The Hidden Birth Control Hazard Everyone Knows About…
Posted by Katie Ostoich on May 1, 2012 at 1:10 PM
But no one talks about.
Imagine this: You are a healthy 22 year-old. You regularly run and lift weights and ride a bike at 20 mph for long distances. You eat as well as you can. You take birth control because in high school you had awful periods and you just kept taking it for its, uh, other benefits.
One day, you’re riding your bike and you just got those fancy new shoes that literally attach to your bike and it’s your first time trying to stop and you know, get one foot free so you can stand up. Only, you have to brake too fast and you panic and get stuck to the bike. You’re not moving…until you are. To the side. As in, falling to the ground. You laugh because well, you’re not hurt, so it’s funny. It happens to everyone!
Over the next few days, you notice your leg gets really swollen. I mean, really swollen. But you brush it off, thinking you just hurt it more than you thought when you fell and it’s midterms, you don’t have time to go to the doctor. You keep on running and riding your bike, but you start to notice that you get out of breath really easily and when you run, your calf hurts really bad. So you start to walk and think that because of school stress, you haven’t been working out as much so you’re just getting fat and lazy.
More weeks go by. It’s your last week of school before your finals. You have to (ironically) go to the health center to pick up your birth control before meeting some friends for dinner. You walk up some stairs and are literally so out of breath and dizzy, you have to sit down. In the middle of campus. On a sidewalk. It’s awesome. You end up making an appointment for the next day because clearly, something’s not right. This doctor says she can’t figure it out, so orders a test for the next day. You go about your business and attend a reception for graduating seniors on Tuesday night. Keep in mind, graduation is on Saturday. You feel kinda crappy, but you’re getting the test the next day and will figure it out then!
On Wednesday, you wake up to go to your part-time job and while you’re blow-drying your hair and talking to your roommate, you find that you cant stand anymore. In fact, your heart is racing and you feel like passing out. Call 911. Go the the ER.
Guess what? You have a blood clot.
You’ve always heard those disclaimers at the end of the TV commercials, but you’re not over 35 and you don’t smoke. You’re healthy! But so was I. And that was the story of my blood clot.
It turns out that the hormones in birth control caused a (three foot long!) clot to form in my leg (called Deep Vein Thrombosis), and when I fell, it dislodged it, causing bits and pieces to break off and stick in my lungs (called Pulmonary Embolisms), hence why walking up stairs or walking to really just staying alive was difficult.
In the time since this happened to me, it happened to my sister, a few sorority sisters, and several others people have told me about. In all cases, the only risk factor was the birth control pill.
Now, I’m not saying this to scare you. My sister and I obviously have a genetic factor that causes clotting when we have excess hormones in our bodies. The other girls probably had it as well. But I do think it’s something we need to be aware of. Just recently, it was reported that several birth control pills (including the one my sister and I took) will get blood blot warning labels because their newer man-made hormone carries a slightly higher risk.
You can tell from my story that I had no idea that something like this was happening. It didn’t even occur to me that it was a possibility! So here are some tips I have for knowing the risk factors and symptoms.
- Take birth control pills
- Are overweight
- Are sedentary or bed-ridden
- Have injured a leg
- Have recently had surgery
- Have a family history of blood clots, among other things
If you do take birth control pills, the best way to protect yourself from blood clots, other than reducing the risk factors you have control over (like smoking), is to know the signs and symptoms of a clot. If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately:
- Red, painful areas on a leg
- Temperature differences in your legs (a leg with a clot may be warmer to the touch)
- Swelling in one area or on one leg
- Pain or tenderness in your leg
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Numbness or weakness that is unusual for you
Luckily for me, the doctors in the ER caught it immediately and my 90% blocked pulmonary arteries (arteries that go from your heart to your lungs) didn’t fail. And I made it to graduation! Also luckily for me, as long as I don’t ever take birth control pills again and be extra super careful when I fly, I will probably not have complications ever again. I hope that sharing my story helps everyone become aware of the issue!
So I want to know, has this happened to anyone else out there? Anyone you know? Let me know in the comments!