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Why your birth control pill could kill you

Oral contraceptives increase the risk of women suffering from certain types of stroke, new research suggests.

Birth-control pills raise a woman’s likelihood of suffering from an ischemic stroke, which occurs when an artery to the brain is blocked and makes up around 85 percent of cases of the life-threatening condition, a study found.

The researchers, from Loyola University in Chicago, wrote: ‘[Among] women with other stroke risk factors, the risk seems higher and, in most cases, oral contraceptive use should be discouraged’. 

Such contraceptives do not raise the risk of hemorrhagic strokes, which are caused by bleeding in the brain, the research adds. 

Birth-control pills, patches and jabs are thought to rise the risk of artery blockages by making blood more likely to clot.

The researchers stress, however, the risk is low among women without any risk factors for clotting. These include high-blood pressure and smoking.  

Most women have tried at least one hormonal contraceptive in their lives. In the US, nearly 37 percent of women are currently using birth control. 

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in women in the US, with 55,000 more females suffering than men every year. 

Oral contraceptives increase the risk of women suffering from certain types of stroke (stock)


Hormonal birth control does not increase women’s risk of depression, research suggested in February 2017.

Contrary to popular belief, contraceptive pills, implants or injections do not make women more likely to suffer from the mental-health condition, a study found today.

Lead author Dr Brett Worly from Ohio State University, said: ‘Depression is a concern for a lot of women when they’re starting hormonal contraception.

‘Based on our findings, this side effect shouldn’t be a concern for most women, and they should feel comfortable knowing they’re making a safe choice.’ 

The researchers blame platforms such as social media for making contraception complications seem more common than they are.

Dr Worly said: ‘We live in a media-savvy age where if one or a few people have severe side effects, all of a sudden, that gets amplified to every single person.

‘The biggest misconception is that birth control leads to depression. For most patients that’s just not the case.’

The scientists add, however, certain women are at a greater risk of the mental-health disorder and should be monitored closely. 

Dr Worly said: ‘Adolescents will sometimes have a higher risk of depression, not necessarily because of the medicine they’re taking, but because they have that risk to start with.

‘For those patients, it’s important that they have a good relationship with their healthcare provider so they can get the appropriate screening done – regardless of the medications they’re on.’ 

The researchers reviewed thousands of studies investigating the link between contraceptives and people’s mental health.

Such studies included various methods of contraception, including injections, implants and pills. 

Participants in the trials were made up of teenagers, women with a history of depression and those who had given birth in the past six weeks. 

Women not being screened for stroke risk-factors 

Results further suggest women are not being accurately screened for potential stroke risk-factors before being prescribed hormonal contraceptives.

Among women at risk of the medical emergency, only 15 percent recall being advised not to take birth-control pills, while just 36 percent have been told to stop taking the medication.

Some 15 percent of women carry on their birth-control course after being told to discontinue. 

The researchers believe this highlights the need for effective doctor-patient communication. 

Speaking of how women can reduce their stroke risk, the researchers wrote: ‘The ideal drug is one with the lowest estrogen and progestin doses that will be effective in preventing pregnancy while minimizing adverse effects.’  

The findings were published in the journal MedLink Neurology. 

Starting periods before the age of 10 raises women’s risk of strokes  

This comes after research released last month suggested women who start their period before 10 years old, or enter the menopause younger than 45, have an increased risk of suffering a stroke.

Menstruating before the age of 13 is often caused by obesity, which also puts individuals at a higher risk of cardiovascular events, such as stroke, a study review found.

The menopause is associated with a decline in heart-protective hormones, such as oestrogen, which prevents fats from circulating in the bloodstream and raising women’s stroke risk, the research adds.

Experiencing hot flushes prematurely could mean women lack these protective hormones for longer than the average female, raising their risk of a blood clot in the brain.

Fluctuating hormones during the menopause also increase so-called ‘bad cholesterol’ levels, further boosting such women’s risk, the research adds.

Study author Dr Kathryn Rexrode from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said: ‘These women should be monitored carefully and they should be aware that they are at higher risk, and motivated to adhere to the healthiest lifestyle behaviors to decrease the risk of hypertension and subsequent stroke.’