Birth Control Methods and the Risk of Blood Clots

You may have heard that birth control pills can give you blood clots. This may seem shocking, since oral contraceptives are the most common type of birth control in the United States.

The truth is, some types of birth control -- but not all -- are linked to clotting problems. And some of those raise your chances more than others.

Rare but Dangerous

Blood clots are rare, even among birth control users. The rate for getting clots is about 0.3% to 1% over 10 years for a woman on the pill. You're much more likely to have blood clots during or after pregnancy.

But they can cause serious health problems. Clots in your legs, lungs, or brain can be especially dangerous.

A clot in the vessels moving blood up from your legs is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). It can break off and travel to the lungs. A clot in the vessels that bring blood into your lungs is known as a pulmonary embolism (PE). PE can be deadly because it could stop blood from getting to your lungs.

Connected to Hormones

Birth control pills as well as patches, rings, and some IUDs use hormones to prevent pregnancy. That's usually estrogen or progestin or both.

Estrogen is most closely linked to blood clots.

If you have a history of clots or are more likely to get them for another reason, talk with your doctor about the best birth control method for you.

Combination Oral Contraceptives

Also known as the pill

These birth control pills have both estrogen and progestin. Many forms of the pill are available, and they may have different amounts of each hormone.

Studies show that this type of birth control raises your odds of getting blood clots. The chance of clots is 2 to 6 times greater among women taking the pill vs. women who don't use birth control.

Progesterone-Only Oral Contraceptives

Also known as the minipill

This only has one hormone, progestin, and the dose is very low.

You're no more likely to get a blood clot than women who don't take birth control. Your doctor may recommend the minipill if something else about your health suggests you have a greater chance of getting blood clots.

The possibility of pregnancy with the minipill is about the same as combination pills when you use it correctly. You must take it at the same time every day for it to be most effective.

Continued

Contraceptive Pills With Drospirenone

Also known as Beyaz, Yasmin, Yaz

Drospirenone is a kind of progestin. But unlike other types of progestin, it may make you more likely to get clots.

The research isn't clear though. Some studies show no greater risk. Others suggest that the chance of blood clots is higher than other birth control pills.

The Ring

Also known as NuvaRing

It gives you a steady dose of hormones, both estrogen and progestin.

Compared to women who don't use birth control, those using the ring are 6.5 times more likely to have blood clots. The chances may be greater than birth control pills because the hormones from the ring are absorbed continuously.

The Patch

Also known as Xulane

The risk is greater than other types of hormonal birth control. For every woman not using birth control who gets a blood clot, eight women who use the patch will.

Like the ring, the hormones are always going into your body.

Intrauterine Devices (IUDs)

Also known as Mirena, ParaGard

Your doctor puts an IUD into your uterus for long-term birth control. One type has the hormone progestin. The other is made of copper and doesn't have hormones.

Neither IUD affects your chance of blood clots, probably because they don't have estrogen.

Birth Control Implants

Also known as Nexplanon

The small bar that your doctor places under your skin has a type of progestin.

The label says that women who have a history of blood clots shouldn't use the implant. The warning is based on studies of birth control pills with the same kind of hormone.

Nonhormonal Birth Control

Only birth control methods with hormones may raise your chance of blood clots.

Barrier methods such as condoms and diaphragms do not. Neither do medical sterilization procedures, like getting your tubes tied.

These birth control methods can affect your health in other ways though.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Nivin Todd, MD on March 22, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

Vascular Medicine: "Pregnancy, contraception and venous thromboembolism (deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism)."

BMJ: "Venous thrombosis in users of non-oral hormonal contraception: follow-up study, Denmark 2001-10," "Use of combined oral contraceptives and risk of venous thromboembolism: nested case-control studies using the QResearch and CPRD databases."

FDA: "FDA Drug Safety Communication: Updated information about the risk of blood clots in women taking birth control pills containing drospirenone," "Birth Control."

Mayo Clinic: "Blood clots," "Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)," "Pulmonary embolism," "Combination birth control pills," "Minipill (progestin-only birth control pill)," "Birth control patch," "Mirena (hormonal IUD)," "ParaGard (copper IUD)," "Contraceptive implant."

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: "Committee Opinion: Risk of Venous Thromboembolism Among Users of Drospirenone-Containing Oral Contraceptive Pills."

FamilyDoctor.org: "Progestin-Only Birth Control Pills."

[email protected]: "NuvaRing: 07/29/2005 Efficacy-Labeling Change With Clinical Data."

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: "Your Guide to Preventing and Treating Blood Clots."

© 2018 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Pagination