Hormonal Birth Control and Altitude

  • Creator
  • #67658

    Hi All,

    I searched the forum and couldn’t find anything and am hoping you can help me out — I can’t seem to find an answer online and my doctors have not been helpful either: I am currently using the 24 week mountaineering plan to train for Aconcagua in January. I currently use the Nuvaring (being specific about type because I think BC generation can make a difference?) to manage Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. I have heard very mixed things about birth control at this type of altitude — can anyone provide guidance on whether staying on the Nuvaring during the climb will pose a significant clotting risk? My strong preference would be to stay on the medication for managing PCOS. Generally I would turn to a doctor for help with this, but unfortunately I have not been able to find anyone where I am based (NYC) that is both familiar with high altitude mountaineering and medicine for people who menstruate (also super open to any doctors who might be that I could do a phone/tele-health consult on this with). Thank you in advance!

  • Keymaster
    Jane Mackay on #67710

    Hi Rachel, your question is beyond the scope of my knowledge and experience, so I’ve passed it on to Coach Carolyn. Either she’ll respond here or I’ll post her response as soon as I get it.

    Jane Mackay on #67740

    Hi Rachel,

    Carolyn says she knows of very little info on the question of birth control at altitute (esp. combined with a female-specific medical condition), but she’s going to do some digging.

    In the meantime, there are two UA podcasts that could be a starting point for you.
    One is with Monica Piris, a high-altitude expedition doctor: https://uphillathlete.com/podcast-expedition-doctor/
    The other is with a doctor who trained with UA for high-altitude climbing, Olga Dobranowski: https://uphillathlete.com/balancing-training-career-family-big-mountains/

    From memory I don’t think either discusses birth control in the episodes, but you could reach out to them with your question. Monica Piris is affiliated with Alpenglow Expeditions (https://alpenglowexpeditions.com/guides/).

    I hope this helps. Keep us posted on what you find out, and when I hear more from Carolyn I’ll post it here.

    RachelF on #67819

    Hi Jane,

    Thank you so much, really appreciate you and Carolyn looking into this further. I’ll check out the podcasts and reach out to both folks to see if they have any feedback as well, I’ll share any info they provide here, in case other folks have similar questions.


    RachelF on #69424

    Hi Everyone,

    A quick update, while I am still waiting to hear back one-on-one from a doctor around use of hormonal birth control at altitude — this helpful guide recently came out: https://climbingthesevensummits.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/CTSS-Female-Client-Considerations.pdf

    It seems like the consensus may be that if you regularly use hormonal birth control, you can continue to do so at high altitude on expedition. However, the folks interviewed for this piece strongly recommend against starting hormonal birth control close to expedition time. Hope this is helpful for folks!

    Jane Mackay on #69462

    Hi Rachel,

    Thanks for posting the link to the guide. It will be helpful for others. This is such a new field for research, any information we can get is really useful.


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