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Smoking and Oral Contraceptive Use

Researched and written by Vicki Meade

Module 2: Medical-Legal Issues and Patient Counseling. University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Excerpt

The oral contraceptive pill is one of the most widely studied medications ever prescribed.

Since their approval by the Food and Drug Administration in 1960, oral contraceptives have played a key role in preventing unwanted pregnancy. Studies have shown that for most women, oral contraceptives constitute a safe, effective method of birth control that can be used throughout the reproductive years. Some women, however, have health conditions or risk factors that require caution or make it advisable to select another form of contraception. There are a number of contraindications and precautions to keep in mind when considering the use of oral contraceptives.

Experts differ somewhat concerning absolute contraindications to oral contraceptive use. A contraindication, however, that is widely agreed upon is a current or past history of vascular disease, including thrombophlebitis, thromboembolic disorders, stroke and coronary occlusion. Conditions that predispose women to these problems are also generally viewed as contraindications. Because exogenous estrogens activate blood clotting mechanisms, women should not use oral contraceptives if they have risk factors related to excessive clotting. However, thromboembolic events related to known trauma or to use of an intravenous needle are not necessarily cause for avoiding oral contraceptives.