A new meta-review published in MedLink Neurology shows that for women who take birth control pills and also smoke, have high blood pressure or have a history of migraine headaches, the risk of stroke is significantly higher.
The relationship between oral contraceptives and stroke has been examined and debated for decades, but studies have yielded conflicting results. Now, the Loyola University Health System neurologists who completed the latest review say that high blood pressure, migraines and smoking are the key factors.
"When prescribing oral contraceptives, doctors should balance the risks and benefits for each individual patient," said senior author, Loyola's Dr. Jose Biller. "For a healthy young woman without any other stroke risk factors, the benefits of birth control pills probably outweigh the risks. But if a woman has other stroke risk factors, she should be discouraged from using oral contraceptives."
How oral contraceptives might cause strokes is not completely understood, but two possible mechanisms are the increased risks of blood clots and high blood pressure associated with oral contraceptives.
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Source: Loyola University