A new study says that birth control pills can nearly double the risk of stroke in women.
According to a review article in MedLink Neurology by three Loyola University Health System neurologists, women who take birth control pills and also smoke, have high blood pressure or have a history of migraine headaches, significantly increase their risk of stroke.
The review found there were about 4.4 ischemic strokes for every 100,000 women of childbearing age, but birth control pills increase the risk of stroke 1.9 times, to 8.5 strokes per 100,000 women.
"When prescribing oral contraceptives, doctors should balance the risks and benefits for each individual patient," said senior author Dr. Jose Biller.
"For a healthy young woman without any other stroke risk factors, the benefits of birth control pills probably outweigh the risks. But if a woman has other stroke risk factors, she should be discouraged from using oral contraceptives," the expert added.
How oral contraceptives might cause strokes is not completely understood. But two possible mechanisms are the increased risks of blood clots and high blood pressure associated with oral contraceptives, authors wrote.