Progestin side effects


Over the course of many years, various types of birth control pills have been developed and progestin oral contraceptive is one of them. Progestin is a type of synthetic progesterone, which is a hormone that naturally occurs in the body. Progestin causes effects on the body which are similar to those of the hormone and hence the pill is used to mimic the functions of progesterone. Most of the birth control pills contain two female hormones, i.e. progestin and estrogen, while progestin oral contraceptives contain only progestin.

The birth control pill prevents ovulation of a woman’s ovaries by making the body think that it is pregnant. Additionally, it also causes increased thickening of the cervical mucus, thereby blocking the entry of sperms into the uterus. Most doctors are of the opinion that progestin birth control pills are safe to use.

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In order for progestin to be an effective method of birth control, it has to be consumed in the right amounts and dosage. Also, all women who take progestin should strictly follow the schedule dosage and instructions. In case one is unable to maintain the schedule adherence, then additional methods of birth control need to be employed.

Salient features of progestin

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  • Consumption of the progestin pill leads to several changes within the uterus which prevents any possibilities of a pregnancy. It does not allow the ovaries to produce eggs during ovulation, which means that there are no eggs for a sperm to fertilize. It also thickens the mucus and the lining of the uterus. Thus the passage of sperms to an egg becomes very difficult, in case there is presence of eggs in the uterus.
  • Women who smoke cigarettes; those who are over the age of 35 years; those with high blood pressure and those women who are overweight are generally advised by doctors against consuming birth control pills. However, women who fall under the discussed categories can safely consume progestin pills.
  • Breast feeding mothers can also safely use progestin pills. The quality and production of breast milk are usually affected by most oral contraceptives, but not by progestin pills.
  • Most birth control pills cause disorders of the stomach and severe headaches in some women who use them. Progestin does not cause such side effects in a majority of the population who use progestin pills
  • Due to the presence of only one type of female hormone in progestin pills, it is known to have fewer and milder side effects as compared to regular oral contraceptives.
  • Progestin can also be used in the treatment of various medical disorders such as dysfunctional uterine bleeding and secondary amenorrhea (the inability to get a menstrual period) as well as to prevent endometrial hyperplasia.

Progestin side effects

  • As discussed above progestin use is generally believed to be safe, but its use as a synthetic medicine can result in some progestin side effects. A lot of women may not have any of the side effects, while others may have progestin side effects for a brief period of time. In rare cases, some women may experience severe progestin side effects. All these side effects differ from one woman to another, as is the case with most drugs.
  • Women who use progestin for the first time may experience progestin side effects such as mild vaginal bleeding and spotting in between the menstrual periods, which is generally undesirable. Such bleeding tends to vanish after a few months and should be a cause of worry. In case, it persists or if there is heavy bleeding, then a doctor should be immediately consulted.
  • One has to know that timing is absolutely essential when it comes to intake of progestin. Women who use progestin have to make sure that they consume it at the same time, every day on a regular basis. If one misses the intake of a tablet, then the pill should be taken within the next three hours, else one has to use alternative forms of contraception to prevent pregnancy.
  • Progestin, like other oral contraceptive pills, needs to be consumed for an entire month to prevent pregnancies. Hence, even when one is regular about progestin intake,  an alternative form of contraception like a condom, should always be readily available.
  • Some of the common progestin side effects include the following:
    • Headache and migraine
    • Breast tenderness or pain
    • Lower abdominal pain
    • Changes in appetite
    • Nausea and dizziness
    • Increased risk to cardiac problems, which may cause a heart attack or a stroke
    • Weight gain and fluid retention
    • Mood swings
    • Prolonged periods
    • Dryness and fewer menstrual periods
    • Sleep disorders, occasionally resulting in insomnia
    • Vaginal bleeding and discharge
    • Skin rash and/or acne
    • Bloating
    • Increased risk to breast cancer
    • Some of the severe progestin side effects are listed below. It is important to seek immediate medical attention in case of severe progestin side effects.
      • Altered or absent sex drive or libido
      • Yellowing of the skin
      • Chest pain
      • Extreme allergic reactions such as swelling of face, lips and mouth and breathing problems
      • The swelling of fingers or calves
      • Blurring or changes in vision
      • Severe depression, which usually starts out as inexplicable mood swings
      • Coughing up blood
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