At the recent 86th Annual Meeting of the Endocrine Society in New Orleans/Louisiana a Canadian delegation presented data from a meta-analysis of 14 trials regarding side effects of the birth control pill (BCP) when taken on a prolonged basis. The researchers were interested to know the risk of heart attacks or strokes that would be associated with the prolonged use of the low dose estrogen BCP. All of the studies between 1980 and October of 2002 were examined and 14 independent studies qualified for the meta-analysis. The strength of such a meta-analysis lies in the pooling of data and the fact that the data is derived from a much larger patient population, which generally makes the results more reliable. Dr. J. Baillargeon from the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire in Sherbrooke, Quebec/Canada, stated that they found a 1.85-fold risk for developing heart attacks with longterm use of the BCP and at the same time there was a risk of 2.54-fold of hemorrhagic strokes with longterm use of the low-dose BCP.
I have depicted these findings below in graph form where the risk is readily seen when compared to women who did not use any birth control pills. In discussions following this presentation the authors explained that with short-term use of the BCP using the modern low dose formulations heart attacks and strokes would likely not be noticeable.
But women should know that long-term use does have this risk. These decisions of whether to take the BCP and for how long needs to be discussed with the treating physician also in the view that other risks such as high blood pressure, diabetes or the metabolic syndrome would be added risks where heart attacks and strokes can occur more frequently. In these conditions the BCP likely should be avoided.
|Risk of Developing Heart Attack or Stroke after Longterm Use of The Birth Control Pill|
Dr. Ricardo Azziz, chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles, California, stated that these findings from this meta-analysis would be very important because it was based on such a large data base and was measuring the effect of the BCP over a long period of time. He stressed that the benefits of any medication must always be weighed against the risks by the treating physician. In diabetic patients on the BCP, for instance, the benefits likely outweigh the risks as the metabolism is stabilized through an improved insulin sensitivity, improved managability of the diabetes and avoidance of the high risk pregnancies in diabetics.
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Reference: The Medical Post, Vol.40, July 20, 2004, page 20
Comments on Nov. 6, 2012: What was not discussed by these experts is the fact that the BCP contains a mix of two artificial hormones (estrogen and progesterone equivalents) that the body’s estrogen and progesterone hormone receptors cannot recognize. Bio-identical estrogen and progesterone creams on the other hand would be recognized by these receptors, but nobody has researched their use for BCP purposes, only for post-menopausal hormone replacement.
Last edited Oct. 26, 2014