Compression & the Pill: What You Need to Know
by Caitlin Reid
If you’re currently using the birth control pill as your chosen contraceptive, it’s handy to understand the relationship between blood clots and the contraceptive pill. Certain kinds of combination pills can increase your risk, as can a number of other genetic and lifestyle factors. So here’s everything you need to know about blood clots and the pill, and how compression garments can help.
How High Is the Risk of Blood Clots From Taking the Pill?
Being on birth control pills increases your risk of getting a blood clot. A study conducted by the NHS in the UK found that the use of any kind of contraceptive pill almost tripled the risk of blood clot.
That said, Dr. Hornacek told the Cleveland Clinic that for young women who aren’t on birth control, between one and five out of every 10,000 of them will have a blood clot in a given year. Even if you quadruple that number, the risk is quite low.
“A woman on the pill is at lower risk of developing blood clots than if she were pregnant.”
The reason behind the increased risk of clotting has always been put down to the higher levels of estrogen in women taking the pill. However, more recent studies point to the levels of progesterone in the pill as being the cause.
Certain Pills Increase Your Risk of Blood Clots
Contraceptive pills are not all created the same. Each pill contains different ingredients depending on which kind your doctor prescribes you.
The NHS reported pills containing desogestrel, gestodene, drospirenone and cyproterone offer double the risk of other pills. However, these ingredients are usually only prescribed to women looking for acne solutions as well as birth control and aren’t usually the first choice in practice.
Conversely, pills containing levonorgestrel, the most commonly prescribed pill, are known to only increase the risk of clot slightly. The NHS study found that blood-clot risk associated with this pill was around six extra cases of blood clots for every 10,000 women prescribed.
Blood Clots and Birth Control: What Increases Your Risk
Some women are at a higher risk of developing blood clots. These include women who:
- Are obese
- Are over the age of 40
- Have just had surgery
- Regularly travel long distance
These risks are present despite the pill, but are increased if a woman in the categories above begins taking the pill.
Other than the risk factors above, Dr. Hornacek told the Cleveland Clinic that “from the first several months up to the first year [of taking the pill] is the highest-risk time period because your hormone levels are actually changing.”
How Can You Minimize the Risk of Blood Clots?
Compression socks are an easy way to help mitigate the risks of developing blood clots for women on the pill. They really do work: Studies show compression garments hugely minimize the risk of developing blood clots after surgery, and the benefits of compression while flying have also been widely reported.
Thankfully, great brands have blended the functionality of compression garments with fun, stylish designs to make compression socks more accessible to everyone. For women on the pill going on long-haul flights or with other risk factors for clotting, great brands like VIM & VIGR have blended a high-level compression of 20-30 mmHg with bright designs or that mimic the look of tights and leggings to make compression fashionable.
While being on the pill does increase a woman’s risk of developing blood clots, the baseline risk isn’t as high as you may think. To combat the increased risk though, particularly if you are a smoker or are over 40, evidence shows wearing compression socks and tights is a safe, effective way to boost circulation.
Caitlin Reid is a freelance journalist, copywriter and PR coordinator with over 10 years of experience with clients around the world. She is also a physiotherapist with a special interest in holistic and environmental well-being, blending the realms of evidence-based medicine with inspiring holistic health.
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