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Stopping the pill before surgery

Stopping the pill before surgery

Stopping the pill before surgery

When you are considering undergoing any type of surgery, it is vital that you understand the possible risk factors and complications that may be associated with it. Your surgeon will have discussed these with you and made you aware of the recovery times. They should also have a full understanding of your medical history, including knowledge of any medication that you take on a regular basis: this will include the contraceptive pill. You will probably have questions related to stopping the pill before surgery and may have already asked the question ‘should I stop taking the pill before an operation?’ Hopefully we can provide you with the answers you require here, but if you have more questions, it is imperative that you speak with your GP or surgeon.

Why do women choose the pill?

In the UK, nearly 15% of women between the ages of 15 and 49 years old take the contraceptive pill. It’s understood that this is a safe method of contraception that can be used for many years, up to the time a woman enters the menopause phase. Providing you are otherwise healthy, there shouldn’t be any issues. So, stopping the pill before surgery might seem like an odd thing to do. Why do you have to stop taking birth control before surgery? To answer that we need to look at what the pill is designed to do. Firstly, it’s important to remind ourselves that not everyone is taking the pill strictly for contraceptive purposes; for some women it is a really effective way of stabilising their monthly cycle. It can help to reduce the pain and discomfort from cramps, PMS and other side effects associated with menstruation. Of course, it also does the important job of minimising the risk of unwanted pregnancy (by around 99% if taken correctly). In simple terms, the hormones in the pill are designed to stop ovulation and prevent the implantation of an embryo. This tricks the body into thinking it is already pregnant and can therefore not get pregnant ‘again.’ As with most types of medication, however, there may be negative side effects.

What are the side effects of taking the pill?

Taking the contraceptive pill has been associated with unwanted weight gain, mood swings and depression. It is also known to slightly increase the risk of developing blood clots. These will usually begin in the legs and can then start to move throughout the body. If they reach the lungs then this can become very serious and potentially life threatening. This is one of the reasons that stopping the pill before surgery is important. Following surgery that involves anaesthesia you will likely be quite a bit less mobile for a while. During your recovery time you will not be as active, and this is known to increase the risk of developing blood clots. This is one of the reasons that stopping birth control before surgery is so important. Another good reason is that one of the drugs contained in some anaesthetics (sugammadex), can interact with the hormones in the contraceptive pill, potentially rendering it less effective at preventing unwanted pregnancy. These are the main reasons for stopping the pill before surgery, but don’t be alarmed! The increased risk of developing blood clots is low, but it is still twice as likely that you may develop a blood clot (also known as DVT) if you remain on the pill throughout surgery. So, if you’re still thinking. ‘Should I stop taking the pill before an operation?’ the simple answer has to be, ‘yes.’

When can I re-start the pill?

Following on from any surgical procedure it is important to consult your doctor or surgeon to establish when the best time is to start taking the pill again. The general consensus is that you should wait a minimum of two weeks after regaining full mobility and after you have had a period, before starting to take the pill again. Your individual make up will determine what the best course of action will be for you, so do take advice from the experts. These guidelines only apply to the many variations of the contraceptive pill.

You may ask, ‘Can I take birth control before surgery?’ and choose another form of contraception. Other forms of birth control, such as IUD and the contraceptive injection will be subject to different advice that you should get from your GP or other medical professional.

As with all types of contraception, nothing is 100% effective. The pill has a very good rate of effectiveness when used according to instructions. However, as soon as you stop taking the pill the rate decreases and your risk of becoming pregnant increases straight away. This is why it is so important to have additional forms of contraception in place prior to stopping taking the pill. This needs to remain the case until you have fully recovered from the surgery, are fully mobile again and have taken the pill for the required amount of time, to re-establish its effectiveness and ensure that you are fully protected.

Because the pill is such a popular and effective form of contraception you might feel that stopping the pill before surgery is a risk you would prefer not to take. However, the risk of developing a blood clot and the possibility of the pill losing its effectiveness are two reasons why it is so important to follow this advice. You will have ample time prior to your surgery to determine which other form of birth control you can use to replace the pill on a temporary basis. Try to think ahead and focus on the end result that you are aiming for, along with a quick and safe recovery. It will be worth it in the end.