7 Symptoms Of Switching Birth Control Methods To Watch Out For

So you're shifting contraceptive methods. Good on you for taking advantage of the options available to you! But whether you're going from condoms to the combined hormonal pill, the combined pill to the mini-pill, an IUD to an implant, or any other shift, there are definitely symptoms that should cause you pause if they pop up during the shift, as they may indicate this isn't the right choice for you.

Side effects are the bane of shifting contraceptive choices, unfortunately. But it's important to remember several things: The first is that certain side effects may simply disappear after a certain amount of transitioning time, and are only a matter for concern if they never settle down — while others need to be a concern immediately. Another is that you're the one in control of the amount of contraception side effects you're willing to tolerate. As your GP or gynecologist should tell you, some women decide intermittent bleeding during a transition, for example, is acceptable, while others can't deal with it; it's completely your choice.

Here are seven things you should watch for when you're shifting birth control. They may not mean it's wrong for you, but they definitely signal how your body's coping with its new regime, so pay attention.

1. Changes In Bleeding Patterns

Different bleeding patterns are associated with different kinds of hormonal birth control: the combined pill tends to lessen blood flow during your withdrawal periods, while progestin-only birth control, like the mini-pill or an implant, is associated with bleeding at various random points in the cycle. And, at least at first, IUDs are associated with heavier bleeding than normal.

If you've just switched to a new method and it's causing bleeding, take note of the times, the amount, and what kind of flow it is (whether it's clotted, brown, or fresh and red), and talk to your doctor about whether this is a normal reaction or a cause for concern.

2. A Drop In Libido

It's actually fairly rare for a drop in libido to occur when you start taking the Pill; only 15 percent of women in a review of studies covering 8,400 patients reported any fall in desire after taking the Pill, and it's not at all clear if the two are related. But it does appear to happen (some experts believe it has to do with the Pill's interference with natural hormone fluctuations), and it's definitely not something to take lightly. Libido matters, and you should definitely pay attention if your sex drive falls off during a shift.

3. Increased Breast Tenderness

This is a pretty normal symptom and shouldn't be regarded with too much worry. Unless, that is, it goes on for far too long. Shifting birth control methods is associated with shifting sensitivity in the breasts, either making them more or less susceptible to pain. If, however, the pain doesn't go away, it's a signal that you need to chat with your medical professional and study your other options.

4. Increased Or Decreased Acne

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The FDA supports three different contraceptive pills for the treatment of acne, and they're all combination pills associated with lowering androgen levels so that you don't produce as much sebum and clog up your pores. Shifting to and from pills is expected to cause a bit of hormonal difficulty, particularly because the mini-pill (which is progesterone-only) is associated with getting worse acne. Acne levels obviously can't be assessed on the spot; you'll need to stick with your method for a cycle or two to see what the end result is.

5. Changes In Vaginal Lubrication

This one tends to be exclusively related to hormone-based birth control: alterations in the level of vaginal lubrication can be an interesting mark of how your body is reacting to hormonal changes. Lowered levels of lubrication are tied to the mini-pill and other methods that don't have estrogen in them, and if it pops up it doesn't look as if it goes away all that easily. Be warned, and consider whether the tradeoff is worth it for you.

6. Melasma

Melasma is a hyperpigmentation disorder that most often turns up as blotches of darker skin on the face, particularly the cheeks and forehead. It can be triggered by hormonal shifts as well as genetics and environment; it shows up in pregnancy, for example. But hormonal birth control can also be to blame, and the Dermal Institute says that the mini-pill appears to be just as susceptible to causing it as any other hormonal contraceptive; it doesn't appear to matter if they're combined or not.

The dark spots may simply fade once you switch to another birth control method, or prescription cream may be required to make them lessen and fade. But either way, they're not harmful; they're just an overproduction of melanin in the skin. No big deal, but seriously worrying if you don't know what you're seeing.

7. Nausea

This is a symptom of shifting methods that you need to pay attention to immediately. It's relatively common as an early side effect of the combined pill due to estrogen's interaction with the stomach, but if it sticks around, or turns up when you've shifted to an IUD, an implant, the birth control patch, or condoms, you need to talk to your doctor. Mini-pills also aren't supposed to be linked to nausea, so if you feel nausea after starting those it's extremely unusual and possibly unrelated to the pills themselves. Either way, see a doctor.

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