain, acne, nausea, and mood side effects,” Dr. Ritch said. “Most people do not experience these side effects or only have temporary side effects for a few months or less. For those that do experience side effects, however, we can adjust the dose of estrogen and the type of progesterone.”
Dr. Ritch noted that weight gain is typically small and stabilizes after a few months, while acne tends to improve once your body is adjusted to birth control. And if you feel nauseous every time you take your pill? You’re not alone. Dr. Ritch suggests taking your pill before bed instead of in the morning to combat nausea.
So, do we all need to go brush up on our side effects knowledge? “Reading about what you’re putting into your body — whether it’s medicine, food, or supplements — is always a good idea, but people considering birth control should seek a medical provider to help interpret the potential risks and side effects for them and also to discuss the benefits, which may not all be listed in the package inserts,” Dr. Ritch explained.
Although Mia was not expecting her TikTok to go viral, she’s glad that it might prompt some men to learn more about the effects birth control may have on users.
Paramount Pictures / Via YouTube
“More people should be aware of the effects of birth control,” she said. “All of my roommates had separate ‘sex talks’ at school, so while women were being taught all about the female and male anatomy, men were simply being taught how to deal with the changes that [only] they go through during puberty. I believe it should be mandatory to teach these things to all students.”
I am here for this way of normalizing talking about women’s health. Heck, there are probably a lot of birth control users out there who haven’t even read over that side effect sheet (no shame!), so to have men reading it and learning exactly what birth control users are potentially subjecting themselves to? Kind of a power move, tbh.
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Should learning about women’s health become the big new TikTok trend?
If you want to learn more about Dr. Ritch and her approach to minimally invasive gynecology, check out this interview.
You can also follow Mia on TikTok.
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