Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Birth Control Pill: Oral Contraceptive Use May Be Safe, But Information Gaps Remain

Date:
January 17, 2009
Source:
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
Summary:
Oral contraceptives have been used by about 80 percent of women in the United States at some point in their lives. For women without pre-existing risks for heart disease, the early formulations were generally safe and the newer ones appear to be even safer, but all the risks and benefits are yet to be established, according to specialists in women's heart disease.

Introduced in the 1960s, oral contraceptives have been used by about 80 percent of women in the United States at some point in their lives. For women without pre-existing risks for heart disease, the early formulations were generally safe, and the newer ones appear to be even safer, but all the risks and benefits are yet to be established, especially as women's lifestyles change and new forms of contraceptives become available, according to specialists in women's heart disease at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Related Articles


"As women use these therapies more frequently and for longer periods of time, there is an urgent need to better understand and minimize associated cardiovascular risks," said C. Noel Bairey Merz, M.D., director of the Women's Heart Center and the Preventive and Rehabilitative Cardiac Center at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute. She is senior author of an article in the Jan. 20, 2009, issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology that provides an overview of the known cardiovascular risks and benefits of hormonal contraceptives while pointing out areas that require further research.

Reproductive hormones affect the tone and function of blood vessels as well as lipid (fat) levels in the blood. Low estrogen levels have been found to increase risk of coronary atherosclerosis (thickening and hardening of artery walls) and "adverse cardiac events," such as heart attacks and strokes. But the use of supplemental estrogen in hormone replacement therapy has been linked to an elevated risk of blood clots that can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

"Health care providers must evaluate each woman's risk factors, especially those related to cardiovascular health, prior to starting any contraceptive therapy. Although pre-menopausal women have a much lower risk of cardiovascular disease, routine screening for potential problems and follow-up is important," said Chrisandra L. Shufelt, M.D., assistant director of the Women's Heart Center at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute and co-author of the journal article.

The earlier contraceptives used higher levels of estrogen than the newer formulations, which are now available not only in pill form but in patches and vaginal rings. The newer formulations use lower doses of estrogen, which is safer in terms of lowering the risk of blood clots, and they tend to use a progestin, a synthetic version of progesterone that is not likely to raise blood pressure and may even slightly reduce it, according to Bairey Merz, who holds the Women's Guild Endowed Chair in Women's Health and is a professor of medicine at Cedars-Sinai.

Since 2000, death rates have increased in women between the ages of 35 and 44, while all other age groups have seen a decline. Among factors that may be contributing to the rise are increases in obesity and smoking, a decline in physical activity at this time in life, and a significant increase in the use of oral contraceptives.

Women at high risk for cardiovascular problems, especially those who smoke, should consider alternative forms of contraception. Those with other cardiac risk factors, such as hypertension or elevated cholesterol, can consider using hormonal contraceptives if they are carefully monitored by their health care provider, Bairey Merz said.

Any woman considering the use of contraceptives should be evaluated for cholesterol levels, blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, kidney problems, obesity and other vascular diseases, including migraines. Healthy, nonsmoking women who are 35 or older can continue taking a low dose oral contraceptive until 50 to 55 years after reviewing the risks and benefits.

This study was supported by grants from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National Center for Research Resources, the Gustavus and Louis Pfeiffer Research Foundation, the Women's Guild of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the Edythe L. Broad Women's Heart Research Fellowship, and the Barbra Streisand Women's Cardiovascular Research and Education Program at Cedars-Sinai.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Contraceptive Use and Cardiovascular Disease. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, In Print Jan. 20, 2009; Online Jan. 12, 2009

Cite This Page:

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. "Birth Control Pill: Oral Contraceptive Use May Be Safe, But Information Gaps Remain." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 January 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090114092848.htm>.
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. (2009, January 17). Birth Control Pill: Oral Contraceptive Use May Be Safe, But Information Gaps Remain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090114092848.htm
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. "Birth Control Pill: Oral Contraceptive Use May Be Safe, But Information Gaps Remain." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090114092848.htm (accessed October 26, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Texas Nurse Nina Pham Cured of Ebola

Texas Nurse Nina Pham Cured of Ebola

AFP (Oct. 25, 2014) — An American nurse who contracted Ebola while caring for a Liberian patient in Texas has been declared free of the virus and will leave the hospital. Duration: 01:01 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Toxin-Packed Stem Cells Used To Kill Cancer

Toxin-Packed Stem Cells Used To Kill Cancer

Newsy (Oct. 25, 2014) — A Harvard University Research Team created genetically engineered stem cells that are able to kill cancer cells, while leaving other cells unharmed. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

Buzz60 (Oct. 24, 2014) — IKEA is out with a new convertible desk that can convert from a sitting desk to a standing one with just the push of a button. Jen Markham explains. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

AFP (Oct. 24, 2014) — A factory in China is busy making Ebola protective suits for healthcare workers and others fighting the spread of the virus. Duration: 00:38 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins