Prof. Teksen Çamlıbel, M.D.
Obstetrician and Gynaecologist

Contraceptives have significantly developed in parallel with the developments in medicine. Studies are underway to develop a pill with the highest protection and lowest adverse effect. Contraceptives have been in use for nearly fifty years in the world and they have been used in our country for years. However, we observe that people still lack sufficient information about the adverse effects of contraceptives. A lot of women avoid these medications even in cases where they are necessary. Our aim, therefore, is to evaluate the latest medical studies through the questions we often hear from our patients and the very same questions that cause them to discontinue contraceptives.

– Do contraceptives interfere with the hormones?

Contraceptives contain oestrogen and progesterone to some extent. These have been developed throughout the years and synthetically produced with an aim to act similar to human hormones so they do not interfere with the hormonal patterns. On the contrary, they bring a certain balance to women with hormonal disorders. Should they be taken by patients with irregular menstrual bleeding, they help with regular bleedings. They also help decrease the amount of bleeding -which is not a side effect. In this way, they prevent massive bleedings in some patients. Contraceptives on the market are very similar though each contains different hormones. Your doctor will help you decide the most suitable one.

– Do contraceptives cause weight gain?

We acknowledge that contraceptives cause an increase in appetite and a slight weight gain due to water retention in the early stages; however, it is agreed that they do not cause weight gain in the long run. So please do not discontinue your medication due to such changes in the first months without consulting your doctor and while taking your pills make sure you have a healthy diet and an active life.

– Would contraceptives cause ovarian cysts?

Ovarian cysts can be caused by many things but follicle cysts -which develop if the sac (the follicle) including the egg does not break open and release the egg- are benign. Should they be monitored for a few months they would regress automatically. Doctors often prescribe contraceptives so that follicle cysts regress or disappear. Therefore contraceptives would not cause ovarian cysts, on the contrary, they can be useful for treating some.

– Do contraceptives cause unwanted hair growth?

Contraceptives contain hormones and repress hormones that cause unwanted hair growth. They do not cause unwanted hair growth. On the contrary, contraceptives are taken by some women who suffer from unwanted hair growth to prevent it. 

– Taking contraceptives do I have a lower chance of pregnancy?

The effects of contraceptives are limited to their time of use only; in other words, they are ineffective after you discontinue the medication. But 1% of women taking contraceptives may suffer from amenorrhoea which will disappear after a certain time. To summarise we can say that contraceptives will not cause any lower chance of pregnancy or menstrual irregularities after you discontinue.

– Do contraceptives cause cancer?

To answer this question we need to discuss each female genital organ:

ENDOMETRIAL CANCER: Studies have shown that women taking contraceptives have a lower risk of endometrial cancer compared to women not using any. As contraceptives contain a regular and balanced amount of oestrogen and progesterone hormones, they help endometrium grow and discharge regularly therefore the risk of cancer is lower.

OVARIAN CANCER: Contraceptives are effective by repressing ovulation, in a way they help ovaries rest. Studies have shown that contraceptives lower the risk of ovarian cancer.

CERVICAL CANCER: Some studies have proved that contraceptives slightly increase the risk of cervical cancer. However, when we reevaluate the studies we see that those women are already included in the risk group. Therefore we can conclude that contraceptives do not increase the risk of cervical cancer, nevertheless women taking contraceptives are advised to take a vaginal smear test each year.

BREAST CANCER: The effects of contraceptives on breast cancer is still a controversial issue, but we acknowledge today that they do not increase the risk of cancer. On the contrary, it is a well-known fact that contraceptives prevent benign breast diseases from further developing.

–  Do contraceptives cause headaches?

Contraceptives are reported to rarely cause headaches due to their oestrogen and progesterone content, therefore they should not be taken by women suffering from migraines. However, in some studies, researchers have observed that they relieve headaches so it is best to decide after use.

– For how long can I take contraceptives?

Contraceptives can be taken up until menopause. In fact, the latest studies have found out that it is okay to take them even during menopause. They are not limited to a particular time either, you can take them for years unless your doctor disapproves and you have an illness that would prevent contraceptives.

– Should I take a break from contraceptives?

You do not need to take a break from contraceptives. You intake a regular amount of hormones through their use and therefore natural menstrual cycle is followed. There is no study to confirm that a break is needed with an aim to give the organs a rest.

While taking contraceptives some women may suffer from amenorrhoea, we recommend you to consult your doctor in such a case. It may either be caused by pregnancy or mostly by the fact that the low dosage of medications prevent the endometrium to grow properly and not resulting in a discharge bleeding.

– Can women with hypertension take contraceptives?

Relevant studies have shown that women under the age of 35 can take contraceptives as long as hypertension is under control by medications.

– Who should not take contraceptives?

First, any woman must consult a doctor before taking contraceptives. But here we will address conditions that are not favorable for contraceptives:

  • Women with blood coagulation disorders or advanced varicose veins and women who have a tendency to varicose veins,
  • Smokers over the age of 35 (more than 15 cigarettes a day). It is okay for current non-smokers who have once been smokers to take them,
  • Women with liver diseases,
  • Women with severe migraines.