By now, everyone should be aware of the dangers of smoking. From commercial campaigns to warnings on cigarette packets, no one need remind us that tobacco is bad for your health.
While many smokers may simply ignore these dangerous health risks, there are others who are not aware the risks can be even greater for women who smoke while using hormonal contraceptives.
A usual response to this may be "It's only a few a cigarettes a day. What harm could that do?" It could lead to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke or blood clots – that's the answer.
Cigarettes alone are very harsh on the heart and respiratory organs, as they cause blood pressure to soar, putting extra stress on the heart and lungs. A study by a teacher in China showed a change in the colour and quality of the lungs after going through only 60 cigarettes.
When on the contraceptive pill, smoking puts even more stress on the blood vessels due to added oestrogen. Though light smokers have a lower chance of experiencing complicated heart issues, they still need to be aware of the side effects, including blood clots, strokes and heart attacks that smoking whilst on the pill can trigger. Do you really want to take the risk of smoking a few cigarettes a day when one of these conditions could easily affect you?
In the UK, it's not uncommon for many women, who are on birth control, to smoke half a packet of cigarettes each day. A lot of them may not realise how perilous this combination is.
Some smokers may increase their risk of suffering from breakthrough bleeding or spotting on the pill, more so than non-smokers. All of these are possible signals that the efficiency of the pill is reduced.
In short, anyone who lights over 15 cigarettes daily needs to be extremely careful about taking birth control pills. With age, the risks become greater, especially for women aged over 35. One study revealed that women increase the likelihood of experiencing a first time heart attack by 30 times if they smoke 25 cigarettes a day while on the pill.
If you have a family history of high blood pressure, high cholesterol or heart disease, the health risks associated with smoking and birth control are greater. A very common problem is clot formation, something that occurs in the woman's veins and lungs. Smokers' hearts pump less blood, leading to constricted blood vessels.
If you've been experiencing severe pain in your legs, calves, abdomen and chest, these could be a sign that you need to seriously reduce your tobacco intake while taking the pill. Quitting cigarettes would be the ideal answer.
If you're smoker and aged 35 or over, the combined pill (the most popular ones include Yasmin, Microgynon and Mercilon) should not be prescribed to you by your GP. Vaginal rings, such as the NuvaRing may also be unsuitable. Instead, the following contraceptives may be recommended for you: intrauterine device, contraceptive implant, intrauterine system, contraceptive implant, contraceptive injections or progestogen pills. Following the advice from their doctor, smokers in general opt for the mini pill, also known as the progestogen pill. Cerazette is usually the most widely taken treatment among these patients.
However, in the long term it's advisable to quit smoking, not just to benefit your general health but also because you'll be limiting your choice of using alternative contraceptives.
The dangers of smoking multiply when taking certain birth control pills. This is yet another motivation to try and quit the habit. Bring yourself up to date with the facts and look after your body, so that it can look after you in the long term.