Getting a blood clot from hormonal birth control is rare; between .03 and .09% of people experience a blood clot in a given year, meaning less than 1 in 1000 women who use birth control. It’s still important to know the potential side effects of birth control, so that you and your doctor can decide on an option that’s best for you.
What is a blood clot?
Your blood exists in perfect harmony between substances that help keep your blood liquid and flowing and substances that help it form a clot (a clump of red blood cells, platelets and proteins). Clots help to stop bleeding in the event that your blood vessels experience an injury, or cut.
A condition called Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT) is when a blood clot forms in a vein deep inside your body, often in one of your legs. If untreated, this can travel to your lungs, which is called a pulmonary embolism, and can be a life threatening condition.
How common are blood clots?
Less than 1 in 1,000 women using birth control pills, and as low as 1 in 10,000 women not using birth control pills will develop a blood clot. There may be other factors for certain individuals that increase their overall risk. If you’re pregnant, obese, a smoker, use certain types of birth control, have a personal or family history of blood clots, or have had surgery recently, you may be at a higher risk for blood clots. If you fall in one of these categories you should talk to your doctor to decide which type of birth control is most appropriate.
What are symptoms of a blood clot?
It’s also possible to have a blood clot and not experience any symptoms. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to go to the hospital right away so you can be evaluated and treated right away.
Can birth control cause blood clots?
Hormonal birth control options that contain estrogen, such as the pill, patch, and ring, can slightly increase your risk of blood clots. Hormonal birth control options that contain progestin only, such as the shot, minipill, or levonergestrel-IUD (Mirena/Skyla/Kyleena) likely do not increase your risk. There are also non-hormonal birth control options, such as the copper IUD, Phexxi gel that do not increase your risk.
For many people, the risk of blood clots does not stop them from using birth control methods. It is important to know that though this risk is present, it is extremely low. This risk is also certainly much lower than the risk of a clot during pregnancy or in the period after a delivery (postpartum) which is a key consideration for women interested in preventing an unplanned pregnancy. All medications have potential side effects, so it’s up to you and your doctor to decide what’s appropriate for your age, lifestyle, and medical history. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to bring them up with your doctor directly.
How are blood clots diagnosed?
If the symptoms are in your leg or arm, the doctor will recommend an ultrasound at the hospital which produces images of the inside of your body. If the clot is possibly in your lungs, a CT scan or X-ray will help the doctor evaluate this further.
How do you treat a blood clot?
Treatment usually consists of blood thinner medication, typically taken over the course of 3 months, to help prevent more clots from forming. Your doctor may recommend a longer course based on specific clinical factors that are unique to you. If you were using a hormonal form of birth control that contained estrogen, your doctor will likely recommend a different birth control method for you.
How do you prevent a blood clot?
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