What are the negative effects of birth control?

What are the negative effects of birth control?

There are numerous birth control methods available for those looking to prevent pregnancy, most notably contraceptive pills, implants and patches, and the IUD (intrauterine device). 

While the efficacy of the contraceptives may vary, each form of contraceptive certainly comes with associated side effects, ranging from common and relatively mild to severe.

Oral contraceptives, or “the pill”. Have been associated with headaches, nausea, sore breasts, abnormal menstruation. And spotting (Planned Parenthood).

Other well-documented risks of taking the pill include mood changes due to hormonal readjustments, weight gain, and vision problems caused by dryness, high blood pressure, and, in uncommon but severe cases, blood clots. 

Nearly 10 out of every 10,000 people who take oral contraceptives develop blood clots each year. In 8 out of 10 strokes, a blood vessel to your brain becomes plugged. Typically occurring when  fatty deposits in arteries break off and subsequently clog smaller blood vessels to the brain or when poor blood flow from an irregular heartbeat forms a blood clot.

According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), breathing problems while on the pill and painful swelling in the leg (called deep vein thrombosis) may indicate a clot in the legs. 

The pill seems to affect individuals in different ways. It is seen that those with a family history of mood disorders may be at a higher risk for depression while on the pill. Due to interference of the hormones released by the oral contraceptives with the neurotransmitters. Anyone looking to start the pill should take these risks into careful consideration; nonetheless, oral contraceptives continue to be a  safe option for long-term use, as most side effects subside after a few months. 

Birth control implants like Nexplanon are inserted in the upper arm. And release hormones to prevent pregnancy for up to three years. The physical risks of Nexplanon commonly include spotting or irregular bleeding, pain and bruising, and in more serious cases, infection at the site of the implant, headaches, sore breasts, nausea, and weight gain. 

In rare cases, the implant may increase the risk of noncancerous ovarian cysts and blood clots. Commonly indicated by pain and swelling in the leg. The implant can be easily removed if the side effects become too severe or fail to subside after more than a few months, though irregular bleeding can last up to 12 months.

Intrauterine devices are placed in the uterus to prevent pregnancy. There are two types of IUDs, each with its own set of risks. The hormonal IUD, actually known to cause “positive side effects”, (Planned Parenthood). As users have observed lighter periods and decreased cramping, in some cases. As a result, the IUD may stop one’s period completely as long as it’s inserted. Less ideal side effects of the hormonal IUD include cramping and back aches during the first couple of days after insertion, spotting, and irregular periods. 

Copper IUDs, such as Paragard, work differently in that they do not release hormones.

So side effects differ slightly. Increased bleeding and cramping sometimes occur up to 6 months after insertion, which is much longer than previous methods mentioned. Still, copper IUDs may offer a safe alternative, as users will not experience blood clots or collisions with prior medication. 

Possible complications of IUDs include infections usually caused during insertion, which, if left untreated, may lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID); “lost strings”, when the end strings of the IUD may end up lost inside the uterus; expulsion when the IUD has shifted either to the top of or even outside of the uterus; and perforation when the IUD is pushing into the uterine wall (Comprehensive Women’s Health Center). 

However, such cases are rare and usually easily treated. The IUD is largely regarded as the most efficient, long-lasting, and convenient form of birth control. 

How birth control causes high blood pressure which in turn causes strokes? 

“Stroke is emerging as a major public health problem for women” https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/strokeaha.108.542894

Birth control pills are a popular pregnancy prevention method used by many women. However, some  of them are not only a kind of birth control pills. But it may also increase women’s blood pressure,  in turn increasing the risk of  strokes. 

Firstly, it is important to identify how birth control pills cause high blood pressure. There are mainly  three types of birth control pills. The most popular one, combined oral contraceptive pill (COCP), which is a mixture of estrogen and progestin. 

Estrogen has the potential to increase women’s blood pressure. Also, many studies have shown that the oral contraceptive pills that contain estrogen raise. Although not significant, the risk of getting hypertension to women, and the effect is larger if  the users are older than 35 years or already have high blood pressure. Furthermore, ‘studies have  indicated that the use of oral contraceptives (including newer agents) increases blood pressure by as  much as 8 mm Hg systolic and 6 mm Hg diastolic.’ (Armstrong,2017) 

However, progestin-only (no estrogen included) birth control pills do not reflect the same risk. The actual risk of getting high blood pressure while using birth control pills still evades scientific research. A possible reason explaining the diminished risk is that the estrogen in the pill may trigger the release of other hormones that can cause the takers’ blood pressure to rise. Thus, researchers have identified that oral contraceptives may cause high blood pressure, which maycause other medical conditions including strokes. 

Some background on strokes:

“There are 780000 new and recurrent strokes occurring each year in the United States, making strokes the major cause of disability. The third leading cause of death in the United States, and the second cause of death worldwide in both men and women.” 

“The burden of stroke in women was often underestimated until the early 1980s, and after being once considered primarily a disease of men. Stroke is currently emerging as a major public health problem for women as well.”https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/strokeaha.108.542894

What changed for the female population in the United States in the decades leading up to the 1980’s? Moreover, that has a high correlation with high blood pressure and strokes? 

The use of oral contraceptives. 

In the chart below, it is clear that the United States experienced an expansive,  nationwide acceptance of birth control.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the first oral contraceptive in 1960. Within 2 years of its initial distribution, 1.2 million American women were using the birth control pill . Since its introduction, more than 300 million women worldwide have used the pill as a simple, safe, and effective means of achieving reproductive freedom. https://journalofethics.ama-assn.org/article/history-oral-contraception/2000-06

In general, blood pressure is how much pressure blood is exerting against artery walls. 

Women start taking oral contraception earlier in life and will often stay on for decades. Which corresponds to the data that points to an increasing risk of strokes for females vs males over lifetime:

High blood pressure occurs when blood flowing through arteries exerts too much pressure on artery walls. Since high blood pressure can cause the arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the brain to burst or clog, it is a leading cause of strokes. 

While careful studies exploring this niche area of concern should be conducted. It is plausible to believe that contraceptives can give rise to strokes. As referenced in the figures above, oral contraceptives that contain estrogen may have the potential to induce high blood pressure and consequently cause a stroke. Given the high proportion of strokes in American females over the last 30 years. The link between contraceptives and strokes offers an alarming—yet unprecedented—area of concern going forward. 

What are the negative effects of birth control?

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References: 

Craig O. Weber, M. D. (2021, September 11). Is your birth control pill making your blood pressure  rise? Verywell Health. Retrieved March 16, 2022, from https://www.verywellhealth.com/birth control-pills-blood-pressure 

Birth control and blood pressure: What you need to know. hers. (n.d.). Retrieved March 16, 2022,  from https://www.forhers.com/blog/birth-control-blood-pressure 

Stacey, D. (2020, December 9). Birth control pills and high blood pressure. Verywell Health.  Retrieved March 16, 2022, from https://www.verywellhealth.com/do-birth-control-pills-affect blood-pressure-906923 

What are the negative effects of birth control?

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, May 18). High blood pressure symptoms and  causes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved March 16, 2022, from  https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/about.htm#:~:text= 

Understanding blood pressure readings. www.heart.org. (2022, January 5). Retrieved March 16,  2022, from https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/understanding-blood pressure 

readings?gclid=CjwKCAjwlcaRBhBYEiwAK341jQr8P5uRC94ej7hIFD6QmmQtGPMMLVJElG hWzdte2mMRPF3rUqx-choCfRQQAvD_BwE 

Armstrong, C. (2007, April 15). ACOG releases guidelines on hormonal contraceptives in women  with coexisting medical conditions. American Family Physician. Retrieved March 16, 2022,from  https://www.aafp.org/afp/2007/0415/p1252.html#:~:text=than%2035%20years.-,

What are the negative effects of birth control?