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Can Birth Control Elevate Cholesterol?

Birth Control and Elevated Cholesterol

Even though 80% of American women are estimated to use birth control pills at one point or another in their lives, the full risks and benefits have never been fully understood, a situation that is now additionally complicated by the ongoing introduction of new brands and hormonal product strains. There are so many variables as they pertain to each individual woman’s metabolism and medical history that leading doctors stress the importance of evaluating a patient’s cholesterol levels and overall cardiovascular health before prescribing the pill. In some instances, it may indeed have an adverse impact on those cholesterol levels.

Gallbladder Stones

One of the many elevated cholesterol scenarios that can possibly be heightened by the birth control pill involves gallbladder stones. The two main hormones in birth control pills – progesterone and estrogen – can increase the level of cholesterol in bile while at the same time decreasing a woman’s normal gallbladder movement. As a result, gallbladder stones can be formed and, in the most serious cases, become trapped in her bile ducts. Laparoscopic gallbladder surgery and gallbladder removal are the two main ways that this condition is treated.

Two Types of Gall Stones

Bile is made up of water, salts, the salt derivative bilirubin, proteins, and cholesterol. The salt is there to break up fat, but if too much cholesterol is introduced into a woman’s system, it can cause the bile salts and bilirubin to harden into gallstones. There are two types of gallstones that can be produced: cholesterol stones, yellow-greenish in color, are actually made up of hardened cholesterol and account for four-fifths of gallstones encountered by women. The other kind of gallstone, a pigment gallstone, is darker and made up of the aforementioned salt waste byproduct bilirubin. In both cases, gallstones can be tiny or the size of a golf ball, singular or in large amounts.

Gall Stone Statistics

Statistically, women are twice as likely to develop gallstones as men are. And there are all sorts of individual factors that can heighten the probability, within this ratio. These include family history, age, ethnicity, weight, and the pre-existence of diabetes. There are several non-surgical ways to treat gallstones, but unfortunately, it has been found that they then commonly re-occur in this category of patients within an average period of five years.


Science Daily – “Birth Control Pill: Oral Contraceptive Use May Be Safe, But Information Gaps Remain”, January 17, 2009, Retrieved October 18, 2010 from

The Injury Board Blog Network – “Did You Know… Popular Birth Control Pills Can Cause Serious Side Effects?”, September 27, 2010, Retrieved October 18, 2010 from

National Digestive Disease Information Clearinghouse – Gallstones, Retrieved October 18, 2010 from

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