Varicose Vein Treatment: Does Birth Control Increase the Risk?
Many women ask if birth control can cause varicose veins and the need for varicose vein treatment. The short answer is “Yes, it can, though not directly.” Birth control pills contain the hormones estrogen and progesterone, both of which are known to cause a significant increase in the risk of developing varicose veins and needing varicose vein treatment. The effect is not immediate and the pill will not give a woman varicose veins for sure but it definitely increases her odds. Plus, if a woman is already genetically predisposed to develop varicose veins, taking the pill can not only cause varicose veins, it may decrease the age at which she develops them.
One effect that extra estrogen and progesterone has on the female body is to make the blood flow slow down significantly. Evolutionarily, this was very important for primitive women who gave birth naturally. It helped these primitive women not lose too much blood during birth, especially if it was a complicated birth that took a while.
Today, most women have their babies at a hospital where there are modern techniques to prevent this excessive loss of blood and doctors and nurses on hand in case of an emergency. However, in the not so distant past for our human species, this was not the case. So, it makes sense why this trait of raising these hormones to slow down the blood flow would develop. However, it did increase the odds of increasing varicose veins, even ten thousand years ago, at the birth of civilization, but this was better than a woman losing her life while giving birth to her child! Fast forward ten thousand years, even though this evolutionary advancement is no longer so urgently needed, the bodies of the females of our species are still functioning in a way that reflects that old dire need!
Women take oral contraceptives for many reasons. First and foremost, of course, they use “the pill” to prevent pregnancy until they actually want to conceive a baby. This gives women far more freedom to control their lives than they ever had before the birth control. They can delay pregnancy until they are done with their education and at the right time in their career. For this reason alone, women often accept the possibility of side effects like the higher likelihood of needing varicose vein treatment later in life.
There are other good reasons a woman may take birth control. For example, women athletes use it to control their menstrual cycle so they can perform at their peak during certain events. Certain careers are also helped by being able to control the menstrual cycle. For example, a female field biologist or a reporter on assignment in a remote area, may want to delay their menstrual cycle while they’re in the field getting their data or their story. Some women take the pill to help regulate certain medical conditions such as endometriosis.
Like most things in life, taking birth control pills are a compromise between benefits and potential cons. Slowing your blood flow can not only lead to varicose veins, it can also lead to blood clots, including deep vein thrombosis which is potentially very serious. The “pregnancy hormones” these birth control pills mimic will definitely make your veins dilate too which can stretch them out over time, causing deformations in them and causing them to varicose. This may cause you to need varicose vein treatment much earlier than you would have otherwise.
Since varicose veins, and the need for varicose vein treatment, has a very strong genetic component, if you are taking birth control, you may want to schedule an appointment with a vein specialist at Metro Vein Centers and ask them to conduct a detailed duplex ultrasound on your veins. This way, you’ll be able to track the changes more accurately if your birth control starts to exacerbate problems in your veins. You can get the first exam free at Metro Vein Centers and it will give you an opportunity to ask your questions to a top expert in the field.