The contraceptive pill likely lessens chance of contracting COVID-19, but increases blood clot risk - research

woman taking pill
There's both good and bad news for those taking hormonal birth control. Photo credit: Getty.

The COVID-19 pandemic has infected over 18 million people worldwide, but interestingly seems to have infected more men than women, according to global statistics.

That result has been analysed in several new studies highlighting the impact of the contraceptive pill on coronavirus, and it turns out there's both good news and bad for those on birth control.

The good news 

Women on the contraceptive pill are less likely to contract COVID-19, according to a major new study out of London. 

The Daily Telegraph reports researchers from King's College London studied more than half a million women throughout the months of May and June to identify the crucial role oestrogen plays in contracting the illness. 

Women taking the combined oral contraceptive pill were on average 13 percent less likely to develop serious symptoms, scientists discovered. 

"Additionally, when we compared a younger group of women on the combined oral contraceptive pill [COCP] with a similar group not taking the COCP, we saw less severe COVID amongst those taking the COCP, suggesting hormones in the COCP may offer some protection against COVID-19," says study co-author Dr Karla Lee. 

Oestrogen, known as the "female hormone" as it's present in higher proportions in women compared to men, is thought to influence how many immune cells a person produces and how well these respond to infection.

The bad news

But it's not all great news for those on the COCP. Other studies have delved into the risk of "deadly blood clots", which may be higher for those taking birth control who do end up contracting the virus. 

Doctors have warned against the side-effects in a not-yet-peer-reviewed study published this week in the journal Endocrinology

According to Insider, the research applies to those who are pregnant, on certain birth control pills, or taking oestrogen-based hormone replacement therapy.

That's because oestrogen, the key ingredient in many types of birth control, is known to increase the risk of blood clots - something COVID-19 is also known for.

Experts have previously warned that up to a third of patients who are seriously ill with COVID-19 are developing thrombosis.

The two together therefore may amplify the risk, the doctors hypothesise, but say more research is needed. 

"During this pandemic, we need additional research to determine if women who become infected during pregnancy should receive anticoagulation therapy - or if women taking birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy should discontinue them," says study co-author Dr Daniel Spratt, of Maine Medical Center in Portland, USA.