Do contraceptive pills adversely impact liver health? Here's what doctors say

Updated on Apr 20, 2022 01:45 PM IST

It is well known that contraceptive pills are the most popular method among women to avoid pregnancy after unprotected sex in India but do they risk impacting their liver health? Here's what doctors have to say

Do contraceptive pills adversely impact liver health? Here's what doctors say (Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash )
Do contraceptive pills adversely impact liver health? Here's what doctors say (Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash )
ByZarafshan Shiraz, Delhi

The most important function of the liver is processing of all that we consume, whether it be food, alcohol, drugs or poisons and the liver gets damaged by all the toxins we consume. Infections in blood also reach the liver and inflict damage while inflammations and many other diseases, including cancer in other organs, also target the liver.

Herbal remedies like green tea extracts, Aloe Vera, etc. should be taken with caution as some of them could cause serious liver damage while health experts warn that the painkillers too are a threat as a major cause of acute liver injury is drug-induced liver injury (DILI) and paracetamol, often known as acetaminophen, has become one of the leading causes of acute liver failure.

This leads to the question of whether medicines like contraceptive pills or birth control pills too adversely impact liver health. According to National Cancer Institute, “Oral contraceptives (birth control pills) are hormone-containing medications that are taken by mouth to prevent pregnancy. They prevent pregnancy by inhibiting ovulation and also by preventing sperm from penetrating through the cervix.”

Talking about the emerging trend of contraceptive pills and their impact on the liver, in an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Uday Sanglodkar, Senior Consultant - Hepatology and Liver Transplant at Mumbai's Global Hospital, revealed, “Our body is one system and definitely, the function of one body organ is affecting the functions of other body parts. Whichever medicine you take, it has to go through the liver for metabolism. It is well known that contraceptive pills are the most popular method to avoid pregnancy after unprotected sex in India but sadly, the girls have no idea how seriously they are risking their lives while doing so."

He added, "Contraceptive pills have a direct impact on the liver. Estrogens and oral contraceptives are both associated with liver-related complications such as intrahepatic cholestasis, sinusoidal dilatation, peliosis hepatis, hepatic adenomas, hepatocellular carcinomas, hepatic vein thrombosis and gallstones. Long-term usage of the Oral Contraceptive Pill (OCP) can lead to an increased risk of liver cancers such as adenomas and haemangiomas. Adenomas are round-shaped tumours that are made up of blood vessels. Haemangiomas tumours are made up of blood vessels. These tumours are normally benign (non-cancerous) but they can develop cancerous on rare occasions.”

Elaborating upon the same, Dr Chetan Ramesh Kalal, Senior Consultant Hepatologist and Liver Transplant Physician at Mumbai's Masina Hospital, advised, “Patients who are prone to liver disease (intrahepatic cholestasis, prothrombotic state) and those who have liver disease should beware of taking oral contraception. Studies have shown this can aggravate their condition leading to chronic liver damage and jaundice. Impairment of hepatic excretory function or effect on liver proteins due to oestrogens or proestogens in low or extended doses may be the reason.”

He shared, “Liver injury during OCP therapy is rare and fatal cases have not been documented. However one should be cautious about OCPs and there possible toxic liver effects and should consult expert before taking them.”

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