Contraception Choices in Women with Underlying Medical Conditions

September 2010
American Family Physician;9/15/2010, Vol. 82 Issue 6, p621
Academic Journal
Primary care physicians often prescribe contraceptives to women of reproductive age with comorbidities. Novel delivery systems (e.g., contraceptive patch, contraceptive ring, single-rod implantable device) may change traditional risk and benefit profiles in women with comorbidities. Effective contraceptive counseling requires an understanding of a woman's preferences and medical history, as well as the risks, benefits, adverse effects, and contraindications of each method. Non-contraceptive benefits of combined hormonal contraceptives, such as oral contraceptive pills, include regulated menses, decreased dysmenorrhea, and diminished premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Oral contraceptive pills may be used safely in women with a range of medical conditions, including well-controlled hypertension, uncomplicated diabetes mellitus, depression, and uncomplicated valvular heart disease. However, women older than 35 years who smoke should avoid oral contraceptive pills. Contraceptives containing estrogen, which can increase thrombotic risk, should be avoided in women with a history of venous thromboembolism, stroke, cardiovascular disease, or peripheral vascular disease. Progestin-only contraceptives are recommended for women with contraindications to estrogen. Depo-Provera, a long-acting injectable contraceptive, may be preferred in women with sickle cell disease because it reduces the frequency of painful crises. Because of the interaction between antiepileptics and oral contraceptive pills, Depo-Provera may also be considered in women with epilepsy. Implanon, the single-rod implantable contraceptive device, may reduce symptoms of dysmenorrhea. Mirena, the levonorgestrel-containing intrauterine contraceptive system, is an option for women with menorrhagia, endometriosis, or chronic pelvic pain.


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