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New pill carries 'less heart risk'

19th January 2009

A new study indicates that newer versions of the birth control pill doesn't increase heart disease as much as they did in the past, but that more research will be necessary in order to properly determine the side effects of the new medicines.

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Study co-author Dr C Noel Bairey Merz said that hormonal contraception for young premenopausal women remains safer than pregnancy, so that it is safe and effective for contraception.

What's more, newer formulations that have come out in the last decade do not appear to raise blood pressure to the same degree that older formulations did.

The first hormonal contraceptive to be widely prescribed was the birth control pill, introduced in the 1960s.

After the pill came patches and vaginal rings.

Eventually hormonal contraceptives became the most commonly prescribed form of contraception in the United States.

According to background information in the study, only one fifth of women has never used them at all.

Newer versions of the pill contain less oestrogen, making it safer without reducing effectiveness.

Since the year 2000, the number of US women between the ages of 35 and 44 who die of cardiovascular conditions has increased.

However, the same death rate from other age groups has decreased.

The increase owes itself to the number of US women who are overweight, do not exercise, smoke and use oral contraceptives.

The researchers found that there seems to be an increased risk of blood clots with the new medicine, though the chance of having a heart attack is unaffected.

However, there was no data about the effects of the newest generation of hormonal drugs upon the heart.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend oral contraceptives with certain doses of oestrogen as a safer option than pregnancy for women older than 35.

Women who have high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels need to be monitored and have their conditions controlled if they take oral contraceptives, the study said.

Bairey Merz said that if women can control their hypertension, they can use hormonal formulations, and that diabetics can also use them.

Suzanne Steinbaum of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City said that the world has changed and women are having babies later.

She said that each individual needs to be evaluated for oral contraceptives.

When it was found that hormone replacement therapy caused elevated risks of breast cancer, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems, new attention was paid to hormone products generally.

 

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