A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that oral contraceptives have no increase of significant risk for heart attack in young women. The study compared women taking birth control with different hormonal combinations. The pills were classified as being first-, second-, or third- generation, signifying different types of progesterone in combination with estrogen. Researchers found that the overall risk for women taking first-generation pills was only 3 per million. Second-generation pills doubled the risk to 6 per million, but the risk is still extremely minimal. Third-generation pills had the same risk level as first-generation pills. In analyzing the findings of an increased risk from second-generation pills, Dr. Keith Isaacson, Associate Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology at Harvard Medical School declared, “These risks are so small that any increased risk remains clinically insignificant on an individual basis.” Dr. Isaacson warns that smoking, diabetes, and hypertension are the real risk factors for heart disease that should be monitored, not birth control pills.
Second-generation oral contraceptives were introduced in the United States in the 1970s and often contain levonorgestrel. Third-generation pills, the newest types of pills on the market, became available in the U.S. in the 1990s. These pills usually contain desogestrel or gestodene.