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Does Taking Birth Control Increase the Risk of Developing Blood Clots?

Cristin Hackel

Medically reviewed by Cristin Hackel, BS, RNC, MSN, WHNP on November 22, 2023

The risk of developing blood clots while using birth control is generally very low for most individuals. However, there are certain situations or events that can increase this risk. It’s important to be informed about these risk factors, which include:

MAJOR SURGERY: Most pharmaceutical manufacturers of birth control include a warning in their prescribing information to stop using birth control containing estrogen around the time of major surgery (generally four weeks beforehand and up to two weeks after). This is recommended to decrease levels of estrogen in the blood, which can increase the risk of blood clots during times of bedrest or prolonged inactivity. Once activity levels have returned to normal, the combined hormone method can be restarted. It’s very important that you talk to your doctor about all of your medications, including birth control, before you have any type of surgery. If you are told to stop using your birth control, your surgeon may recommend you switch to a progestin-only birth control method, which won’t increase the risk for developing blood clots.

TRAVEL: Extended periods of inactivity during long-distance travel can raise the risk of blood clots in certain individuals. We recommend that while you’re traveling, you make an effort to stand up and take a short walk every two hours if possible. Additionally, wearing compression stockings has proven effective in promoting better circulation. Please refer to these CDC guidelines for additional guidance.

COVID-19: While there is evidence that COVID-19 may increase the risk for blood clots in some people, there is no direct evidence linking the use of combined birth control with an increased risk of blood clots when contracting COVID-19. Similar to the risks associated with major surgery, long periods of inactivity or bedrest during a COVID-19 illness can increase the risk for blood clots.

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