Newer Birth Control Pills Could Be More Likely To Cause Blood Clots

Photographed by Jessica Nash.
Unfortunately, we already know that birth control pills are linked to an increased risk of some scary stuff — including blood clots. But, a recent study suggests certain newer pills may come with even higher risks.

The study, recently published in the BMJ, looked specifically at women using combined oral contraceptives — those containing both estrogen and progestin. Using 5,500 cases from one giant database and 5,062 from another, the researchers looked at venous thromboembolism (VTE) diagnosed between 2001 and 2013 in women between the ages of 15 and 49. Each of those cases was matched with up to five controls. The researchers also made sure to control for various factors including weight, smoking status, and alcohol use.

Overall, the results suggested that women who were currently taking the pill were at a nearly three-times-higher risk for developing VTE. In general, those who had been exposed to pills containing more recent formulations of progestogen — such as drospirenone (e.g. Yasmin), cyproterone, gestodene, and desogestrel — in the last 28 days had a risk four times higher than those who hadn't been exposed. But, use of levonorgestrel (e.g. Plan B), which contains an earlier progestogen version, was associated with a lower incidence of VTE cases.

The link between birth control pills and blood clots certainly isn't new. While previous work suggested the risk was usually considered low enough to be worth taking, this study adds some extra doubt to that assumption. But, it's important to remember that there are many risk factors for VTE, and taking the pill is just one of them. The study authors caution in a press release that people who are on these medications "should not stop using them, but should consult their doctor and review their current type of pill at their next appointment if there are any concerns." And, there are plenty of other birth control options out there to consider.

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