The Pill Increases Your Risk…Compared to What?


When we hear about the increased risk of serious side effects, such as blood clots and strokes, associated with hormonal contraceptives, we should ask ourselves: "Compared to what?"

This piece was written by Katy Suellentrop, Senior Manager of Research and Evaluation Programs for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. It is cross-posted on The Campaign’s blog Pregnant Pause.

Last Friday the New York Times published an article focusing on the potential health concerns of using two popular oral contraceptives, Yaz and Yasmin. While this information is certainly important and the risks of serious side effects including blood clots and stroke should absolutely be considered when thinking about what type of contraception to use, the article failed to discuss the risk of health issues during pregnancy. Studies have found that 4 to 5 per 100,000 reproductive age women who are not taking birth control pills will develop thrombosis. Among women taking low-dose birth control pills that risk increases to 12 to 20 per 100,000. Among pregnant women the risk is even higher –48 to 60 per 100,000. So when we hear about the increased risks of serious side effects such as blood clots and strokes we need to ask ourselves: "Compared to what?"

In addition to providing us with the scary news, I wish there
were more articles about the women, men and families who are thankful for reliable birth control methods such as the pill. A recent report
from the Guttmacher Institute found that nearly half of women reported that they wanted to reduce or delay their childbearing because of recent economic concerns–clearly family planning is as important as ever.

There are lots of other great methods of birth control
available, but like anything in life there are trade-offs for each one, and we all have to find the one that fits us best (check out our Birth Control 101
page for more information). While most methods have side effects (and these should be discussed with your doctor), consider the potential alternative–an unplanned pregnancy.

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Why do we expect so much more from our birth control pills than from other medications we take?

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