SEACASH for Serious Complications from Oral Birth Control

For many women, oral birth control (contraception) helps to prevent pregnancies, regulate menstrual cycles, and manage some diagnoses such as acne, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Oral birth control is comprised of the hormones estrogen and/or progestin. These hormones create changes in the reproductive organs to reduce the chance of getting pregnant by altering the make-up of the uterine lining and cervical mucus.

General Side Effects

Despite the positive benefits of oral birth control, some women may experience unpleasant but manageable side effects from the medication. Common side effects of oral birth control include nausea, mild headaches, sore breasts, mood changes, and spotting. Such side effects of birth control may subside within a few months of initiating the medication.

Serious Complications

Oral birth control may also cause serious complications. Nurses should monitor for these events closely as they can become life threatening if not treated appropriately. Symptoms that develop may be a sign of a deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, or stroke. A simple mnemonic to remember these severe complications is SEACASH. SEACASH stands for:

  • S— severe leg pain
  • E— eye problems
  • A— abdominal problems
  • C— chest pain
  • A— acne
  • S— swelling of ankles and feet
  • H— headaches (severe in nature)

If your client has any of these symptoms with associated oral birth control use, the client should be seen by a healthcare provider as soon as possible.

Nurses should be aware of the serious adverse effects for women using oral birth control. Using mnemonics to help remember critical nursing assessments is helpful when preparing for the NCLEX-RN test.

SEASCASH Mnemonic

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