Long-term use of birth control pills may increase artery buildups in your body that may raise your risk of heart disease, Belgium researchers found.
In a study of 1,300 healthy women between the ages of 35 and 55, there was a 20 percent to 30 percent increased prevalence of plaque for every 10 years of oral contraceptive use.
Though the researchers pointed out that the plaques identified were small and not large enough to block an artery, any plaque is thought to raise your risk of heart disease.
Many of the women in the study had used older, first-generation birth control pills, which had twice the estrogen levels as most oral contraceptives used today.
About 100 million women worldwide currently take birth control pills, and hundreds of millions of women have used them since they were first introduced in 1960.
- American Heart Association Conference November 6, 2007, Orlando, Florida
- Yahoo News November 6, 2007
The use of birth control pills, which are synthetic hormones, is rarely justified. If you're using birth control pills to control your menstrual cycles, irregular bleeding, cysts or endometriosis, you are not treating your underlying dysfunction.
Instead, you are simply increasing the risks to your health. Consider the evidence:
- The pill may increase your risk of cervical and breast cancers
- Oral contraceptives containing the synthetic hormone desogestrel more than double your risk of fatal blood clots
- The pill may make your bones thinner
- Oral contraceptives can increase your blood pressure
- Migraines and nausea
- Weight gain and mood changes
- Irregular bleeding or spotting
- Breast tenderness
- Yeast overgrowth and infection
Natural Alternatives to Birth Control Pills
Barrier methods and natural family planning (NFP) offer much safer, albeit less convenient, options than oral contraceptives.
With NFP, there are no side effects and no toxic substances to put in your body and women often feel empowered as they become aware of their fertility cycle.
I do recommend that you learn the method from a reliable source and if preventing pregnancy is an absolute must you may want to use a backup barrier method until you feel comfortable with the technique you’re using.
However, when used properly, the following natural methods can be just as effective as the pill:
- The temperature method: This is a way to pinpoint the day of your ovulation so that intercourse can be avoided for a few days before and after. It involves taking your basal body temperature (your temperature upon first waking) each morning with an accurate "basal" thermometer, and noting the rise in temperature that occurs after ovulation.
- The mucus method: This involves tracking changes in the amount and texture of your vaginal discharge, which reflect rising levels of estrogen in your body. For the first few days after your period, there is often no discharge, but there will be a cloudy, tacky mucus as estrogen starts to rise.
You can also use some of the more common, non-hormonal, barrier methods, such as:
- Male condoms: Condoms have a 98 percent effectiveness rate when used correctly. A water-based lubricant will increase the effectiveness; do not use an oil-based lubricant, however, as they break the latex.
- Female condoms: These thin, soft polyurethane pouches fitted inside your vagina before intercourse are 95 percent effective. Female condoms are less likely to tear than male condoms.
- Diaphragm: Diaphragms, which must be fitted by a doctor, act as a barrier to sperm. When used correctly with spermicidal jellies, they are 92 to 98 percent effective.
- Cervical cap: This heavy rubber cap fits tightly against your cervix and can be left in place for 48 hours. Like the diaphragm, a doctor must fit the cap. Proper fitting enhances the effectiveness above 91 percent.