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Oral contraceptives are commonly used for preventing unintentional pregnancy. They primarily work by stopping ovulation, but some also change the cervical mucus and alter the lining of the uterus. Oral contraceptives, which are available by prescription only, come in tablet form and are taken once daily, at the same time each day. Potential side effects include nausea, headache, and spotting.

What Are Oral Contraceptives?

Oral contraceptives, also known as birth control pills, are prescription medications taken by mouth to prevent pregnancy. Many different oral contraceptives are currently available (see List of Birth Control Pills). While all are approved for pregnancy prevention, some are approved for additional uses.
(Click Uses of Oral Contraceptives for more information, including possible off-label uses.)

Are There Side Effects?

As with any medicine, side effects are possible with oral contraceptives. However, not all women who use them will experience side effects. In fact, most women tolerate them quite well. If side effects do occur, in most cases, they are minor and either require no treatment or can easily be treated by you or your healthcare provider. Serious side effects are less common.
Common side effects of oral contraceptives include but are not limited to:
(Click Oral Contraceptive Side Effects to learn more, including potentially serious side effects you should report immediately to your healthcare provider.)
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
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