The Link Between Birth Control Medications and Heart Problems
February is American Heart Month, a perfect time to talk about our country’s #1 killer: heart disease. While are still misconceptions among many women that this is a “male disease”, they couldn’t be more wrong. One out of every three women dies from heart disease, rendering it the number one cause of female death in the United States. That’s the equivalent of approximately one woman claimed every minute. To call attention to the problem and to raise awareness among women, the American Heart Association established its Go Red for Women campaign, and National Wear Red day (this year held on Friday, February 6).
Currently, there are over 500,000 women in America living with congenital heart disease (CHD), the majority of whom are sexually active. While women who already have CHD, or are at risk for heart disease are generally safe using many forms of birth control, it’s important to note that links between birth control pills and an increase in blood pressure have been found. Symptoms are more likely to occur in females who have kidney disease, are overweight, or have a family history of heart problems. Furthermore, as the combination of birth control pills and smoking can increase risk of heart disease by 20 percent, women who smoke should avoid birth control pills altogether.
What Options Are Best for At-Risk Women?
According to the American Heart Association, the following forms of birth control are good options for at-risk women:
Progesterone-only birth control: Depo-Provera (a.k.a. the shot), the mini pill or Implanon (birth control implant) are safe for women with heart disease, in most cases. It is important to note, though, that these forms of birth control may lead to fluid retention.
Intrauterine devices: Intrauterine devices, or IUDs (t-shaped devices implanted by a doctor into the uterus to prevent pregnancy) are also useful for women with heart disease. These types of birth control methods are only recommended for women in stable or monogamous relationships because they do not guard against sexually transmitted diseases.
Tubal ligation: Tubal ligation, also referred to as “getting your tubes tied,” is a permanent sterilization procedure for women. This is safe for women with heart disease but it only recommended for women who no longer want to have children. It can be performed surgically or vaginally.
While many safe and effective choices for preventing unwanted pregnancy are available today, risks do exist. All women should consult their physician before starting a birth control regimen, and at-risk women, in particular, should consult their cardiologist as well.
For questions about birth control medications, please visit any Owens Healthcare location today and speak with one of our pharmacists.