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The contraceptive pill: what are the health risks?

The contraceptive pill is now being used by increasing numbers of women in Europe, with over half of women of child bearing age taking it. The majority of these women are taking 3rd or 4th generation pills, but what are the health effects? 

Side effects of the contraceptive pill

Numerous undesirable effects are associated with the 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation combined pill:

  • Acne
  • weight gain
  • nausea
  • heavy leg syndrome
  • sore breasts
  • dysmenorrhea (painful periods)
  • amenorrhea (periods stopping)
  • abnormal bleeding

What are the risks to your health?

Not all countries in the world have the same information and awareness policies around use of the contraceptive pill.

For example, in the United States, the national institute for fighting cancer announces on its website that the pill increases the risk of breast cancer, cervical cancer and liver cancer. 
In medical spheres, the mini-pill, or pills containing small doses, are reputed for blocking ovulation and causing frequent ovarian cysts. These cysts are benign but gynaecologists test them from time to time to ensure that they are not running the risk of becoming cancerous.

All combined pills increase the risk of a thromboembolism (a total or partial obstruction of a vein by a blood clot) and of phlebitis, which can develop into a pulmonary embolism (the migration of a blood clot into the blood vessels of the lungs).

Surgical interventions, pregnancy, giving birth, and being overweight or obese can all increase these risks.

In addition to the contraceptive pill, after the menopause (from about age 50 onwards) hormone replacement treatment (HRT) brings high doses of hormones to the uterus and thus increases the risk of cancer of the endometrium (the lining of the uterus).

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