Contraceptive pill warning during long-haul flight

A doctor has urged those taking the contraceptive pill to "stay mobile" on flights. Photo: Getty...
A doctor has urged those taking the contraceptive pill to "stay mobile" on flights. Photo: Getty Images
A doctor has taken to social media to warn travellers who are on birth control about a life-threatening risk when catching long-haul flights.

Dr Unnati Desai has informed those who are taking a contraceptive pill that they are at greater risk of developing a blood clot when immobile for long periods of time.

Dr Desai urged people using this form of contraception to “stay mobile” during long plane flights to avoid potentially deadly blood clots, reports the Daily Mail.

Desai, who is the medical director at Skinfluencer London, went on to explain that the most common in-flight risk for people taking combined hormonal contraception (CHC), which contains both oestrogen and progesterone, is a venous thromboembolism (VTE) blood clot, which can include deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE).

Deep-vein thrombosis is when a clot forms in the deep veins of the leg and a pulmonary embolism is when a small piece of a clot from somewhere else in the body becomes stuck in the veins of the lung, says Dr Desai.

Both of these conditions can be life-threatening and should be treated immediately.

The medical professional explained to MailOnline that the risk of a VTE is small - occurring in only five to twelve out of 10,000 healthy women every year who take a CHC, in comparison with the two per 10,000 women a year who do not take a CHC.

However, she said the risk of a VTE increases during long-haul flights.

She explained: “The estimated risk of a VTE from a long-haul flight is one case per 106,667 flights of less than four hours, one case per 4656 flights of more than four hours, and one case per 1264 flights of more than 16 hours.”

Dr Desai alleges that the risk of a VTE is even higher for women who are pregnant in comparison to those taking the contraceptive pill.

Echoing Dr Desai’s warning, physician associate Simi Solaoa revealed in a now-viral TikTok clip: “If you’re taking a contraceptive pill, especially the combined pill, which contains oestrogen and progesterone, there’s a small risk that you could develop a DVT.”

She warned her 3000 followers: “Another risk factor of developing a blood clot is being on a long-haul flight and being pregnant.”

Dr Desai said that a telling sign of the condition is swelling of the calf, pain in the midline of the calf, redness and discomfort.

She added: “The symptoms of a pulmonary embolism include shortness of breath, increased respiratory rate, increased heart rate or palpitations, sharp chest pain or pain behind the chest bone.”

Symptoms can also include coughing up blood and feeling dizzy or lightheaded.

To decrease the risk of blood clots, the medical professional urged people to keep moving on long-haul flights by taking regular walks and “moving the ankles up and down to activate the calf muscles”.

She added: “Wear graduated compression stockings on the flight. They have a higher pressure around the ankle, which gradually decreases up towards the knee to encourage the blood flow in the deep veins of the leg up towards the heart.”

Finally, she encouraged travellers to stay hydrated by drinking lots of water and turning down alcohol and caffeine during the flight.

Deep vein thrombosis symptoms
DVT (deep vein thrombosis) is a blood clot in a vein, usually in the leg. 

Symptoms of DVT include: 

  • throbbing pain in 1 leg (rarely both legs), usually in the calf or thigh, when walking or standing up.
  • swelling in 1 leg (rarely both legs)
  • warm skin around the painful area.
  • red or darkened skin around the painful area – this may be harder to see on brown or black skin.

Who is more likely to get DVT 
A DVT (deep vein thrombosis) is more likely to happen if you:

  • are over 60
  • are overweight
  • smoke
  • have had DVT before
  • take the contraceptive pill or HRT
  • have cancer or heart failure
  • have varicose veins

There are also some times when you have a higher chance of getting DVT. These include if you:

  • are staying in or recently left hospital – especially if you cannot move around much (like after an operation)
  • are confined to bed
  • go on a long journey (more than 3 hours) by plane, car or train
  • are pregnant or if you've had a baby in the previous 6 weeks
  • are dehydrated

Source: NHS