Study: Hormonal contraception does not increase risk of major health problems

key takeaways

  • Hormonal contraceptive options do not appear to be associated with an increased risk of serious health problems for most women.
  • The researchers looked at 58 meta-analyses to reach these conclusions.
  • Experts say the findings are reassuring.

Despite repeated evidence that hormonal contraception is largely safe for women, concerns remain about whether these drugs are associated with a range of serious and dangerous health outcomes. Now, a large scientific review has found that taking hormonal contraception does not appear to be associated with increased cardiovascular risk, cancer risk and other major negative health risks.

Comprehensive review, published in JAMA Network Openlooked at data from a meta-analysis of 58 randomized clinical trials and cohort studies analyzing the link between 156 hormonal contraceptives and poor health in women.

The researchers found “no associations with adverse outcomes, including cardiovascular and cancer risk” among women who received high-quality evidence-supported hormonal contraception. They found that all existing risks associated with birth control — such as blood clotting — remained the same.

An overview of how to get birth control

The good news is that reviews show that using an IUD that releases levonorgestrel can help reduce endometrial polyps, usually noncancerous growths that attach to the lining of the uterus.

“The results of this comprehensive review support existing understanding of the risks and benefits associated with hormonal contraceptive use,” the researchers concluded. “Overall, hormonal contraceptive use is associated with cardiovascular risk, cancer risk, and The association with other major adverse health outcomes is not supported by high-quality evidence.”

Hormonal contraception still carries risks

Hormonal contraception, including the pill, patch, IUD, and some IUDs, contain some form of hormones to help prevent pregnancy. The most popular hormonal contraceptive method is the combined hormonal contraceptive method, which contains estrogen and progesterone.

Combined hormonal birth control methods release estrogen and progesterone (a synthetic form of progesterone) into the body. They primarily prevent pregnancy by preventing ovulation, but they also thicken cervical mucus, make it harder for sperm to enter the uterus, and thin the lining of the uterus.

What are the effects of long-term birth control?

Combined hormonal birth control methods are considered safe for most women, but past studies have found that they do slightly increase the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), heart attack and stroke.

Certain women are at higher risk, including women over the age of 35 who smoke more than 15 cigarettes per day or those with multiple risk factors for heart disease, such as:

  • high cholesterol
  • hypertension
  • diabetes
  • stroke history
  • heart attack
  • deep vein thrombosis
  • History of migraine with aura

what does this mean to you

Hormonal contraceptives are generally considered a safe birth control option for women. However, everyone’s risk factors are different. Before using a new birth control method, discuss your personal medical history with your healthcare provider.

Experts say findings are reassuring

“We’ve known for years that combined hormonal contraceptives are really safe and beneficial,” Mary Jane Minkin, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale School of Medicine, told VigorTip.

The most important thing for women to be aware of, she said, is smoking while taking oral contraceptives, which “is bad for the heart and blood clots, especially in people over 35,” Minkin said. But, she added, “for most other people, there are a lot of benefits.”

These include helping prevent heavy periods and heavy cramps, as well as preventing pregnancy, Minkin said. In fact, combined hormonal contraceptives can actually reduce the risk of ovarian cancer by as much as 50 percent, Minkin noted.

Learn about the benefits, risks, and side effects of birth control pills

Women’s health expert Jennifer Wider, MD, told VigorTip she found the findings very reassuring. “Sometimes in different clinical trials, the results and conclusions can be ambiguous or even contradictory,” she said. “This review looks at a pattern that has emerged in many studies and draws the right conclusions.”

The latest analysis “complements and underscores existing conclusions about the benefits and harms of birth control use. It also provides very high-quality evidence that hormonal contraception is not directly associated with cancer, heart disease and other major negative health outcomes,” Wider said.

Can birth control cause blood clots?

But Christine Greves, MD, a board-certified OB-GYN at Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies, told VigorTip that in hormonal contraception A woman’s medical history is important in terms of health risks. “Everyone is unique, and not every woman has the same risk factors,” she said.

Broader consent. “Everyone has a different personal and family history of illness,” she said. “For example, if a person has a blood clotting disorder, hormonal contraception would not be a viable option. Every woman must discuss her own personal risks with her healthcare provider.”