Is it true that the contraceptive pill increases the risks of cardiovascular disease, in fact causing a rise in cholesterol levels? This means of contraception is becoming less popular in comparison to other methods (the IUD, the implant, etc.), but is it because of these risks? Let’s have a look.
Over half of all adults in the UK have raised levels of cholesterol in their blood. And according to the FPA, a sexual health charity, 35% of women in the UK use the pill as a means of contraception. Could these two figures be linked? There have always been rumours that the pill raises cholesterol, and by proxy, increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases. So is there any truth in the rumours?
Yes, the contraceptive pill can have an impact on cholesterol levels, but it is more complicated than that
The contraceptive pill effectively leads to raised cholesterol in women who already have problems with cholesterol, or who are predisposed to developing such problems. On the other hand, in other women, the pill has only negligible effects on their health. In concrete terms, the pill increases the production of low density lipoprotein (LDL) which transports cholesterol around the blood system. It is therefore the only means of contraception that has an impact on cholesterol.
However, when the pill is first being prescribed, doctors arrange for blood tests in order to monitor cholesterol levels and any possible impact the pill may have in this respect.
Should I change my method of contraception if the pill raises my cholesterol?
In the case that the pill does raise your cholesterol, there are several solutions:
- either you turn towards a different means of contraception (the IUD, the implant, etc.)
- or you modify your dietary habits to reduce your cholesterol
- or you start taking medication to lower cholesterol
Consult your doctor who will help you with your decision. They will advise you depending on your own particular case.
Be careful if you smoke
If you are a smoker, if you are on the pill and have problems with cholesterol, you need to take extra care. In fact, the risk of cardiovascular problems can be quite significant. The contraceptive pill in fact has a thrombogenic effect, which means it promotes blood clots. Therefore, be aware of the risks of stroke.