Birth Control and Heart Disease in Women

A young woman, dressed in a pink pajamas, holding her contraceptive pills.

Birth control, or contraception, is any method used to prevent pregnancy. Different types have different levels of effectiveness, and no one method is best for everyone.

Women with heart disease or certain risk factors should know that some types of birth control affect heart health. Women with high blood pressure should be cautious when choosing a birth control method. Some forms can cause an increase in blood pressure as well as clotting. Additionally, women who smoke, or have medical conditions like diabetes or a history of stroke, are also more at risk for these side effects.

For most healthy young women, hormonal birth control is safe. Always consult a health care professional to determine what’s best for you.

Types of birth control

A health care professional will help you select a contraception method after assessing your risk factors and medical history. Options include:

  • Combined hormonal: This type of birth control includes both progestin and estrogen hormones. It comes in pill form, vaginal rings or patches worn on the body. Combined hormonal methods are not recommended for women with high blood pressure.
  • Progestin-only: These birth control options are considered safe in most cases for women with cardiovascular conditions. Some types of progestin-only birth control include oral medications (sometimes called the “mini” pill), injections or implants.
  • Intrauterine devices: Also known as IUDs, these are T-shaped devices implanted by a health care provider into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. They are often recommended for women with heart disease or risk factors.
  • Permanent methods: Tubal ligation, or “getting your tubes tied,” is a permanent sterilization procedure. It is appropriate only for women who don’t want to have more children. It can be performed surgically or vaginally.
  • Non-hormonal options: Contraception such as condoms, spermicides and diaphragms do not affect blood pressure.

Take action

To prevent pregnancy, visit your health care professional to find the safest method of contraception for you. Other ways you can stay healthy include:

  • Stop smoking. The combination of birth control pills and smoking can be very dangerous.
  • Make healthy choices. Lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy weight, reducing stress and getting regular physical activity are good for everyone. These actions may also improve heart health while taking birth control as well as later if you decide to become pregnant.
  • Consult your health care team before starting or stopping any medications or supplements.
  • Check blood pressure regularly to make sure it stays in a healthy range. About 25% of reproductive-age women have high blood pressure, and many are unaware they have it.

Learn How to Monitor Your Blood Pressure at Home

It is important to know how to check your blood pressure correctly. This is especially true if your health care professional has recommended you regularly monitor your blood pressure.