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Oral contraception: risks and benefits


Data on the risks and benefits of using the oral contraceptive continue to accumulate. Because of continuing changes in the formulation and dosage of both the estrogens and progestins, the medical community must constantly re-evaluate all older data when considering current risk/benefit ratios. The changes in pill formulation have led to increased acceptability with a reduction of both nuisance and serious long-term side effects. The risks must be balanced against the major contraceptive and non-contraceptive benefits that are provided by the pill. Although both the benefits and risks have been documented in the literature, both the physician and the patient are being overwhelmed by press reports stressing mainly the negative aspects of the pill.

It is incumbent on all physicians to periodically review the sources and validity of all medical reports on the pill. While the benefits of the pill outweigh the risks, the physician must be constantly aware of the changing world literature in order to optimize his/her prescribing patterns.

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This article was first published in theJournal of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada, Volume 12, No. 1, pp. 9–15, January 1990, and is reprinted here by permission of the Society.

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Steinberg, W.M. Oral contraception: risks and benefits. Adv Contracept 5, 219–228 (1989).

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  • Public Health
  • Estrogen
  • Oral Contraceptive
  • Medical Community
  • Negative Aspect