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Smoking While on Birth Control: What You Need to Know

Smoking While on Birth Control: What You Need to Know

Studies have shown that women who smoke while on hormonal birth control face increased health risks; yet as many as half of these women have reported that their health care providers did not counsel them about the risks. Older types of hormonal birth control may be particularly risky for smokers. If you are a smoker, it’s important to understand the risks associated with your hormonal birth control so that you can make informed decisions about your overall health.

What Are the Health Risks?

Women who use hormonal birth control and smoke face increased risks for serious cardiovascular problems like heart attack, stroke, and blood clots. Blood clots are known to occur in women’s veins as well as their lungs, and the resulting health complications have been well documented. Of course, smoking carries its own health risks, but some medical experts have referred to combining smoking with hormonal birth control as a “toxic mix.” According to studies, these risks are inherent whether the hormonal pill is high dose or low. Some women may be high risk to begin with if they have a family history of cardiovascular disease.

According to medical experts, nicotine causes a boost in blood pressure, which increases the heart’s rate of pumping and also puts added strain on blood vessels. This is especially true in combination with the estrogen contained in the pill, as the hormone itself can potentially put even more stress on the blood vessels in some cases.

Know the Warning Signs

Eight out of ten women who smoke continue to use hormonal birth control. It’s essential for women to understand the risks and the warning signs. Severe pain or bruising in the legs, calves, and chest should prompt these women to see their healthcare providers. Migraines that last for a long period of time are also warning signs. Women should be extra cautious and not ignore these warning signs if they smoke and are taking hormonal birth control.

Alternative Forms of Birth Control

According to a study out of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, second generation hormonal risks that rely on other hormones may be a safer form of hormonal birth control for women who smoke. The study showed that the women who used these lower dose hormonal pills exhibited better heart function and blood flow than those smokers using traditional types of hormonal birth control pills. If you want to continue smoking and using this type of contraceptive, it’s essential to speak with your healthcare provider about the risks.

If you are on hormonal birth control and haven’t yet broken the habit of smoking, it may be advisable to seek another type of birth control method such as the female condom, sponge, or diaphragm. No matter what type of birth control method you choose, it’s important to talk to your health care provider about the health risks that are specific to you based on your current health, family history, and lifestyle. Naturally, quitting a smoking habit is best for one’s health as the nicotine and other factors associated with smoking will continue to be risky for one’s health.



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