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.

"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 July 22, 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 July 22, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law

Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law

AP (July 22, 2014) Two federal appeals courts issued conflicting rulings Tuesday on the legality of the federally-run healthcare exchange that operates in 36 states. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The new sci-fi thriller "Lucy" is making people question whether we really use all our brainpower. But, as scientists have insisted for years, we do. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Find New Way To Make Human Platelets

Scientists Find New Way To Make Human Platelets

Newsy (July 22, 2014) Boston scientists have discovered a new way to create fully functioning human platelets using a bioreactor and human stem cells. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Gilead's $1000-a-Pill Drug Could Cure Hep C in HIV-Positive People

Gilead's $1000-a-Pill Drug Could Cure Hep C in HIV-Positive People

TheStreet (July 21, 2014) New research shows Gilead Science's drug Sovaldi helps in curing hepatitis C in those who suffer from HIV. In a medical study, the combination of Gilead's Hep C drug with anti-viral drug Ribavirin cured 76% of HIV-positive patients suffering from the most common hepatitis C strain. Hepatitis C and related complications have been a top cause of death in HIV-positive patients. Typical medication used to treat the disease, including interferon proteins, tended to react badly with HIV drugs. However, Sovaldi's %1,000-a-pill price tag could limit the number of patients able to access the treatment. TheStreet's Keris Lahiff reports from New York. Video provided by TheStreet
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:
from the past week

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