Estrogen Poses Blood Clot Risk for Older Moms Right After Birth

Previously linked with blood clotting reactions, a recent study says estrogen should be avoided in women 34 years of age or older who have given birth or in women who just had a C-section. It seems, said MSNBC, that researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that <"">estrogen-containing birth control pills could increase risks for blood clots in some mothers in the first six weeks after having a baby.

In general, new mothers of any age and regardless of how their babies were born, are advised not to take oral contraceptives for three weeks following their babies births, noted MSNBC.

One of the authors, Dr. Naomi Tepper, an ObGyn with the CDC’s division of reproductive health, pointed out that blood clots can be very dangerous if they travel to the lungs or brain and can cause stroke, breathing problems, and death. Dr. Tepper and her team reviewed a number of prevailing studies to understand if birth control medications increased blood clot risks in new mothers, said MSNBC.

“The evidence we looked at showed that the risk was really much higher than we previously thought,” Tepper said. “That is what spurred the change in recommendations,” quoted MSNBC. While the risk for blood clots is typically lower in women of child-bearing age, it increases greatly during pregnancy and remains at high levels in the first six weeks after delivery, said MSNBC, which noted that, annually, about 50 of every 100,000 women who recently gave birth develop a clot.

According to Dr. Beatrice Chen, pregnancy causes clotting factor changes in the body. Dr. Chen is an assistant professor and director of Family Planning at the University of Pittsburgh. “Pregnancy causes a decrease in the body’s natural blood thinners and an increase in clotting,” Dr. Chen said, quoted MSNBC. “That’s something that happens to all women who are pregnant,” she added.

Risks for blood clots increase in the first six weeks after childbirth and that risk increases further in older women and in women who have had a C-section, explained Chen. Although contraception should not be omitted altogether, said Chen, the increased risk of clots linked to estrogen use points to risks outweighing benefits when considering birth control pills to prevent pregnancy in these women, wrote MSNBC.

Chen noted that “If there’s less than a year in between, you can have problems with the next pregnancy, including low birth weights and pre-term births,” MSNBC reported, pointing out that studies indicate that both mothers and their babies fare better when at least one year separates births. Tepper suggests that women in the high-risk category consider alternate forms of birth control in the first six weeks following birth, such as progestin-only implants or injections or IUDs.

Prior guidelines, from 2010, said that estrogen-containing birth control pills are safe three weeks after giving birth; current guidelines will update the timing to six weeks for at-risk women, said MSNBC.

Estrogen-based birth control methods have made the news for adverse reactions in the past. Consider that thousands of <"">Ortho Evra users have filed lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson for injuries, including blood clots, heart attacks and strokes, which they claim were the result of the patch; at least two dozen of the women named in the lawsuits died after using it. As of 2010, it was known that Johnson & Johnson had spent $68 million to quietly settle Ortho Evra lawsuits.

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