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Alesse

Last reviewed on RxList: 4/3/2009
Alesse Side Effects Center

Last reviewed on RxList 10/28/2016

Alesse (levonorgestrel and ethinyl estradiol) is an oral contraceptive that contains the female hormones estrogen and progestin. Generic versions of Alesse are available. Side effects of Alesse include:

  • swelling (edema),
  • weakness,
  • breakthrough bleeding,
  • changes in weight or appetite,
  • headache,
  • nausea (especially when you first start taking Alesse),
  • vomiting,
  • bloating,
  • stomach cramps,
  • breast tenderness or swelling,
  • nipple discharge,
  • freckles or darkening of facial skin,
  • increased hair growth,
  • loss of scalp hair,
  • problems with contact lenses,
  • vaginal itching or discharge,
  • changes in your menstrual periods, or
  • decreased sex drive.

The dose is one active tablet for 21 days and an inert tablet for 7 days, then repeat the cycle. Cigarette smoking increases the risk of cardiovascular adverse effects so women should not smoke when taking hormonal contraceptives. They also may cause deep vein thrombosis and should not be given to women with deep vein thrombosis. Alesse may interact with bosentan, antibiotics, tuberculosis medications, drugs to treat hepatitis C or HIV/AIDS, barbiturates, St. John's wort, seizure medications, dantrolene, tizanidine, or tranexamic acid. Tell your doctor all medications and supplements you use. Estrogens should not be given to pregnant women since they may harm the fetus. Estrogens are secreted into breast milk and may affect the infant.

Our Alesse (levonorgestrel and ethinyl estradiol) Side Effects Drug Center provides a comprehensive view of available drug information on the potential side effects when taking this medication.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Alesse Consumer Information

Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Stop using birth control pills and call your doctor at once if you have a serious side effect such as:

  • sudden numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body;
  • sudden and severe headache, confusion, problems with vision, speech, or balance;
  • chest pain or heavy feeling, pain spreading to the arm or shoulder, nausea, sweating, general ill feeling;
  • sudden cough, wheezing, rapid breathing, coughing up blood;
  • pain, swelling, warmth, or redness in one or both legs;
  • a change in the pattern or severity of migraine headaches;
  • nausea, upper stomach pain, itching, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes);
  • swelling in your hands, ankles, or feet;
  • a breast lump; or
  • symptoms of depression (sleep problems, weakness, tired feeling, mood changes).

Less serious side effects may include:

  • mild nausea (especially when you first start taking this medicine), vomiting, bloating, stomach cramps;
  • breast tenderness or swelling, nipple discharge;
  • freckles or darkening of facial skin, increased hair growth, loss of scalp hair;
  • changes in weight or appetite;
  • problems with contact lenses;
  • vaginal itching or discharge; or
  • changes in your menstrual periods, decreased sex drive.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Read the entire detailed patient monograph for Alesse (Levonorgestrel and Ethinyl Estradiol)

Alesse Professional Information

SIDE EFFECTS

An increased risk of the following serious adverse reactions (see WARNINGS section for additional information) has been associated with the use of oral contraceptives: Thromboembolic and thrombotic disorders and other vascular problems (including thrombophlebitis and venous thrombosis with or without pulmonary embolism, mesenteric thrombosis, arterial thromboembolism, myocardial infarction, cerebral hemorrhage, cerebral thrombosis), carcinoma of the reproductive organs and breasts, hepatic neoplasia (including hepatic adenomas or benign liver tumors), ocular lesions (including retinal vascular thrombosis), gallbladder disease, carbohydrate and lipid effects, elevated blood pressure, and headache including migraine.

The following adverse reactions have been reported in patients receiving oral contraceptives and are believed to be drug related (alphabetically listed):

Acne
Amenorrhea
Anaphylactic/anaphylactoid reactions, including urticaria, angioedema, and severe
reactions with respiratory and circulatory symptoms
Breast changes: tenderness, pain, enlargement, secretion
Budd-Chiari syndrome
Cervical erosion and secretion, change in
Cholestatic jaundice
Chorea, exacerbation of
Colitis
Contact lenses, intolerance to
Corneal curvature (steepening), change in
Dizziness
Edema/fluid retention
Erythema multiforme
Erythema nodosum
Gastrointestinal symptoms (such as abdominal pain, cramps, and bloating)
Hirsutism
Infertility after discontinuation of treatment, temporary
Lactation, diminution in, when given immediately postpartum
Libido, change in
Melasma/chloasma which may persist
Menstrual flow, change in
Mood changes, including depression
Nausea
Nervousness
Pancreatitis
Porphyria, exacerbation of
Rash (allergic)
Scalp hair, loss of
Serum folate levels, decrease in
Spotting
Systemic lupus erythematosus, exacerbation of
Unscheduled bleeding
Vaginitis, including candidiasis
Varicose veins, aggravation of
Vomiting
Weight or appetite (increase or decrease), change in

The following adverse reactions have been reported in users of oral contraceptives:

Cataracts
Cystitis-like syndrome
Dysmenorrhea
Hemolytic uremic syndrome
Hemorrhagic eruption
Optic neuritis, which may lead to partial or complete loss of vision
Premenstrual syndrome
Renal function, impaired

Read the entire FDA prescribing information for Alesse (Levonorgestrel and Ethinyl Estradiol)

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© Alesse Patient Information is supplied by Cerner Multum, Inc. and Alesse Consumer information is supplied by First Databank, Inc., used under license and subject to their respective copyrights.

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