Hormonal Birth Control & Blood Clots

Blood clot risks are increased in contraceptives that use estrogen, which are called combined hormonal contraceptives. Hormonal methods that use progesterone only—such as a progesterone-only pill, IUD, injection like Depo-Provera, or arm implant like Nexplanon—do not have the same risks - Stephanie Bryson

Hormonal Birth Control & Blood Clots
Hormonal Birth Control & Blood Clots

image by: Business of Being Born

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Blood clots and contraception – what are the risks?

Blood is pretty nifty. When we are injured it can become sticky and clump together, forming a clot to plug the wound and prevent excessive bleeding1. This is a vital process, but if clots form when they are not supposed to, the results can be very dangerous.

Doctors use the blanket term venous thromboembolism to refer to blood clots that form in deep veins (deep vein thrombosis) – often in the leg or arm – and for blood clots that dislodge and travel to arteries elsewhere in the body – often the lungs (pulmonary embolism). If a blood clot blocks an artery it can prevent blood reaching important organs. In worst case scenarios this can result in long term, irreversible damage, or…

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 Blood clots and contraception – what are the risks?

Different contraceptive methods have different risks for blood clots. Women taking the Combined Pill have between a 2 and 5 times higher risk of blood clots compared to women who do not take the pill. Progestogen-only methods do not increase the risk of blood clots in healthy women.

Contraception blood-clot risk: ‘public need better access to advice’

Experts have also stressed that the risk of blood clots among those using combined hormonal contraceptives remained low. They said women should not suddenly abandon their contraception, not least as there was a far larger risk of blood clots during and after pregnancy.

I had a stroke when I was 29. My brain aged 10 years overnight

Most of the studies I’ve found associate hormonal birth control pills with increasing women’s risk for blood clots and a subsequent ischemic stroke like the one I had. It’s not a new idea; researchers made the link in 1962. Decades later, there are about 4.4 ischemic strokes for every 100,000 women of childbearing age, and birth control increases the risk to 8.5 strokes per 100,000 women. It seems like a small risk to not bring a child into the world before you’re ready — until it actually happens to you.


In terms of clotting and contraception, it's important to be clear about the types of contraceptive methods in question. First, it's inaccurate to call out 'the contraceptive pill', because not all pills are created equal. The specific contraceptive methods in the spotlight are combined hormonal contraception (CHC), so called because they contain a combination of the hormones oestrogen and progestogen in different quantities. There are three types of CHC available in the UK: the combined oral contraceptive pill, the combined transdermal patch and the combined vaginal ring - more commonly known as the pill, the patch and the ring, respectively.

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