Can Birth Control Cause a Stroke?

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There are plenty of myths and rumors floating around about birth control pills and what they can or cannot do. Some of them are not to be taken seriously. Others should be taken very seriously. This can be confusing, considering there an estimated 100 million women in the world today who take oral contraceptives.

The ability of birth control to cause a stroke is one of those that must be taken very seriously.

According to a recent review article co-authored by neurologists from Loyola University, oral contraceptives double one's risk of having a stroke, compared to someone not taking them.

Nothing New

The association between birth control / oral contraceptives and stroke risk is nothing new. It has been studied and debated almost since oral contraceptives first appeared on the United States market in the early 1960s. Not everyone agrees that there is a stroke risk, but the rising consensus among experts is that the increased risk is there, it's real, and it needs to be considered before a woman begins taking birth control pills.

However, if the only additional risk factor for a stroke in women is taking birth control pills, the actual increased risk is very low. It's when you start adding other risk factors that the possibility of having a stroke begins to go up.

Other Risk Factors

There are a few other risk factors associated with the increased risk of stroke among women who take birth control pills that need to be considered. They are:

  • Smoking
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure
  • A history of migraines

Having any one of these risks can significantly boost one's risk of experiencing a stroke if also on birth control pills.

Most experts agree that taking oral contraceptives needs to be considered by doctors on a case-by-case basis because of these risks.

If a woman does not have any of the above risk factors, then most experts agree that the stroke risk is so low that the benefits of birth control definitely outweigh the risks.

For patients with any one or more of these risk factors, oral contraceptives may be dangerous and could pose a serious health risk. For these reasons and others, women are encouraged to discuss oral contraceptives with their health care provider to make sure they will be able to safely take them, without putting themselves at additional risk of having a serious medical crisis down the road.


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