The Nortrel birth control pill is a combination of ethinyl estradiol and norethindrone, two hormones that prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs and changes the environment of the uterus to make it more difficult for sperm to reach the uterus. Nortrel may also be prescribed to treat acne, endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome. The side effects of Nortel are similar to those of other oral contraceptives, and can range from mild to life-threatening depending on the presence of certain risk factors.
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Heart-related Side Effects
Nortrel, like many birth control pills, can increase the risk of heart attack or life-threatening blood clots that can lead to stroke. This risk is highest for women over the age of 35, those who smoke cigarettes, obese women or those with underlying conditions like artery disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol, according to RxList.
Gastrointestinal Side Effects
Nausea, vomiting and an intolerance or decreased tolerance for carbohydrates can occur in some women while taking Nortrel. Abdominal cramping and bloating are also common side effects, as are changes in appetite and weight gain or loss.
Reproductive Side Effects
Nortrel can cause women to stop menstruating or alter the flow of menstruation. It can also cause breakthrough bleeding, or spotting, throughout the cycle. Other reproductive system effects include changes in sex drive, yeast infections, vaginal itching and changes in the consistency of vaginal secretions. Some women may experience difficulty conceiving for several months after stopping Nortrel.
Skin and Hair
Nortrel can cause changes in skin and hair, including freckling or darkening of the skin on the face, mild rashes, itchiness and swelling, according Medhelp. Although this medication is sometimes used to treat acne, because everyone's hormone balance is different, it may actually cause acne in some users. Hair may grow faster while taking Nortrel, but loss of hair at the scalp may occur.
Other Side Effects
Additional side effects of Nortrel include nervousness or dizziness, depression, a worsening of existing varicose veins, an intolerance to contact lenses, headaches or migraines and mood swings. Less common possible serious side effects include lesions on the eye, severe depression and complications in the gallbladder or liver.
If you experience a chest pain, sudden weakness or feel numb, especially on just one side of the body, develop a sudden severe headache accompanied by confusion, blurred vision, loss of balance or speech disturbances, seek emergency medical attention. These can be signs of heart complications or stroke.