Birth Control and High Blood Pressure

Are birth control and high blood pressure linked? Women taking birth control pills may experience an increase in blood pressure. While researchers do not know why this happens, women who are on birth control and develop high blood pressure tend to share risk factors, such as being on birth control pills for longer periods of time, being over the age of 35, and smoking.

Birth Control and High Blood Pressure: A Summary

Blood pressure is a measure of the pressure inside your blood vessels. Thus, high blood pressure is when the pressure within your blood vessels is too high. This is also known as hypertension. More than 65 million American adults -- 1 in 3 -- have high blood pressure. High blood pressure:
  • Makes the heart work too hard
  • Hardens the walls of arteries
  • Can cause the brain to hemorrhage or the kidneys to function poorly or not at all.
High blood pressure can lead to serious health problems over time, including a stroke or congestive heart failure.
There are two pressures measured for blood pressure -- pressure while the heart is beating (known as systolic pressure) and pressure while it is relaxed (known as diastolic pressure). Women taking birth control pills may experience an increase in both systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure. Normally this increase in blood pressure with birth control pills is within the normal range.

Know the Risk Factors Concerning Birth Control and High Blood Pressure

Hypertension research scientists do not know why birth control pills increase blood pressure in some women. However, they do know certain factors increase a woman's chances of having high blood pressure while on the pill. These risk factors include:
  • Being on birth control pills for longer periods of time
  • Women over the age of 35
  • Women who smoke
  • Pills higher in estrogen.

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Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD
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