Birth Control and High Blood Pressure
How the Pill and blood pressure are related
Does the Pill cause high blood pressure?
Birth control pills contain one or two hormones: oestrogen and progestin, or just progestin on its own. Although they work to prevent pregnancy, research has shown that these hormones, especially oestrogen, can increase your risk of having high blood pressure.
Not everyone taking the pill will get high blood pressure as a side effect. But, your risk increases if you’re over 35, a smoker, or obese.
If you do get this as a side effect of your Pill, the increase in your blood pressure will also vary. Some people may have only a slight increase and others may have a potentially dangerous increase in blood pressure.
Can you take birth control pills if you have high blood pressure?
If you have high blood pressure and you want to start taking birth control pills, you should first see your doctor.
To make sure you take the right birth control for you, your doctor will first ask questions about your personal and family health to find out if you have other risk factors for heart (cardiovascular) disease.
Your doctor will also want to measure your blood pressure to know how high it is. A blood pressure reading of over 140/90 mmHg is in the high threshold and taking birth control pills with this reading isn’t recommended.
You might still be able to use birth control pills, depending on if you have other risk factors These might be: the results of your blood pressure checks, and how well controlled your blood pressure is. Your doctor may agree you can use birth control pills as long your blood pressure is checked regularly, or they may suggest you use another birth control method instead.
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What are the best birth control options for high blood pressure?
There are other birth control options which are safer to use if you have high blood pressure.
You might be able to use progestogen-only prescribed birth control methods which include the mini pill, the contraceptive implant, the depo provera, or the mirena intrauterine device (IUD).
Your doctor could prescribe you a hormone-free IUD (copper coil) or diaphragm.
You can also choose to use over-the-counter birth control methods like male or female condoms, spermicides, or the sponge. If you don’t want any more children, you could opt for permanent birth control methods like having your ‘tubes tied’ (tubal ligation).
Does the Pill react with high blood pressure medications?
There are different brands of birth control pills and each brand has its own risk of side effects. These can be interactions with other types of medication, including blood pressure medication.
Yasmin (Drospirenone-Ethinyl Estradiol) for example, is one of the brands of the combined pill. It can interact with some commonly prescribed medications used to treat high blood pressure (ACE inhibitors and ARB medications).
The compound called ‘Drospirenone’ in Yasmin may raise your potassium levels. Taking ACE inhibitors and ARB medications for high blood pressure also raises your potassium levels.
Taking both medications together would cause your potassium levels to be abnormally high, which could cause breathing difficulties, chest pain, slow or irregular heartbeat, confusion, or muscle weakness.
When you get the Pill, tell your doctor about all medications you’re taking, including your blood pressure medications.
Your doctor would most likely keep an eye on your potassium levels. Based on this, they’ll talk to you about changing your birth control method or high blood pressure medication.
Why do you need a blood pressure check when you’re taking the Pill?
It’s important that your doctor regularly checks your blood pressure before prescribing your birth control pills.
ZAVA Doctors also need to see your blood pressure information before we can complete your order.
If you’re taking birth control pills long-term, your blood pressure will need ongoing checks to see if it’s getting too high. If it is, your doctor will suggest other safer contraceptive methods.
Dr Kathryn Basford
Dr Kathryn Basford is a qualified GP who works as a GP in London, as well as with ZAVA. She graduated from the University of Manchester and completed her GP training through Whipps Cross Hospital in London.Meet our doctors
Last reviewed: 20 Dec 2018
American Physiological Society (2011). Chronic estrogen exposure linked to high blood pressure. ScienceDaily. [online] Available at: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110526114533.htm [accessed 28th November 2018].
Mayo Clinic (2018). Combination birth control pills. [online] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/combination-birth-control-pills/about/pac-20385282 [accessed 28th November 2018].
National Health Service (2018). Blood pressure test. NHS. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/blood-pressure-test/ [accessed 28th November 2018].
National Health Service (2018). Combined pill. NHS. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/combined-contraceptive-pill/?tabname=getting-started#how-the-combined-pill-works [accessed 28th November 2018].
Patient.info. (2018). The combined oral contraceptive (COC) pill. [online] Available at: https://patient.info/sexual-health/hormone-pills-patches-and-rings/combined-oral-contraceptive-coc-pill [accessed 28th November 2018].
Contraceptive pills are a reliable way of reducing your risk of getting pregnant from sex. ZAVA offers most common brands of pill, so you can order your preferred brand by visiting our contraceptive pill service page.