Patients and Doctors Are Clashing About Side Effects of Hormonal Birth Control

When a pediatrician put Maya Prokupets on the birth control pill at age 15 to prevent pregnancy, she doesn’t remember being given any information on possible side effects. But they soon appeared: weight gain and anxiety. Switching to different versions — Apri, Alesse, Desogen, Yasmin, and finally Yaz — only brought new side effects, such as constant nausea and vomiting. She told her clinicians, but none recommended she stop taking hormonal contraception. She chose to do so anyway at age 21 — and her symptoms subsided.

“My experience with the medical system as a young woman was very minimizing,” says Prokupets, now 35 and working in health tech in Los Angeles. “I was always being told it was something else. No one would ever acknowledge it could be the pill that I was on.”

A divide is taking root as doctors clash with millennial patients like Prokupets, members of a generation that promotes bodily autonomy and self-advocacy. They want physicians to spend more time questioning potential side effects of hormonal contraception and less time questioning the validity of patients’ claims. But some physicians say without data that point to the prevalence of some side effects, they find it difficult to respond. Some choose not to engage at all — which, in turn, leaves patients like Prokupets feeling dismissed.

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