Dianette is an oral contraceptive pill that contains ethinylestradiol and cyproterone acetate; the latter ingredient of which is also referred to as co-cyprindiol. While it's an effective combined oral contraceptive pill, it isn't always prescribed for this reason alone. In fact, its use as a contraceptive is an added benefit for some women who are prescribed it for:

  • Severe acne, whereby antibiotic treatments have not helped the condition
  • Hirsutism (women who experience abnormal hair growth as a result of over production of male hormones)

This makes Dianette an extremely versatile contraceptive however as with many medications, there are some side effects and risks to taking Dianette pills that you should be aware of.

As with all contraceptive pills, it is advised to keep with Dianette for the first three months if you are experiencing manageable side effects detailed below. This is because it can take time for your body to adjust to the hormones. Here we outline some of the most common, and some of the less common, side effects associated with the medication.

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Less serious side effects

The following table outlines some of the less serious side effects of taking Dianette, according to the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC). It also classifies them in terms of likely you are to experience these side effects with even "common" side effects fairly unlikely:

  • Common – These affect between 100 and 1,000 women in every 10,000
  • Uncommon – These affect between 10 and 100 women in every 10,000
  • Rare – These affect between 1 and 10 women in every 10,000
Common side effects Uncommon side effects Rare side effects
  • Nausea
  • Weight gain
  • Stomach cramps or bloating
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings
  • Breast tenderness
  • Vomiting
  • Fluid retention
  • Migraine
  • Lower libido
  • Skin rash
  • Weight loss
  • High libido
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Breast discharge

Women taking Dianette can also experience spotting or bleeding between their periods, but this usually stops after the first few months once their bodies adjust to taking the new medication. Taking Dianette can also increase your blood pressure and aggravate other underlying conditions.

More serious side effects and risks

There are some slight additional risks associated with taking Dianette. It is important to be aware of these, so you can look out for potential signs and symptoms.

Dianette and depression

There have been studies conducted into whether there is a direct cause and effect between Dianette and depression, but no definitive link has been proven. Where there have been cases of severe depression, the researchers felt that a prior history of depression may be the reason for the severity. However, if you find you're experiencing any signs of depression you should speak to your doctor immediately and consider stopping Dianette as a precaution.

Dianette and blood clots

Dianette can slightly increase your risk of developing a blood clot in the leg (what is known as Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)) or a pulmonary embolism (if it develops in the lungs). Studies have shown that there is an increased likelihood of women on the pill developing such clots, although their risk of developing one is still lower than that of a pregnant woman:

Category Risk of blood clot
Not on Dianette or other pill or Not Pregnant 5 to 10 out of 10,000 women will get a clot
On Dianette 40 out of 10,000 women will develop a clot
Pregnant 60 out of 10,000 women will develop a clot

Certain factors can place you at a higher risk of developing a clot, see risk factors below.

Dianette and cancer

Dianette can slightly increase your risk of cervical cancer, breast cancer and rare liver cancer. The risk relates more to long-term use, and within ten years of stopping Dianette, the risk has diminished. Studies have shown the following slight increase in rates for breast cancer:

Category Risk of breast cancer
At 35, who have not taken Dianette or other contraceptive pills 16 out of 10,000 women will have breast cancer
At 35, who have taken Dianette for five years in their early twenties 17-18 out of 10,000 women will have breast cancer
At 45, who have not taken Dianette or other contraceptive pills 100 out of 10,000 women will have breast cancer
At 45, who have taken Dianette for five years in their early thirties 110 out of 10,000 women will have breast cancer

How to prevent the risk of side effects

There are certain risk factors that will increase your likelihood of experiencing side effects. It is important to disclose all relevant information in your consultation, so your doctor can ensure that Dianette is suitable for you. Dianette may not be suitable for you if you are or have:

  • Over 35 years' old
  • A smoker or have been a smoker in the last 12 months
  • Overweight
  • Experienced or have a family history of heart problems, blood clots, stroke or hypertriglyceridaemia
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Severe depression
  • Experience migraines, have abnormal haemoglobin, have an inflammatory bowel disease or have raised prolactin levels in your blood
  • An undiagnosed lump in your breast
  • A history of irregular brown patches on your skin
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding

Dealing with the side effects of Dianette

Most of the minor side effects of taking Dianette should disappear within the first few months, for example nausea and spotting. It is advised to continue taking Dianette for three months if you're experiencing light or mild side effects. If they are severe or gradually increase in discomfort, you should contact your doctor.

You should also notify your doctor if any of your circumstances change and you are now at high risk of side effects, for example if you develop high blood pressure or have an undiagnosed lump in your breast. Finally, it is recommended that whether you are on Dianette or not, you carry out regular breast checks and get regular smear tests to ensure that any irregular cells are found as early as possible.