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We explored perceptions of the safety and side effects of oral and injectable hormonal contraceptives among low-income women at high risk of unintended pregnancy.Overall safety perceptions, specific health concerns, and the relationship between these safety perceptions and contraceptive choices were determined by focus groups and questionnaires obtained from white non-Latina (n = 19), English-speaking (n = 21), and Spanish-speaking Latina women (n = 19).Uncertainty or ambivalence about the safety of oral and injectable contraceptives was reported by 41% and 70% of respondents respectively, while 20% considered these methods to be mostly harmful. Personal experiences and stories from social networks proved to be more salient than medical opinions in shaping safety perceptions. Side effects and concerns about long-term health effects were common themes. While white non-Latina women focused predominantly on physical side effects, emotional side effects also contributed to Latinas' decisions about contraceptive switching. Spanish-speaking Latinas differed from English-speaking Latinas in other attitudinal dimensions, contraceptive use prevalence, and access to contraceptive services.Low-income mothers lacked confidence in method safety and had many concerns about the side effects of oral and injectable contraceptives. Because such concerns can be a barrier to contraceptive use, these perceptions need to be corrected to encourage more effective use of hormonal methods and to prevent unintended pregnancies. Culturally appropriate interventions should focus on client–provider interactions, social networks, and access to care.