Many hormonal birth control methods slightly increase the risk of stroke. Your risk of stroke depends on many factors, but there are steps you can take to reduce your risk.
The overall risk of stroke associated with contraceptive use, or oral contraceptives, is relatively low.
Oral contraceptives are
According to the American College of Cardiology, the risk of stroke associated with combined oral contraceptives is lower than that associated with pregnancy.
“Birth control containing estrogen increases the risk of stroke more than progestin-only options,” says Yen.
Three types of hormonal contraceptives contain estrogen.
The duration of using this method can also have an effect.
That said, “much of the research on this subject doesn’t take into account the low-dose estrogen-containing tablets that are commonly prescribed today,” says Lindsay Surrell, a nurse at the Manhattan Cardiology Department in New York City.
Further research is needed to better understand the potential relationship between current formulations and stroke risk.
Some things are out of your control, such as:
- family history of stroke
- near air pollution
Other health conditions may increase your risk, such as:
- atrial fibrillation
- Heart disease
- valvular heart disease
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- kidney disease
- rheumatoid arthritis
- sleep apnea
You may be able to change or improve some risk factors, such as:
- Lack of exercise
- tobacco use
If you’re currently using estrogen-containing birth control, you might consider switching to a low-estrogen-dose birth control method, Yen suggests.
She says it may be worth avoiding pills containing more than 35 micrograms of estrogen.
You can also avoid using contraceptive patches, which are known to produce higher levels of estrogen in the blood than other options, Yen added.
Birth control methods aside, exercising regularly, eating a diet low in sugar and saturated fats, and staying hydrated can also reduce your risk of stroke, says Salell.
Progestin-only contraception is not associated with an increased risk of stroke. Also this:
- hormone IUD
Depending on your individual needs, you may choose not to take hormones completely. Nonhormonal contraceptives include:
“Hormonal contraceptives, especially estrogen-containing tablets, can increase the risk of stroke,” says Saler.
So, if you have other risk factors for stroke, it’s important to discuss with your clinician to determine the best contraceptive option for you.
Gabriel Cassel (she) is a queer sex educator and health journalist dedicated to helping people feel the best possible in their bodies. In addition to Healthline, her work has appeared in publications such as her Shape, Cosmopolitan, Well + Good, Health, Self, Women’s Health and Greatist. In her free time, Gabrielle coaches CrossFit, reviews recreational products, hikes with Border Collies, and records episodes of the podcast “Bad In Bed,” where she co-hosts. Masu. Follow her on her Instagram @Gabriellekassel.