Blood pressure and the contraceptive pill

What is the connection between the pill and high blood pressure?

The contraceptive pill is an effective way to prevent pregnancy and is relied upon by millions of women every year. The pill doesn't come without side effects and potential health risks; however, one of those being high blood pressure. 

 

The link between the pill and high blood pressure 

The combined contraceptive pill contains the hormones oestrogen and progesterone. It's the increase in the oestrogen hormone that can cause your heightened blood pressure. Researchers from Michigan State University discovered that oestrogen's long-term use causes a compound called superoxide to build up in the body. This causes physical stress and affects the area of the brain responsible for regulating blood pressure. 

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Will taking the pill cause high blood pressure?

Taking the pill in itself will not cause high blood pressure, but it does increase your risk of developing it. This means you will be more likely to get high blood pressure than women not taking the pill. Of course, this depends on your overall health and whether or not you have any other risk factors for high blood pressure. For example, women who smoke and are very overweight are more at risk. If you are in good health, then you shouldn't have anything to worry about. 

Can I take the pill if I have high blood pressure?

If you already have high blood pressure, then taking the pill is not recommended as it can cause it to rise further. Before being prescribed with the pill, your doctor will assess your medical history and current wellbeing to make sure that it is suitable for you. This will include measuring your blood pressure. If it is too high or you have a history of heart problems or blood clots, you will not take the pill. 

Can I take the mini pill if I have high blood pressure?

If you are unable to take the combined pill then the mini pill is a good alternative. Also known as the progesterone-only pill, it doesn't contain any estrogen, only the progesterone hormone. This means it is suitable for women with high blood pressure, including those over 35 who smoke. 

How do I know if I have high blood pressure?

Unfortunately, it's difficult to tell if you have high blood pressure because it doesn't produce symptoms. You'll need to have your blood pressure measured to find out. This is easy to do, and a doctor, nurse or pharmacist can do this with you. Before giving you the pill, a doctor will measure your blood pressure and again after the first 3, 6 and 12 months. After that, you'll have a yearly check-up to make sure nothing has changed. 

What happens if I do have high blood pressure?

If you have high blood pressure, then it's important to get treatment for it to get your blood pressure under control. Your doctor will prescribe you with high blood pressure medication. If uncontrolled, high blood pressure can lead to serious complications. These include: 

  • Heart disease 
  • Heart attack 
  • Stroke
  • Kidney disease 

What other options are there if I can't take the pill? 

If the combined pill is not suitable for you, all combined hormonal contraceptives such as the contraceptive patch, and the vaginal ring would not be suitable either. Luckily, there are plenty of other alternatives and you can still use progesterone-only hormonal contraceptives. 

These include: 

  • The progesterone-only pill (mini pill) 
  • The contraceptive injection 
  • The implant 
  • The IUS (hormonal coil)
  • The IUD (copper coil) 
  • Condoms 
  • Diaphragm or cap 

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Sources:

Science Daily > Chronic Estrogen Exposure Leads to High Blood Pressure
Mayo Clinic > Secondary Hypertension
Blood Pressure UK > What High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) Can Do
 

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