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Some Birth Control Pills Increase Risk of Deadly Blood Clots

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They also found the newer birth control pills, also called third-generation pills, were taken by almost half of those who died.

Because of the risk of these fatal blood clots, Neil R. Poulter, of the Imperial College School of Medicine in London, concludes in an accompanying editorial that second-generation birth control pills should be considered first choice before using the newer ones.

Skeggs tells WebMD that people should not be alarmed by these results, stressing that birth control pills "in general have many benefits as well as some risks. ... For example, they also reduce the rate of cancer of the ovaries. Women should be well informed about both benefits and risks of birth control pills. I still think they are a great method of birth control," he says

On the bright side, however, "birth control pills are much safer, and have much lower doses of hormones, than those that were available 20 or 30 years ago," says Amy Allina, program and policy director of the National Women's Health Network in Washington.

Although it's rare for this condition to be fatal, "it does need to be taken seriously," Skegg says. "Physicians should continue to do everything they can to minimize this adverse effect. They should take a particularly careful history on the risk factors that may indicate special caution is needed."

As women decide whether to use birth control pills, they should be aware of conditions that could put them at increased risk for blood clots in both the legs and lungs. Women with a history of blood clots, who smoke, are extremely overweight, or are prone to inactivity, should use birth control pills with caution.

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