Can Birth Control Pills Increase the Risk of Coronavirus?

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Image: BruceBlaus (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en)

Since the beginning of the current crisis, researchers highlighted a number of factors that can increase the chances of contracting the infection. This includes older age, weakened immune system, or specific health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. Now, new research shows taking birth control pills may also elevate the risk.

More specifically, the new study, whose findings appear in the journal Endocrinology, concluded that women who are pregnant or taking the hormone estrogen in any form can have more chances of not only having coronavirus infection but also developing some of its most dangerous complications.

For instance, it can increase the risk of formation of blood clots. The hormone estrogen alone does not cause clotting.

However, when it is taken in therapies such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or for birth control purposes, it can increase chances three to four times. If the person has contracted SARS-CoV-2, the risk is elevated even further.

Till now, the complication of blood clotting is more common in older adults or those who have specific health conditions such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes but now scientists are suggesting women who take estrogen may be at risk of it as well.

According to the researchers in the new study, this is why women taking estrogen or birth control pills may need to stop in case they contract the coronavirus infection to minimize the risk.

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Although there are currently no reports of the development of blood clotting complications including venous thromboembolic events (VTEs) in pregnant women or those on estrogen pills, vascular abnormalities have been diagnosed in the placentas of pregnant women.

Vascular injury and abnormalities are a big contributor to blood clotting and VTEs in people with coronavirus infection.

In accordance with the Yale Medicine interventional radiologist, Dr. Hamid Mojibian, vascular injuries combined with cell dysfunction and inflammation are the main factors that cause blood clotting and VTEs in coronavirus patients.

Large clots of blood and VTEs are potentially life-threatening and have been the cause of death in many of the hospitalized coronavirus patients.

VTEs and clots are specifically associated with the hormone estrogen. The risk of developing blood clots is the highest in women who have been using pills or getting treatments including the hormone for less than a year.

Reports on the link between estrogen and blood clot formation have shown that one in three thousand women taking birth control pills or HRT treatments develop clots.

In addition, women who are pregnant are also at equally high risk. This is because the body produces more hormones including estrogen during pregnancy naturally.

Dr. Minisha Sood, who is an endocrinologist explains that this happens because the hormone “increases the gene expression of certain clotting factors and lowers factors which prevent blood clots. Overall, this leads to a ‘pro’ clotting state,”

Secondly, estrogen also reportedly affects the immunity of a person and can actually make the coronavirus infection more severe.

Therefore, women who are pregnant or are taking birth control pills as well as other therapies involving estrogen are warned to be more cautious.

This does not mean that women should discontinue pills or therapies without consulting a doctor. Researchers have suggested staying at home and following other preventive measures to avoid catching the infection in the first place.

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