Generally speaking, oral birth control, aka oral contraceptive pills (OCPs), are safe medications to take. That said, they all can mildly increase your risk of clotting events (ie. Heart attack and stroke) by 1.5-3%. If you’re taking one of the higher risk OCPs, this risk increases further.
I don’t say this to scare you from the pill, I say it to keep you informed. Whether this is something you need to actually worry about, or not, depends on many factors.
The first thing to consider is …
Are you low risk?
Factors that will increase your risk of clotting are:
- Prolonged bed rest and sitting
- Recent surgery
- Clotting disorders (ie. Factor V Leiden, Prothrombin mutation, Protein S, Protein C and antithrombin deficiencies)
- Heart valve issues
- Heart rhythm issues
The unfortunate truth is that people with these concerns often end up on the wrong birth control. Sometimes this is because the condition is silent (aka you don’t know you have it) or your prescribing doctor didn’t ask the right questions.
In any matter, it’s important that you be your own health advocate and make sure you’re on the right contraceptive for you!
The second thing to consider is …
What birth control are you on?
Not all oral contraceptives are the same, thus they all carry their own unique risk. When it comes to clotting risk, there are 2 main areas to look at.
- How much estrogen is in it?
While some birth controls, like the ‘mini pill’, don’t have estrogen at all, most do. With this in mind, the more synthetic estrogen (ethinyl estradiol) in the pill, the higher the risk.
In fact, if you double the estrogen in the pill it can increase the clotting risk by 44%. Luckily, the higher estrogen OCPs aren’t prescribed as often.
- What type of synthetic progesterone is in it?
There are many types of synthetic progesterone in OCPs, but only a few are in the majority of them. Levonorgestrel-based pills tend to carry a lower risk than those with drospirenone, or cyproterone.
Drospirenone-based OCPs are often given to combat things like acne. This is because drospirenone helps lower acne-inducing hormones like testosterone.
Again, this might not matter if your risk is super low, but it’s still a worthwhile conversation to have with your doctor.
What can you do?
Remember, information is power. The more you understand your body and what goes in it, the better! So, get informed about your risk and which birth control you are taking. If the risk is too high, there are alternatives available to you. For example, IUDs (intrauterine device) decrease this risk because less hormone gets into your bloodstream.
So, if you’re taking one of the higher-risk birth controls, make sure you’re talking about clot risk with your doctor.
Information can be empowering, but we all have unique health profiles and needs. The health-related information contained in this article is intended to be general in nature. It is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. In no cases should this information be used as a substitute for a visit with a licensed naturopathic doctor.
- Madigan, D., & Shin, J. (2018). Drospirenone-containing oral contraceptives and venous thromboembolism: an analysis of the FAERS database. Open Access Journal of Contraception, 9, 29.
- Adamko, D. J. (2017). Chapter 71: Contraception. In CTC 2017: Compendium of therapeutics choices. Canadian Pharmacists Association.