Birth Control Pill Linked with Yet Another Serious Long-Term Risk
During the late 1960s when it came to light that the pill was causing blood clots leading to heart attack, stroke, pulmonary embolism, and death, Congress enacted laws requiring patient packet inserts for all drugs to ensure patients were informed about the risks that accompany medications. Ironically, each decade has revealed a new risk for the pill (like breast and cervical cancer), but in spite of the informed consent laws, many clinicians and most women are the last to know what is being published and debated in the medical literature. This decade is no different.
New long term risks of hormonal contraceptives are being uncovered
New research published in the Scandinavian Journal of Clinical and Laboratory Medicine on January 23, 2011, points to a strong possibility that the pill is increasing plaque formation in women’s arteries which leads to heart attack and stroke later in life, years after discontinuing the medication. Because the pill increases cholesterol, Dr. Soska and his team of researchers asked the question: “Is the dyslipidemia caused by the pill of a nature that is proatherogenic?”. Translation: “Does the increase in cholesterol (dyslipidemia) caused by the pill promote the kind of clogging of a woman’s arteries that leads to heart attack and stroke (proatherogenic)?” To answer this question the researchers measured something called the “atherogenic index of plasma” (AIP). An increased AIP is associated with increased plaque formation in the arteries, aka, clogging of the arteries. The researchers tested the AIP of women before and after starting the pill. After nine months of pill use, the AIP increased significantly. The researchers concluded that the increase in cholesterol caused by the pill was of a nature that increased the clogging of women’s arteries. These findings are consistent with other recent studies showing a 20-40% increase in the blockage of the arteries of the neck and legs in women with a history of 10 years of pill use, and another study showing an increased stiffness of the arteries in women with past pill use. The new research could explain two phenomena in women’s heart disease. According to the American Heart Association in 2004, since 1984 more women than men die each year from cardiovascular disease. Other studies have shown that there has also been a dramatic rise in cardiovascular disease in premenopausal women. Some scientists question whether the pill is contributing to these trends.
These findings raise red flags and a few eyebrows, but are not definitive. More research needs to be done, especially in light of the fact that large population studies, like the Nurse’s Health Study, have shown no increase in death from cardiovascular disease in women with past pill use
Even though intellectually honest scientists will not say that the pill is causing increased long term risk of cardiovascular disease, women have a right to know that this debate is happening in the medical literature.
What can a woman do while researchers work out this problem?
Natural, organic methods of birth control are available and effective
Perhaps it is time for women to step out of the hormonal contraceptive box, and start working with their bodies, instead of against them, to achieve their family planning goals. Medical scientists know that the natural balance of a woman’s hormones are good for her heart, brain, bone, skin and breast health. They do not, however, know exactly what happens if you artificially disrupt that balance. Natural methods of birth control have been researched and developed along side all the other forms of birth control for the last 50 years. Crieghton, Georgetown, and Marquette Universities have all been involved in developing systems that are highly effective and simple to use. Unfortunately, these methods have been pigeon-holed into certain religious groups, so that the broader population of women has not been able to benefit from the information. The Marquette model has incorporated an ovulation monitor into its method to help women identify when pregnancy is possible and when it is impossible. Women who use natural methods become very in tune with themselves and find the knowledge extremely empowering.
As the patient packet insert list grows for the birth control pill and increasing numbers of women are striving to live a more organic lifestyle, a fresh look at natural methods of birth control may be just what women are looking for and a very viable solution to the age old problem of safe, effective family planning