Progestin-only contraception and thromboembolism: A systematic review

Contraception. 2016 Dec;94(6):678-700. doi: 10.1016/j.contraception.2016.04.014. Epub 2016 May 3.


Background: Women with medical conditions associated with increased risk for thrombosis generally should not use estrogen-containing contraceptives; however, less is known about progestin-only contraceptives (POCs) and thrombosis risk.

Objectives: The objective was to identify evidence regarding the risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE) or arterial thromboembolism [stroke or acute myocardial infarction (AMI)] among women using POCs.

Methods: We searched the PubMed database for all articles published from database inception through January 2016 for studies examining thrombosis among women using POCs. We included studies which examined women with medical conditions associated with thrombosis risk, as well as studies of women in the general population (either without these conditions or who were not specified to have these conditions). Hormonal contraceptives of interest included progestin-only pills (POPs), injectables, implants and levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine devices (LNG-IUDs). Outcomes of interest included VTE, stroke and AMI.

Results: There were 26 articles of good to poor quality that met inclusion criteria; 9 studies examined women with medical conditions and 20 examined women in the general population. Two studies found that, among smokers and women with certain thrombogenic mutations, use of depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA) had elevated odds of VTE compared with nonsmokers or those without mutations, although confidence intervals were wide and overlapped with odds among nonusers. One study found that, among women with previous VTE, use of POCs (including DMPA) was associated with a nonsignificant increased odds of recurrent VTE (all of which were among DMPA users); two other studies that examined POCs other than DMPA did not observe an association with recurrent VTE. Two studies found that use of DMPA among healthy women was also associated with increased odds of VTE. Two studies found that use of POCs for therapeutic indications was associated with increased odds of VTE. Studies did not find increased odds of VTE with POPs for contraceptive purposes, implants or LNG-IUDs nor were there increased odds of stroke or AMI with any POCs.

Conclusion: The majority of evidence identified by this systematic review did not suggest an increase in odds for venous or arterial events with use of most POCs. Limited evidence suggested increased odds of VTE with use of injectables (three studies) and use of POCs for therapeutic indications (two studies, one with POCs unspecified and the other with POPs). Any increase in risk likely translates to a small increase in absolute numbers of thrombotic events at the population level.

Keywords: Myocardial infarction; Progestin-only contraception; Stroke; Systematic review; Venous thromboembolism.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Contraception / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Myocardial Infarction / chemically induced
  • Progestins / adverse effects*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Stroke / chemically induced
  • Venous Thromboembolism / chemically induced*
  • Weight Gain / drug effects


  • Progestins