Other serious side effects include worsening of migraine, asthma, epilepsy, kidney or heart disease caused by the tendency for water to be retained when the pill is used.
Other occasional side effects include nervousness, dizziness, an increase in or loss of hair, an increase or decrease in sex drive, and appetite changes.
Advantages Of The Pill
It enables regular predictable periods of bleeding every month. These are not true periods but really withdrawal bleeding after the pill is stopped for a day or two. The pill usually eliminates menstrual pain and prevents anemia from excessive menstrual bleeding. Certain kinds of pills cause an improvement in acne.
As mentioned previously, the high dose pill may reduce the incidence of cystic breast disease, pelvic inflammatory disease, and the incidence of tubal pregnancies. It may also reduce the risk of ovarian cysts and ovarian cancer as well as reducing the risks of uterine cancer.
Evidence is inconclusive about whether the pill has a protective effect on thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, peptic ulcer, uterine fibroids or bone mass.
The pill is also a highly reliable form of birth control with a theoretical effectiveness of 99.5 percent. In practice, the actual rate of effectiveness due to forgetting pills or other errors is more like 98 percent.
Every woman on the pill should study the insert and the information booklet that is included in every package of the pill to understand thoroughly the risks she is taking. If you have questions about the side effects, your family doctor is the ideal person to consult.
New Pill Developments
During the 1980's, new bi-phasic or tri-phasic pill formulations were introduced that mimicked the natural cycle a little more closely. The estrogen content of each pill remained the same throughout the cycle, but there were two or three different doses of progesterone mirroring the normal rise and fall in each cycle. The overall dose of progesterone per month was less.
The latest development in birth control pills involves the introduction to the market of three new and improved types of progesterone. These new progesterones have been on the European market since 1986.
"We're talking here about the first major change since the 1960's," said Dr. Steinberg, (Ontario Medicine, Sept/92) who teaches on the new progestins (another term for progesterone).
The New Progesterones- Hope And Hype
NEW BIRTH CONTROL PILL HAILED AS A HEALTH AID trumpeted a July 1993 front page headline in the Toronto Star. The article announced the arrival on the market of the pill MARVELON (which contains a new progesterone called desogestrel).
"The last time a new class of progestins was introduced was during the age of Aquarius," says an ad announcing the arrival of Ortho's ORTHOCEPT pill containing exactly the same ingredients as marvelon. At the same time, Ortho also brought out the first triphasic pill containing a new progesterone known as TRICYLCEN. All the products are being marketed primarily for the new user.
The year before, Ortho had brought out CYLCEN which contains a new progesterone called norgestimate. CYLCEN now accounts for one in ten of new prescriptions for birth control pills in Canada.
The three new progesterones are norgestimate, desogestrel and gestodene. These new progesterones have been shown to have less androgen activity compared to the old progesterones (androgens are like male hormones but are normally present in a woman's body). This means that the new progesterones bind more specifically to progesterone receptors, whereas the older progesterones bind more frequently to androgen receptors.
But whether this means less androgen type side effects, or even if these side effects are linked to androgens, is unclear.
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