By James Tillman
CHICAGO, IL, October 28, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com)—A new study by Loyola University Health System neurologists indicates that oral contraceptives increase the risk of stroke about 1.9 times. The study involved the analysis of numerous previous studies conducted on the issue. Nevertheless, despite this finding the Loyola University's press release stated that the "benefits [of contraception] still outweigh risks for most users."
The research covers ischemic strokes, which are caused by the loss of blood supply to the brain. Overall, there are about 4.4 ischemic strokes for every 100,000 women of childbearing age. According to the study, published in MedLink Neurology, the use of birth control nearly doubles this risk, increasing it to roughly 8.5 strokes per 100,000 women.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2002 roughly 11 million women in the US used oral contraceptives. Assuming that Loyola University's definition and Guttmacher's definition of contraceptive use are the same, this would mean that oral contraceptives may have contributed to over four hundred strokes in the US in 2002. About 100 million women use such contraception worldwide, which, under similar assumptions, would mean that contraception may contribute to over three thousand strokes each year.
Additionally, women who smoke, have high blood pressure, or have a history of migraine headaches increase their risk of stroke yet more significantly by taking contraceptives. Dr. Jose Biller, one of the authors of the study, said that "if a woman has other stroke risk factors, she should be discouraged from using oral contraceptives."
It is not completely understood how oral contraceptives cause strokes, but the authors of the study said that two possible mechanisms are the increased risk of blood clots and of hypertension associated with oral contraceptives.
Nevertheless, Dr. Biller also said that "for a healthy young woman without any other stroke risk factors, the benefits of birth control pills probably outweigh the risks."
Such a statement from a Loyola researcher, however, may come as surprising, given the university's Catholic identity. The Catholic Church has uniformly taught that the use of artificial birth control is morally inadmissible, and that, far from having any benefit, contraception contributes to familial breakdown, the objectification of women and other widespread social problems.