Can Birth Control Pills Affect Your Blood Pressure?

Birth control pills contain hormones that can raise your blood pressure

Mid section view of a woman holding a blister pack of contraceptive pills
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For millions of women, oral contraceptive pills are an effective way to avoid pregnancy, moderate irregular periods, and address other health concerns, such as acne. While oral contraceptives are a safe, effective medicine, they can affect your blood pressure.

The most commonly prescribed birth controls pills contain a synthetic mixture of estrogen and another hormone called progesterone. Other birth control pills only contain progesterone.

These hormones are necessary for preventing pregnancy but carry some risks.

What Is Secondary Hypertension?

There are two different types of high blood pressure or hypertension: primary (essential) hypertension and secondary hypertension.

Most adults with hypertension have primary hypertension. The exact causes of primary hypertension are unknown. However, certain factors, such as obesity, insulin resistance (type 2 diabetes), salt intake (in salt-sensitive individuals), and stress can raise blood pressure in people with primary hypertension.

Secondary hypertension has a quicker onset and can be caused by various factors including oral contraceptive pills. Both forms of hypertension usually don't produce any symptoms, even in your blood pressure is dangerously high. 

Risk Factors for Increased Blood Pressure

Progesterone can affect your blood pressure through hormone drops which have a direct effect on small blood vessels.

Because of these effects, taking birth control pills can cause your blood pressure to rise. This increase in blood pressure can range from very mild to potentially serious, and may sometimes warrant discontinuing the birth control.

While the absolute risk of developing high blood pressure while taking birth control pills has not been established, there are several factors that can make you more likely to develop high blood pressure.

These include: 

  • A family history of high blood pressure, especially in female relatives
  • A personal history of high blood pressure during prior pregnancy
  • Any personal history of heart problems
  • Any personal history of blood vessel problems

Before & During Birth Control Pill Use

Before beginning birth control pill your doctor will likely check your blood pressure. If you do not have a history with your current physician, they will likely monitor your blood pressure over the course of several visits. This is normal and serves to establish a baseline. While taking birth control, your blood pressure should be monitored regularly, usually during your annual exam, but more frequently if any increase is detected.

If your blood pressure rises while on the pill, this does not necessarily mean you will have to stop taking your medication. Your doctor will monitor your blood pressure very carefully, and will provide advice and recommendations based on your circumstances. Some possibilities may include:

  • Continuing with your prescription as normal
  • Changing to a different pill with lower levels of progesterone
  • Trying a different method of birth control

In some cases, it may be necessary to cease taking oral contraceptive pills.

Your doctor will advise you if this is the case, and you should feel free to ask about alternative methods at any time.

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