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What Are the Risks for Women Over 40 Who Use Birth Control?

Once a woman reaches her 40s, her risk for certain health conditions, such as pulmonary embolism and stroke, might increase if she continues to use birth control. However, most healthy women over 40 who do not smoke cigarettes can use hormonal contraceptives such as the birth control pill safely.

General Risks

Birth control use can increase the risk for some serious health conditions in women of all ages, including those over 40. Although these complications are very rare, it’s important to know that taking birth control can potentially lead to an increased risk of:

  • Blood clots.
  • Stroke.
  • Heart attack.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Liver disease.
  • Severe migraine headaches.

Women seeking a birth control prescription should share any health concerns and medications they are taking with their medical provider, including (but not limited to):

  • Liver, kidney, or heart disease.
  • Stroke, heart attack, or other heart problems.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Blood clots.
  • Migraine headaches with aura.
  • Depression.
  • Being a smoker.
  • Herbal supplements such as St. John’s wort.
  • Medications for epilepsy.

Cardiovascular Events

Cardiovascular conditions are especially important to consider for women over 40 taking birth control. The risk of cardiovascular events, including deep venous thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, stroke, and heart attack, increases with age. For women who already have histories or an increased risk of cardiovascular issues, the progestin-only pill (also known as the mini-pill) might be a safer option than a contraceptive-containing estrogen.

STI Risk

Most birth control methods protect against pregnancy but do not decrease the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Infection rates for STIs such as HIV, chlamydia, and gonorrhea are increasing among women in their 40s and 50s, so health care providers recommend condom use and regular STI screenings for sexually active women.

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