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Oral Birth Control and Blood Clot Risks

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Millions of women take birth control pills every single day, but few realize the associated deadly risks. Although rare, female hormonal contraception can lead to blood clots, a condition known as venous thromboembolism (VTE).

When a blood clot forms inside a deep vein, it is known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT), this kind of blood clot poses serious health threats.

According to the American Thrombosis Association, approximately 2 million people are affected by DVT each year and around 74 percent of Americans are unaware of the disease.

Types

DVT, which typically affects a leg, can break loose and travel through the venous blood stream to the lungs, resulting in a pulmonary embolism (PE), which can be deadly.

If a clot travels to the heart it will cause a heart attack; if it's to the brain, it will cause a stroke.

Causes

DVT commonly forms after prolonged bed rest or long distance travel where the legs have been still, for example in a plane or bus ride and the blood can pool and clot in the veins.This process can be exacerbated by oral contraceptives. Hereditary factors, birth control pills and hormone therapy increase the risk of occurrence.

Symptoms

The National Blood Clot Alliance warns that swelling, pain, tenderness, reddish or bluish skin discoloration and unusual warmness are common symptoms of DVT, typically in the legs.

Signs of PT include breathlessness, stabbing chest pain, increased heart rate and bloody cough.

Birth Control Pills and Nuvaring

According to medical experts and recent FDA studies, use of a birth control pill or Nuvaring may increase the risk of VTE to between a one to four times greater risk of blood clot formation than not being on any birth control.

According to a recent study from the University of Copenhagen, women who took birth control pills were at three times the risk of blood clots than those who didn't use any type of hormonal birth control, but those who used non-oral types of hormonal birth control had an even greater risk. Skin patches created an eight times higher risk for blood clots, and women who used vaginal rings had a six and a half times increased risk.

In that same Danish study, the authors found intrauterine devices or IUDs were not associated with blood clots. In fact, researchers said they were associated with a reduced risk and may even have a protective effect against clotting.