Before you begin using a medication, be sure to inform your doctor of any medical conditions or allergies you may have, any medications you are taking, whether you are pregnant or breast-feeding, and any other significant facts about your health. These factors may affect how you should use this medication.
Breast cancer: Increasing age and a strong family history are the most significant risk factors for the development of breast cancer. Other established risk factors include obesity, not having had children, and a first full-term pregnancy at a late age. The identified groups of women that may be at increased risk of developing breast cancer before menopause are long-term users of birth control pills (more than 8 years) and women who started taking birth control pills at an early age. In a few women, the use of birth control pills may accelerate the growth of an existing but undiagnosed breast cancer.
If you are taking birth control pills, you should learn how to perform a breast self-examination. Notify your doctor any time a mass or lump is detected. A yearly clinical breast examination is also recommended because, if breast cancer should develop, medications that contain estrogen may cause a rapid progression.
Depression: Women with a history of depression may be more likely to have a recurrence while taking oral birth control pills.
Diabetes: Current low-dose birth control pills have very little affect on blood glucose control. People with diabetes and those with a family history of diabetes should monitor blood glucose closely to detect any worsening of blood glucose control after starting birth control pills.
Emotional problems: Women with a history of emotional disturbances may be more likely to have a recurrence while taking oral birth control pills.
Eye disorders: Women who are pregnant or are taking birth control pills may experience fluid buildup in the cornea of the eye causing visual disturbances and changes in tolerance to contact lenses, especially of the rigid type. Soft contact lenses usually do not cause disturbances. If visual changes or alterations in tolerance to contact lenses occur, you may be advised to stop wearing them temporarily or permanently.
Fibroids: This medication may worsen fibroids, causing sudden enlargement, pain, or tenderness. If you notice these symptoms, contact your doctor.
Heart disease: Cigarette smoking increases the risk of serious heart disease and death. Birth control pills add to this risk, especially with increasing age. Convincing data exist to support an upper age limit of 35 years for birth control pill use by women who smoke.
Other women who are at high risk for heart disease include those with diabetes, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, or those with a family history of these. It is unclear whether taking birth control pills increases this risk.
For low-risk, non-smoking women of any age, the benefits of using low-dose birth control pills outweigh the possible heart disease risks.
Regular checkups: Physical examinations and follow-up visits should be done yearly by your doctor.
Return to fertility: After stopping birth control pills, you should delay pregnancy until at least one normal, spontaneous cycle has occurred in order to date the pregnancy. An alternative birth control method (e.g., condoms) should be used during this time. If you do not menstruate for 6 months or more after stopping birth control pills, notify your doctor.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs): Birth control pills do not protect against STIs, including HIV/AIDS. For protection against these, it is advisable to use latex condoms.
Pregnancy: Birth control pills should not be taken during pregnancy. If you become pregnant while taking birth control pills, contact your doctor.
Breast-feeding: It is not recommended to use birth control pills while breast-feeding. The hormonal components of the medication pass into breast milk and may reduce its quantity and quality. The long-term effects of this medication on the infant are not known.