Researchers: Birth control pills pose health risk

Published On: Jun 18 2012 05:22:12 PM CDT
HOUSTON -

A new study shows that women who take birth control pills have an increased risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.

Oral contraception is a popular way to prevent pregnancy. Of the women in the United Sates who practice contraception, almost a third use birth control pills.

In a study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that otherwise young healthy women doubled their risk of heart attack and stroke if they use oral contraceptives that contain low dose estrogen and progestin.

"With the current pills that are out there now, it's pretty safe. But, as a doctor, I have to say there's going to be risk with whatever you do," said Dr. Saul Jeck, a gynecologist.

In general, the risk of a heart attack or a stroke in a healthy young woman is low. so the increase when taking these forms of birth control is still low.

"But if somebody were to take the pill and develop a complication and it's related to the pill, for them the risk is high," Jeck said.

The study found that the risks go up as the dose of estrogen increases and as a woman gets older.

Birth control patches and vaginal rings were also linked to an increase in blood clots.

Jeck said women shouldn't stop taking these forms of birth control

"If I see that the patient is apprehensive and scared, then we discuss other alternatives as well," he said.

Those alternatives include Progestin-only pills and injections.
There were no increased risks linked to these in the women who were followed.