We aren’t dropping any bombshells here; you’ve probably heard about the link between clotting and contraception before. Whether it was your doctor, mother, or friend who broke the news, the info has been circling female minds for some time. So, why does birth control get such a bad rap when it comes to the topic of blood clots? Are oral contraceptive pill users at a higher risk of blood clots than women who don’t take the pill? And, how common are blood clots from the pill anyway?
As usual, we’re here to clear the air. Because, if you’re using birth control already, or you’re interested in using the birth control in the future, it’s important you have a good grasp on your personal risk of blood clots and how that risk changes as you age.
First up, does contraception increase your risk of blood clots?
Although a rare occurrence, certain types of contraception can cause clotting, or thrombosis as its medically known. We’re not placing every type of birth control in the clot-risking basket, so if you’re concerned about pregnancy protection, it’s important to know there are always other options available to suit your individual circumstances.
So, what types of birth control increase your risk of blood clots?
When it comes to clotting, combined hormonal contraception (CHC) is the birth control method in the spotlight. We’re talking about birth control that contains a combination of estrogen and progestogen. That includes the combined oral contraceptive pill (COCP), the patch, and the ring. The clotting risk factor lies with the estrogen component, so other birth control methods like the progestogen-only pill (aka the minipill) don’t carry a risk of clotting.
How common are blood clots in women who use oral birth control?
Typically speaking, the blood clots linked to CHC occur in the legs as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and are treatable when diagnosed early. The risk of blood clots for non-CHC using women is generally rare, sitting at approximately 2 cases in every 10,000 women per year. For women who are using a CHC option, the risk of blood clot is increased, however it is still rare. Of the women who are using combined oral contraceptives (combined pill), 5-7 in every 10,000 women per year will be affected, with a rise to 6-12 in every 10,000 women for those who prefer to use the patch.
Determining the risk of clotting from contraception is a complex situation. Other factors that can contribute towards a heightened risk of thrombosis include:
- Obesity (BMI >35)
- Being 35 or older
- High blood pressure
- Having one or more pre-existing risk factors for heart disease (e.g. smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes)
- Circulatory problems
- Cardiovascular history
- Blood clot history
- Prolonged immobility
- Family history
What are the symptoms of blood clotting?
If you use combined hormonal contraception, familiarise yourself with these signs and symptoms of blood clot disorders:
- Swelling, pain and/or redness in a limb
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Fast or irregular heartbeat
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Feeling sweaty
- Sudden numbness or weakness in face, arm or leg
- Sudden confusion or difficulty speaking
- Sudden decrease, loss or blurring of vision
- Sudden difficulty in walking
- Sudden loss of balance or lack of coordination
If you experience any of these potential blood clot symptoms, organise an appointment with your trusted healthcare professional asap.
How can you reduce your risk of blood clots?
The simplest way to reduce your risk of blood clotting is to steer clear of combined hormonal contraception options. At Youly, we offer several progestogen-only birth control pills. Chat to a Youly Doctor to identify the best option for your situation, and in the meantime opt for a barrier protection method, like a condom or diaphragm.
This blog is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your medical practitioner.