Recently, I was rummaging around in my younger sister’s purse for a stick of gum and came across two items: a pack of cigarettes and a pack of birth control pills.
While I’m very happy that she is engaging in protected sex with her boyfriend (as if she had any choice, considering how passionate I am about contraception!), my big sister danger alert kicked in immediately when I saw the two packs side by side.
Cigarettes + Birth Control = Dangerzone
What my sister didn’t know is what many women don’t know: Smoking cigarettes while taking hormonal birth control significantly increases a woman’s risk of developing serious blood clots. These blood clots can case serious issues, such as stroke, heart attack and death. Separately, those two separate actions already increase a woman’s risk of cardiovascular issues. Put them together, and it’s a potion for problems. Throw in other risk factors such as age (women over 35 are more likely to suffer blood clots while taking birth control) and a family history of cardiovascular issues, and suddenly even a casual weekend habit of smoking can be deadly for women who use hormonal contraceptives.
What about smoking Marijuana?
The first time I ever considered the dangers of smoking marijuana while on birth control was when it was posed to us in our forum. I set about trying to find an answer for our follower, as well as for my own curiosity. I found that marijuana use is shown to have negative effects on the cardiovascular system: blood pressure increases, heart rate rises and circulatory response to exercise is diminished. In short, marijuana use may not pose serious cardiovascular health problems for most young, healthy users, but may lead to serious health issues for older people or those with cardiovascular disease. While I could not find a study that proved marijuana use combined with a hormonal contraceptive increases cardiovascular issues, I also couldn’t find one that showed it was safe. Women who smoke marijuana must be very honest about it with their doctors, so that the physicians can make the safest recommendations for birth control.
So what now?
That was what my sister asked me when I informed her of the dangers. Short of quitting smoking (which was not a suggestion she appreciated me making), each woman has to evaluate her situation with the help of her doctor. If a woman also faces other risks, especially a history of cardiovascular problems, then her doctor will likely strongly suggest she consider a non-hormonal birth control method, including condoms, diaphragm or the pull out method. Hint ladies: Doctors don’t ask you questions about your habits, health and medical history to be nosy. They are trying to keep you safe.
Additionally, women who smoke should absolutely avoid birth control that has already been linked to increased danger for blood clots and related health issues, especially Yaz/Yasmin, NuvaRing and Ortho Evra Patch.
Let’s Hear From You
Would you consider giving up smoking to protect yourself from the increased risks? Would you rather find another birth control method? Share this blog with any women who you think may not know about the increased risks of mixing cigarettes with birth control use.