Women's Health Wednesday December 9, 2015

Smoking And The Pill

Did you ever wonder why your doctor wouldn't prescribe you the pill? It may be because you're a smoker. If you've ever fibbed to get the pill, or started smoking when you were already on it, you may want to reconsider. Here's why.

Why smokers shouldn't take the pill

100 million women worldwide use the contraceptive pill, but if they smoke they're at an increased risk of deep vein thrombosis, stroke or heart attack. That's because:

  • Nicotine narrows arteries, making it harder for blood to pump through.
  • Oestrogen in the pill can cause your blood to clot more easily.

What is deep vein thrombosis?

DVT is a blood clot in one of the deep veins, usually a leg. This clot can break off and travel to the lungs or heart where it will block the blood vessel. This is what a DVT can produce if that clot goes wandering:

Pulmonary embolism: This is when a blood clot breaks off and travels to the lungs. In severe cases it can result in death.

Stoke: This is when a blood clot blocks blood flow and oxygen to the brain. Brain cells begin to die, and it can kill you too.

Heart attack: This is when the blood supply and oxygen to the heart is cut off. Guess what can happen then?

So as you can see, it's pretty serious. These risks increase for women over 35 and those who smoke more than 15 cigarettes a day.

What can you take instead?

Thankfully, modern medicine has come up with a wide range of contraceptives if you don't want to quit smoking.

Mini pill: A progesterone-only pill is safe for smokers. It's 99% effective when taken correctly. It works by thickening mucous in the cervix to stop sperm entering. It can also prevent ovulation and end periods for some women.

Condoms: Anyone can use condoms. They are the only form of contraception that prevents STIs - essential kit for casual sex or one night stands.

Implant: The implant is placed under the skin of your upper arm by a doctor. It releases a small amount of hormone each day and can last three years.

IUD/ IUS: This is a small plastic T-shaped device that's placed inside the uterus by a doctor or nurse. It prevents fertilised eggs reaching the lining. An IUD releases copper, which changes fluids in the womb to stop sperm surviving. The IUS releases progesterone in much the same way as the mini pill.

Diaphragm: The diaphragm is making a comeback now that it's been upgraded. A diaphragm is placed inside the vagina before sex to catch sperm and prevent it entering the womb. It's a good choice if you don't like the idea of hormones and chemicals changing your body.

Giving up smoking

I'm not going to nag, but a lot of smokers are planning to give up at some point. It may as well be now. As well as destroying your health and looks, smoking is becoming increasingly difficult. Who wants to stand out in the freezing rain every hour just because they're addicted to cigarettes, or re-mortgage their house to pay for the habit seeing how costs rise each year? Give up now, stay dry and get rich in return.

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