Birth Control Pill Effectiveness & Side Effects

by Dr. Daniel J. Heller May 25, 2012

We’ve discussed birth control hormone drugs for PMS & PMDD before. Birth control pills like Yaz® and Yasmin® allegedly cause dangerous side effects; and all birth control hormones, from Nuvaring® to Depo-Provera® to the pill, cause side effects that many women simply can’t tolerate. Now there is new evidence from the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine that these birth control methods—pills, patches, and rings—don’t prevent pregnancy nearly as well as long-acting reversible contraception methods such as IUDs, implants and injections, including Depo-Provera®.

If you are researching birth control methods, you are probably weighing a handful of concerns: convenience, effectiveness, and risk of side effects. If you are researching PMDD medication or treatments for PMS, you want a drug that will address your symptoms but without bad side effects. 

What this new study tells us is that for convenience and effectiveness, and to some degree for risk of side effects, there is little reason to even consider birth control hormone pills, patches, and rings.  Women using these methods were more than 20 times more likely to become pregnant—that’s 2000%! Women using IUDs, implants, or injections had far more success preventing pregnancy, regardless of their age. The risk of contraception failure doubled for women under the age of 21. The long-lasting methods require much less of what doctors call “compliance” – remembering to take medications, remembering to get drug refills, and so forth.

Some women don’t tolerate hormonal treatments, whether for birth control, PMS or PMDD, or another health issue, so it is good news that IUDs and other long acting methods were found to be vastly superior, and had few or no side effects. Long-lasting hormonal treatment like Depo-Provera® was as effective as IUDs and implants in this study.

Of course, an IUD or other long acting non-hormonal birth control method will not prevent or treat PMDD or PMS. Depo-Provera has not been widely studied for PMDD and PMS. Because it does interfere with your body’s natural hormone self-regulation, it might work, though it could cause similar problems to other hormonal treatments.

Every woman has to make these difficult decisions related to her own health care for herself, whether it is how to treat PMDD or PMS or how to prevent unwanted pregnancy. Of course, doctors and health care practitioners have the information and expertise to help you make an informed decision, and for many women it will be important to include family members in these choices. But studies such as this one make the decision about the best birth control with the least chance of side effects very much easier.

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About The PMS Comfort Blog

The PMS Comfort Blog is our informal way of keeping you up to date on women’s health issues that we think are important; timely; underappreciated; useful; or just interesting. And, we’ll admit, sometimes we can’t resist poking some good-natured fun at the way the mainstream media portrays health, natural health, and women’s health issues. As always, we’d love to hear from you and are interested in knowing what you think and feel about these or other topics. Leave a comment for us, we’ll always respond. And, if there’s a women’s health topic that’s of interest to you, or that you find confusing, let us know! We want this blog to be helpful to you.


Dr. Daniel Heller is the primary author of this blog, the developer of our PMS Natural Relief Programs, and the founder of He is a holistic naturopathic doctor in Northern California with over 16 years experience helping thousands of women recover from PMS, PMDD, as well as helping women, children, and families find natural answers to all manner of health challenges.


PMS Comfort is here to support you with detailed, practical knowledge presented in a balanced manner you can trust. We are committed to educating, informing, and empowering womenregarding PMS, PMDD, and women’s health, and to providing natural relief for premenstrual symptoms.



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