Hormonal birth control may put women at greater risk for heart attacks, strokes
The safety of hormonal contraception for women has been debated for years, with numerous studies showing that the treatments can increase a woman’s risk for dangerous blood clots. Now new research suggests that hormonal birth control may also increase a woman’s risk for heart attacks and stroke.
The overall risk for heart attacks and strokes in women using hormonal contraception is relatively low but there nonetheless, according to the study published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.
For the study, researchers looked at data from more than 1.6 million women during a 15-year period and tracked all their contraceptive choices, including the birth control pill, vaginal ring, IUD, subcutaneous implants, skin patches, and intramuscular injections, or the “Depo shot.” Women who had previously had a stroke or heart attack and women who suffered from clotting disorders were not counted in the study. Researchers also took into consideration women who were smokers, as smoking can increase the risk for blood clots.
The results showed that although the absolute risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke while using hormonal birth control was low, the chances of a woman suffering from one condition or the other was 0.9 to 1.7 times higher in women who were using contraception with low levels of estrogen. The risk increased to 1.3 to 2.3 among women who used contraception with higher doses of estrogen. Progestin-only contraceptives, such as the IUD, did not show a significant increased risk of heart attacks or strokes.
Women with questions about which birth control is safest for them should discuss their options with a doctor or other health care provider.