Birth control pills increase the risk of ischemic stroke
(NaturalHealth365) In a sobering review published in January of this year, researchers from Loyola University Medical Center confirmed an unexpected yet potentially devastating side effect of birth control pills: an increased risk for ischemic stroke.
In fact, this review is an updated account of a paper originally published in the journal Medlink Neurology in 2003. The truth is: many studies have revealed the link between stroke and oral contraceptives – a medication currently taken by an estimated 100 million women worldwide.
The most common type of stroke is MORE likely to happen when taking birth control pills
Ischemic stroke accounts for about 85% of all strokes. These types of strokes occur when a part of the brain becomes starved of blood, generally due to a blood clot which blocks circulation.
The other main type of stroke, called a hemorrhagic stroke, occurs when excessive bleeding happens in the brain. The different ways these strokes occur explains why oral contraceptives increase the risk for ischemic stroke specifically and not hemorrhagic stroke.
Reviewers explain that birth control pills can make the blood more likely to coagulate(clot) and can increase blood pressure. Both of these adverse effects can cause circulation-blocking blood clots to develop in cerebral blood vessels – a dangerous recipe for a stroke.
The overall risk of stroke due to birth control pills remains relatively small, particularly for otherwise healthy young women. But, the risk does increase significantly for women with known stroke risk factors, including diabetes, cigarette use, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, excessive alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, and migraines with aura (aura is a migraine-related syndrome of sensory changes including visual disturbances and tingling).
Based on this evidence, the authors’ stance is clear: women with stroke risk factors should be discouraged from using birth control pills in the majority of cases.
What does the evidence say about whether birth control pills are safe for you?
Deciding how you want to take control of your reproductive health is a personal decision. If you or a loved one are considering using birth control pills, it’s important to discuss the potential risks with a physician.
This review from the Loyola Medicine stroke specialists offers some helpful considerations:
Firstly, any woman considering oral contraceptives should be carefully screened – something which likely is not being done adequately across the board.
Secondly, birth control pills should have the minimal effective dose of the hormones estrogen and progestin – enough to prevent pregnancy but not so much as to excessively raise the risk of adverse effects.
Thirdly, all women taking oral contraceptives experience at least some increased risk for ischemic stroke. For some women, the risk is much greater.