Wellness Reproductive Health Birth Control How Does Birth Control Affect Your Body? Hormonal contraception can affect your mood, sleep, and more. By Kasandra Brabaw Kasandra Brabaw Kasandra Brabaw's Twitter Kasandra Brabaw is a writer who focuses on health, sex/relationships, and stories for and about her communities including the LGBTQ+ and fat communities. Other than at Health, her work can be found at SELF, Women’s Health, VICE, and Refinery29. health's editorial guidelines Updated on March 30, 2023 Medically reviewed by Kiarra King, MD Medically reviewed by Kiarra King, MD Kiarra King, MD, FACOG, is a board-certified gynecologist from Oak Park, Illinois. learn more Share this page on Facebook Share this page on Twitter Share this page on Pinterest Email this page Birth control, also known as contraception, comes in many forms—including hormonal birth control. Hormonal birth control can contain manufactured, or synthetic, forms of two hormones: estrogen and progestin. They can prevent ovulation by changing the levels of those two hormones in the body. What Are the Different Types of Hormonal Birth Control? There are several types of hormonal birth control, including: Hormonal intrauterine devices (IUDs): A progestin-releasing device that a healthcare provider places in the uterus Implants: A thin, progestin-releasing rod that a healthcare provider inserts under the skin Injections/"Shots": Progestin shots given in the arm or buttocks tri-monthly Oral contraception: Oral prescription medications that either include estrogen and progestin or progestin-only that must be taken at the same time daily Patches: A patch applied on the skin of the lower abdomen, buttocks, or upper body (except on breasts) that releases estrogen and progestin; should be changed once a week for three weeks in a row and skipped on a fourth week Hormonal vaginal rings: A estrogen-and-progestin-releasing ring that you place in your vagina for three weeks until the week of your period However, while hormonal birth control is effective in preventing pregnancy, users might also experience side effects like weight gain, headaches, and sleep problems. Read on to learn more about the potential side effects of this kind of birth control. Mindful Media/Getty Images Altered Mental Health Using hormonal birth control can cause changes in your mental health. Mood A common complaint regarding hormonal birth control is a change in mood. Many people on oral contraceptives report anxiety, depression, or both as a side effect. One paper provided a summary of the most current literature on the effects of oral contraception on women's moods. Based on the evidence available, the authors conclude that oral contraceptives can likely lead to mood-related side effects, particularly in people with a history of previous depressive episodes. Stress Some research findings suggested that "hormonal contraceptive use...could potentially increase sensitivity to the impacts of stressors and mood disturbances." The study found that participants who used hormonal contraception reported increased stress levels. They also had higher levels of C-reactive proteins—inflammation markers—and cortisol, a stress hormone. Blood-related Issues Some kinds of hormonal birth control—including oral contraception, vaginal rings, and patches—can affect the cardiovascular system. For example, one study found that certain types of hormonal contraception pills were associated with blood pressure changes. Some hormonal birth control methods containing estrogen may increase the risk of developing blood clots in the veins. Blood clots can lead to deep vein thrombosis, which affect blood flow in the extremities, or cause a pulmonary embolism if they travel to the lungs. Hypertension, known as high blood pressure, and blood clots can result in heart attacks or strokes. These side effects are rare, but they are still serious. Also, individuals over 35 years of age who smoke should not use combined contraceptive methods due to an increased risk of developing cardiovascular events and stroke. Digestive Problems Oral contraception has been known to cause issues with the digestive system. A person might experience the following related to the digestive tract: BloatingConstipationDiarrheaNauseaVomiting Headaches and Migraines The use of hormonal birth control has been linked with migraines and headaches. During a person's menstrual cycle, they might experience menstrual migraines due to changes in estrogen levels. As hormonal birth control affects a person's natural estrogen level, headaches may occur. If a person has a history of migraines with aura, they should not take contraception that contains estrogen. Doing so puts them at a higher risk of stroke. Menstrual Changes While on hormonal birth control, your bleeding pattern may change. You might have lighter or heavier bleeding or other changes in your flow, such as spotting or bleeding between periods. Periods might also be painful, but menstrual pain—known as dysmenorrhea—is usually lessened on hormonal contraception. Additionally, some individuals may miss periods. Problems Related to Sex and the Reproductive System A person may experience issues surrounding sexual activity or the reproductive system if they are using hormonal birth control. These are issues such as: Low or a lack of libido Vaginal dryness Breast or genital pain Vaginal burning, irritation, itching, redness, or swelling Sleep Issues There's also a connection between the pill, the sleep-wake cycle, and mood. Estrogen is involved in maintaining your circadian rhythm, or your internal body clock. Issues with that rhythm can affect the sleep-wake cycle, hormone release, eating habits, digestion, and body temperature, among other 24-hour cycles. Research showed that when that time-keeping gets thrown off, we're at higher risk for psychiatric illnesses like depression and anxiety. Weight Changes Hormonal birth control can affect a person's weight as well. A decrease in weight might be a side effect for some users of this kind of birth control. However, it appears that weight gain with hormonal birth control occurs commonly. One study indicated reports of weight gain in general from users of hormonal birth control. Some of those individuals mentioned that they had increased hunger and appetite while using hormonal contraception. When To See a Healthcare Provider You'll want to talk with a healthcare provider if birth control side effects become bothersome, severe, or won't go away. Also, there are several uncommon side effects from hormonal birth control options—particularly oral contraception—that you'll want to tell a healthcare provider about as soon as possible. Some of those effects include: Severe headache, vomiting, or stomach pain Weakness or numbness in legs or arms Double vision, partial loss of vision, or complete loss of vision Extreme fatigue or tiredness Dizziness or faintness Swelling of extremities such as hands and feet Fever Dark-colored urine or light-colored stool Chest heaviness or chest pain Helpful Ways Birth Control Can Affect the Body Although birth control can have side effects, it can be beneficial for some individuals beyond helping prevent pregnancy when taken properly. Some of those benefits include: Clearing acne Treating severe cramping and heavy bleeding Decreasing symptoms of endometriosis Preventing ovarian cysts Treating symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) Decreasing the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer Still, if you're experiencing side effects from a certain type of hormonal contraception, ask a healthcare provider about other birth control options. A Quick Review Hormonal birth control has changed lives by making it possible to choose when to start a family. Types of hormonal birth control include options such as oral contraception or IUDs. However, this kind of birth control does come with side effects. Hormonal birth control may affect mental health, sleep, and other aspects of the body. Still, it can also benefit the body, such as helping with acne or severe cramping. Talk to a healthcare provider if you have concerns about birth control side effects. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit 13 Sources Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Medline Plus. Birth control pills. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reproductive health - contraception. Mu E, Kulkarni J. Hormonal contraception and mood disorders. Aust Prescr. 2022;45(3):75-79. doi:10.18773/austprescr.2022.025 Lewis CA, Kimmig AS, Zsido RG, Jank A, Derntl B, Sacher J. Effects of Hormonal Contraceptives on Mood: A Focus on Emotion Recognition and Reactivity, Reward Processing, and Stress Response. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2019 Nov 7;21(11):115. doi: 10.1007/s11920-019-1095-z. Masama C, Jarkas DA, Thaw E, et al. Hormone contraceptive use in young women: Altered mood states, neuroendocrine and inflammatory biomarkers. Hormones and Behavior. 2022;144:105229. doi:10.1016/j.yhbeh.2022.105229 Kalenga CZ, Dumanski SM, Metcalfe A, et al. The effect of non‐oral hormonal contraceptives on hypertension and blood pressure: A systematic review and meta‐analysis. Physiological Reports. 2022;10(9). doi:10.14814/phy2.15267 Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. What is VTE? Office on Women's Health. Birth control methods. MedlinePlus. Estrogen and progestin (oral contraceptives). Le Guen M, Schantz C, Régnier-Loilier A, de La Rochebrochard E. Reasons for rejecting hormonal contraception in Western countries: A systematic review. Social Science & Medicine. 2021;284:114247. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2021.114247 Chen D, Willis-Parker M, Lundberg GP. Migraine headache: Is it only a neurological disorder? Links between migraine and cardiovascular disorders. Trends in Cardiovascular Medicine. 2020;30(7):424-430. doi:10.1016/j.tcm.2019.10.005 Hassan M, Belavadi R, Gudigopuram SVR, et al. Migraine and stroke: in search of shared pathways, mechanisms, and risk factors. Cureus. 2021;13(12). doi:10.7759/cureus.20202 Karatsoreos IN. Links between Circadian Rhythms and Psychiatric Disease. Front Behav Neurosci. 2014 May 6;8:162. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00162.