Strokes associated with the use of oral contraceptives were first reported in 1962. A new study has revealed that popping birth control pills can put you at increased risk for the most common type of stroke, especially if you smoke, have high blood pressure or have a history of migraine headaches.
Study co-author Marisa McGinley from Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine in the US said, "For healthy young women without any stroke risk factors, the risk of stroke associated with oral contraceptives is small. But in women with other stroke risk factors, the risk seems higher and, in most cases, oral contraceptive use should be discouraged."
Oral contraceptives increase the risk of ischemic strokes, which are caused by blood clots and account for about 85% of all strokes. A new analysis that combined the results of multiple previous studies suggested that birth control pills increase the risk 1.9 times, to 8.5 strokes per 100,000 women. However, the report further states that this is still a small risk as the findings imply that 24,000 women would have to take birth control pills to cause one additional stroke.
But the stroke risk is significantly higher for women who take birth control pills and also smoke, have high blood pressure or have a history of migraine headaches. The report said, "Such women should be discouraged from using oral contraceptives."
Statistics suggests that there are about 4.4 ischemic strokes for every 100,000 women of childbearing age. Worldwide, more than 100 million women currently use oral contraceptives or have used them in the past.
The researchers said, "Early versions of the pill contained doses of synthetic estrogen as high as 150 micrograms. Most birth control pills now contain as little as 20 to 35 micrograms. None contain more than 50 micrograms of synthetic estrogen."
The study was published in MedLink Neurology.