cardiovascular health browsing by tag


Should You Stop Smoking to Start Birth Control?

Monday, November 26th, 2012

You already know that smoking is bad for your health. If you’re a smoker, you’re already making the choice to ignore certain health warnings that could significantly alter your health for the rest of your life, and that’s a choice that no one else can make for you.  My telling you about all of the risks associated with smoking cigarettes would be a waste of time. However, I do feel it’s important that you know the increased risks associated with oral contraceptives for women who are smokers.

For the most part, modern oral contraceptives are safe. Even problems that have been tied to birth control for decades are now less common as the medicine improves and doctors work towards making the pill safer and with fewer side effects. However, by smoking while taking contraceptives, you’re increasing your risk for complications in multiple ways. Blood clots and stroke are both much more common in women taking birth control and smoking, especially in women who are 35 years old or older.  In fact, there is a ten-fold increase of death attributed to cardiovascular disease and the use of oral contraceptives in women who smoked above the age of 35 years.  [Link:]

The biggest risk for women who are smoking while on the pill is any cardiovascular complication and you’re increasing your risk by simultaneously restricting your blood vessels with the tobacco. The exact mechanism is not known as to the etiology of the increased risk, but according to a recent study, the risk of death due to such complications is low for women under 35 years old. Women who smoke while taking birth control are at a higher risk for heart attacks, high blood pressure, and increased blood vessel tension.

I’m not going to tell you to stop smoking, though as a physician, I certainly think you should. However, I urge you to take a closer look at the risks and benefits when it comes to combining your birth control with tobacco. If you feel that you need to continue smoking while taking your  oral contraceptives, consider looking other types of birth control that don’t use hormones, such as an intrauterine device or even the old tried and true diaphragm.

 – Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.