There are two parts to this relationship. One, earlier research found that birth control pills may increase the risk of developing lupus. Two, having lupus means some birth control methods are safer than others.

Wondering which birth control to use if you have lupus is common.

Not only is it important to prevent unplanned pregnancies with lupus due to an increased risk of complications, but it’s also vital to understand which birth control options are best to take if you have this autoimmune disease.

That’s because combining some birth control methods and lupus can increase the risk of dangerous side effects such as blood clots.

But, despite there being a few things to consider, anyone with lupus can find a form of birth control that’s both safe and effective.

One study found a link between combined oral contraceptives and a higher risk of lupus.

This was particularly noticeable in people who had recently started taking birth control pills with higher doses of estrogen.

While the study population did involve a sizable 1.7 million people, it was published in 2009. An earlier study in 2007 found a similar link between combined pill use and lupus.

So more up-to-date research will be needed to confirm this risk before experts can make solid conclusions.

Plus, many other factors are believed to contribute to lupus, including stress, genetics, smoking, and hormones. Even long-term use of medications such as antibiotics and anticonvulsants may play a role.

Ultimately, lupus is complex condition with no single cause.

If you have lupus, there are plenty of birth control options.

You can use hormonal methods like birth control pills. But it’s best to stick to progestin-only types, such as the mini pill, IUD, and implant.

For people with lupus, hormonal birth control containing estrogen gives them a higher risk of developing blood clots and other complications, particularly if their lupus is highly active.

That’s because lupus can cause antibodies that make you more likely to have blood clots.

So that tends to mean avoiding the contraceptive patch — which contains more estrogen than other methods — as well as combined pills, the shot, and the ring.

However, if your doctor says you have a low risk of blood clots, you may be able to use some estrogen methods such as the shot, ring, or combined pill.

Of course, you can also use barrier methods such as condoms, though these are less effective.

To figure out the best birth control method for you, find out from your doctor if your lupus is highly active, whether you have antiphospholipid antibodies, and if you have high levels of protein in your urine (proteinuria).

All of these things can increase your risk of complications from hormonal birth control containing estrogen.

Your lupus medication may also limit your birth control options.

This doesn’t apply to all medications —only mycophenolate mofetil and mycophenolic acid.

Both of these drugs can reduce the effectiveness of hormonal birth control methods like the patch and combined pill.

It’s unclear how likely this is or how much they affect birth control. But if you’re taking one of these medications, it’s best to use an alternative hormonal option like the implant or IUD, or use two methods such as an appropriate pill and a barrier method like condoms.

Being pregnant while you have active lupus can result in complications.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), any person with lupus will be considered to have a high risk pregnancy.

Such complications are more likely for highly active lupus. According to 2020 research, complications can include:

The risks tend to be higher for people with the following:

To reduce these risks, reach out to your doctor about timing your pregnancy and managing your symptoms so that you have minimal signs of inflammation, low urine protein, and no major flare-ups in the 6 months before getting pregnant.

There are other things you can do, too. As some lupus medications may lead to birth defects, it’s important to switch to an appropriate medication if needed.

This includes:

Experts also advise taking a daily prenatal vitamin and 81 milligrams (mg) of aspirin at the end of the first trimester. All of this should be discussed with your doctor first.

In rare cases, lupus-related antibodies can result in babies being born with neonatal lupus. Your doctor will test for this throughout your pregnancy and treat it accordingly. This condition is often cured after 3 to 6 months.

Can certain birth control methods increase your risk of developing lupus?

Limited research suggests this may be the case. But it only found evidence for the combined pill — pills containing higher levels of estrogen — and a higher lupus risk.

But the latest study was published in 2009 and hasn’t been confirmed by more recent research. So it’s a topic that still needs exploring.

Is it safe to use hormonal birth control if you’re living with lupus?

Some hormonal birth control is better for people with lupus than others. The “safe” list includes the progestin-only mini pill, implant, and IUD.

Methods with higher amounts of estrogen, such as the patch, ring, shot, and combined pills, are best avoided. They may increase your risk of developing blood clots and other serious side effects if your lupus symptoms are significantly active.

Can certain birth control methods trigger or worsen lupus symptoms?

According to research published over a decade ago, the combined pill may trigger the development of lupus.

While it may be worth considering the combined pill as a risk factor, more research is still needed in this area.

Early advice warned people that the combined pill might worsen lupus symptoms, otherwise known as a flare. But 2005 research found no increased risk of a flare for people with stable lupus.

What else can aggravate lupus symptoms?

Some lupus flares are a mystery. But any of the following can trigger one:

  • exposure to sunlight or fluorescent lighting
  • an infection or injury
  • stopping lupus medication
  • taking other medications
  • not resting enough

What’s the best birth control method for people living with lupus?

Hormonal birth control is highly effective for everyone, including if you have lupus.

But doctors recommend using progestin-only methods like the implant, IUD, or mini pill. That way, you can avoid any potential worsening of symptoms and increased risk of side effects.

While lupus has its complications, it doesn’t mean you’re without birth control options. In fact, there are plenty of safe and effective methods to consider.

To find the best birth control for you now or in the future, reach out to a doctor or other healthcare professional.

Lauren Sharkey is a U.K.-based journalist and author specializing in women’s issues. When she isn’t trying to discover a way to banish migraines, she can be found uncovering the answers to your lurking health questions. She has also written a book profiling young female activists across the globe and is currently building a community of such resisters. Catch her on Twitter.