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The combined pill and blood pressure

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The combined pill is one of the most convenient forms of contraception but before you can be prescribed it, you’ll need to have your blood pressure measured to make sure it’s at a healthy level. This is because the pill can pose a health risk for some women. 

 

What is the link between the pill and blood pressure?

The hormones contained within the pill can cause your blood pressure to rise slightly. If your blood pressure becomes too high, this puts a strain on the blood vessels and puts you at risk of a blood clot. The oestrogen contained in the pill is what can cause this to happen. Blood clots increase your risk of serious conditions such as:

  • Heart failure
  • Heart attacks
  • Stroke

 

What is high blood pressure?

Blood pressure is essentially the rate at which your blood moves through the arteries. It will naturally be higher during exercise, or activities that involve a lot of energy and moving about, but the pressure should fall while you are resting. If it doesn’t, and it remains high this is where problems can occur as your heart is having to work extra hard to pump blood around your body. 

 

What are the symptoms?

This is where the difficulty lies as high blood pressure rarely causes any symptoms, so you won’t know you have it unless you have your blood pressure measured. This is why it’s mandatory to have these checks before being prescribed with the pill, and regularly afterwards to ensure that your blood pressure is healthy. 

 

What else causes high blood pressure?

Diet and lifecycle are the most common causes of high blood pressure. This includes things like:

  • Smoking
  • Being overweight
  • Excess alcohol consumption
  • Too much salt
  • Lack of exercise 

When high blood pressure occurs as a result of a medical condition or medicine, including the combined pill, this is called secondary hypertension. Diabetes and kidney disease are also known to cause high blood pressure. 

 

Is it safe for me to take the pill?

While it’s important to be aware of the link between the combined pill and blood pressure, this is more of a risk in certain circumstances. In general, if you are healthy then the risk of complications is rare- with the regular blood pressure checks ensuring that your blood pressure remains stable. The following groups are at a higher risk of high blood pressure and the associated risks:

  • Women over 35 who smoke
  • Women in this age range who stopped smoking less than a year ago
  • Those who are very overweight or obese
  • Anyone who has had a blood clot in the past
  • Those with a family history of blood clots
  • If you’ve ever had a stroke
  • Women with high blood pressure
  • If you have heart disease or a heart problem 
  • Women who experience severe migraines with aura
  • A history of breast cancer
  • Anyone with liver or gallbladder disease
  • If you have diabetes with complications 

What happens if my blood pressure rises after taking the pill?

If you find that your blood pressure has risen as a result of taking the pill, your doctor will advise you what to do. They might stop prescribing it and recommend the progesterone-only pill as an alternative, which doesn’t contain oestrogen and provides a safer choice for women at risk with the combined pill. 

 

Sources

NHS> The Combined Pill: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/combined-contraceptive-pill/

British Heart Foundation> High Blood Pressure: https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/risk-factors/high-blood-pressure

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