A doctor is calling on women who use the contraceptive pill to test their blood pressure every six months, saying it could protect them from strokes, heart and kidney disease.
Dr. Andrew Thompson, medical director at telehealth and prescription service InstantScripts, said there was a concerning lack of awareness of the health risks when prescribing women the pill.
“It can be easy for medical professionals to downplay issues surrounding blood pressure and oral contraception,” Dr. Thompson said.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, generally doesn’t affect people under 40 – the target market for contraceptives.
“However, this is not a reason to remove all precautions as the potential health outcomes for women, if they occur, may be dire,” Dr. Thompson said.
His concern arose after InstantScripts customers questioned the need to provide information on their previous blood-pressure reading to receive a renewed prescription.
Many online telehealth and prescription services are now offering the pill to women without requiring them to come into the doctor’s surgery for a blood test.
Dr. Thompson said there was a lack of regulation around prescribing the pill and many providers were not asking their patients sufficient questions.
Hypertension is the primary modifiable risk factor for strokes, heart disease and kidney disease and one in five women (20 percent) experience uncontrolled high blood pressure.
While the chances are relatively low, Dr. Thompson says women should still be aware of the dangers.
“It is extremely important that women have a pharmacist or GP check their blood pressure prior to being prescribed oral contraceptive medication,” he said.
He recommends women check their blood pressure every six months.
“Symptoms surrounding high blood pressure can also be easy to miss,” Dr. Thompson said.
“Online providers have a duty of care and responsibility to minimize health risks by ensuring patients are taking all necessary precautionary measures.”
Headaches, fatigue, irregular breathing and chest pain can all have an underlying link to high blood pressure.
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