Are you taking birth control pills? Do you smoke as well? If the answer is ‘yes’ to both the questions, then you must be aware that these two are not complimentary.
Oral contraceptives which are widely used are generally a safe and effective means of contraception. Their main functions are to prevent the release of eggs, bring in changes in the lining of the womb and to prevent sperms from entering the genital tract by thickening the mucus. Taking birth control pills daily maintains the level of hormones needed to prevent pregnancy.
These pills do a lot more good than just avoiding pregnancy. Women with severe cramping due to endometriosis are prescribed oral contraceptives too. These are also known to treat ovarian cysts while at the same time helping women sustain a predictable and short menstrual cycle.
Birth control pills have a lot of benefits but they do have some rare but dangerous side-effects too, such as clots forming in different body parts, heart attacks, strokes and benign liver tumours. These rare side-effects become all the more dangerous and life-threatening in women when smoking is involved as well. Cigarette smoking increases the risk of serious cardiovascular diseases when combined with birth control pills. The risk of death is much higher for women over 35 who smoke regularly and use combined hormone methods.
To understand how smoking and birth control pills increase the risk of developing blood clots (DVT) and stroke, it has to be noted that a birth control pill has two hormones – oestrogen and progesterone. The oestrogen component of the pill is responsible for the thickening of blood, resulting in DVT in rare cases. But now, with the newer low dose contraceptives, this risk is much lowered. Visit the Women’s Health/Maternity centre at your nearest Apollo clinics to know more about the effects of smoking and birth control pills.
So, if you are taking birth control pills and want to lower your DVT risk, here’s what you need to do:
- Give up smoking
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Indulge in physical activity
- Don’t be immobile for long hours
- Go for pills with low doses of oestrogen
How birth control pills cause strokes is not completely understood yet. But two possible explanations are the increased risk of blood clots and high blood pressure associated with oral contraceptives. Nicotine causes high blood pressure and an increased heart rate. This puts extra stress on the blood vessels and increases the risk of having a stroke.
The symptoms you should be on a lookout for if you do take birth control pills and smoke are – pain in your chest, abdomen, legs or calves. It is very important that today’s women are aware of the deadly risk they are taking by mixing birth control pills and nicotine.