Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Do Contraceptive Pills Affect Other Medicines?


Contraceptive pills are one of the most common forms of birth control in use today. They are also used to manage several medical conditions such as dysmenorrhea or to regulate the menstruation cycle of some women.  Contraceptive pills can affect some medications as well as some medications affecting the pill. Many medications such as certain antibiotics and others can negate or reduce the effects of the birth control pill resulting in pregnancy if no other form of birth control is used.

Contraceptive Pills Affect Other Medicines Used for Epilepsy

Anti-epileptic drugs have been thought to be affected by the use of oral contraceptive pills.  It is believed that contraceptive pills can increase the requirement for the anti-epileptic medication to be effective.  Many medications used for their anti-seizure properties that are classified as barbiturates are known to stimulate the enzymes in the liver which may speed up metabolism and also affect the degradation of the contraceptive pill. Your physician should be made aware of all medications you are taking to help avoid increased seizure activity and unwanted pregnancy as these medications can decrease the effectiveness of each other.

Contraceptive Pills can Affect Other Medicines Used to Treat Diabetes

Women who have been diagnosed with diabetes will need to pay special attention to blood glucose levels and management of diabetes while taking the birth control pill.  Diabetics who require insulin for management of blood sugars may need to have the dose adjusted by their physician.  It is important that the endocrinologist who is managing your diabetes be aware of any oral contraceptive use as it can also change results of some glucose lab tests such as the glucose tolerance test.

More Contraceptive Pill Interactions

The contraceptive pill can cause an increase in the effects of some drugs such as alcohol and in contract cause a decrease in the effect of some pain medications.  Some women experience increased irritability, fatigue and depression when they are taking the pill and these symptoms must be reported to your physician, especially if you are taking other prescription medications.

If your primary physician is not the physician who prescribed contraceptive pills, they will not know you are taking them unless you tell them. In turn, your gynecologist will not know other medications you take to manage chronic conditions unless they are notified. Always notify your prescribing physicians of any medications you are currently taking to determine if the pill will interact or adversely affect any of your required medications used to manage your medical conditions.

Common Side Effects of “The Pill”

Any medication you take has the potential to cause side effects and contraceptive pills are no exception.  Contraceptive pills contain hormones, which can produce side effects in the body. However, most of the reported side effects are mild and tolerated easily.

used pill packet

When new medications are being tested in clinical studies the usual method is to give a placebo to one group of participants while the other group is given the medication being studied.  Both groups are observed and side effects are noted in those participants.  This determines which side effects are common to a specific medication.  This method cannot be used when testing contraceptives as you cannot give placebos.  Since no placebos are given the clinical studies are not useful in determining side effects of each particular contraceptive pill and most of them list general side effects that have been noted in women taking them.

List of Common Side Effects

Because information is limited in the studies conducted, the side effects of contraceptive pills are limited to those reported by those using them.

Some of the most common effects reported include but are not limited to:

  • Tenderness of the breasts
  • Enlargement of the breasts
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Acne
  • Changes in libido
  • Headaches
  • Bloating
  • Breakthrough bleeding
  • Mood Swings

Side Effects That Should Be Reported

Some side effects that have been linked to contraceptive pills should be reported to your physician immediately should they occur.  Although uncommon, some of these side effects include but are not limited to:

  • Severe headaches, migraine headache
  • Lumps in the breasts
  • Increased depression symptoms
  • Severe mood and emotional swings
  • Signs of a blood clot which include swelling of the leg or foot, cramping in the leg or pain in the calf.
  • Heavy vaginal bleeding

Any of these symptoms should be reported to your physician immediately as they can cause a serious risk to your health.

Treatments of Common Side Effects

Many of the common side effects require no treatment and will resolve with continued use of the medication as your body becomes accustomed to the medication.  If side effects are bothersome many can be treated with over the counter medication while your body acclimates to them.  If the effects are too severe, it may require a change in prescription with a different amount or a different type of hormone.  Mood swings or depression may need to be treated with antidepressant medications in conjunction with the contraceptive it these are new symptoms and you want to continue using oral contraceptives.

Gloria Brown
Women's health and wellness retreat leader providing vacations and trips for women to get in shape -- and stay that way! On you can find my articles about weight loss, health and women's issues. Please feel free to contact me on

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