What are the side effects of cilest?

Updated May 10, 2017

Cilest is a combined hormonal type of contraceptive drug that goes under other brand names such as Ortho Cyclen and Ortho Tri-Cyclen. Cilest, commonly known as "the pill," is manufactured by Janssen-Cilag (Ortho-McNiel in the United States) as Ortho Tri-Cyclen. Cilest tablets contain ethinylestradiol and norgestimate, which are active synthetic versions of the natural female sex hormones--oestrogen represented by ethinylestradiol and progesterone represented by norgestimate. Cilest has side effects you should know about.


Cilest is used primarily to prevent pregnancy. It is also used to treat premenstrual tension, dymenorrhoea (painful periods), heavy periods, irregular periods and endometriosis--normal uterine tissue growing outside the uterus in the ovaries, tubes or even the intestines. Cilest tricks the normal menstrual cycle by narrowing the neck of the womb, changing the lining of the womb and making it difficult for the egg to enter the womb and to stick to the lining of the womb.

Menstrual Changes

Cilest has side effects, including change in menstrual cycle, menstrual spotting, breast tenderness and breast enlargement and weight changes. There may be nausea and vomiting, headache or migraine headaches, hypertension and retention of fluid in the body tissue.

Skin reactions

Other side effects include vaginal thrush or candidiasis, skin reactions and irregular brown patches on the skin. These patches most often occur on the face and are called the mask of pregnancy or chloasma. There also may be feelings of depression and a decrease in sex drive.

Blood clots

Cilest also can cause gall stones and liver function problems. Contact lens wearers may experience discomfort due to a steepening of the corneal (the white of the eyes) curvature. A serious side effect may be the formation of blood clots in the blood vessels of the legs, heart and brain or lungs. This can lead to heart attack, stroke or pulmonary embolism--a sudden blockage of a major blood vessel in the lung.


Before taking Cilest discuss with your doctor your medical history, including any medications you may be taking. This will ensure your safety against drug interactions and contraindications to medical conditions you may have or had in the past. Cilest should not be taken if you are pregnant or breast feeding.

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About the Author

Norma Chew is a retired registered nurse who has been a freelance writer since 1978. Chew's articles have appeared in the "Journal of the Association of Operating Room Nurses" (AORN), "Point of View Magazine" and "Today's OR Nurse." Chew has a master's degree in health care administration from Nova Southeastern University.