Birth control pills have changed the lives of millions of women, allowing them control over reproduction, and limiting pre-menstrual syndrome misery. These drugs typically included combinations of estrogens and progestins, female hormones that can trick the body into infertility. When The Pill first came out, doses of estrogen were much higher, and consequently dangerous side effects like blood clots and high blood pressure were more common. Older progestins were more apt to cause weight gain, masculizing side effects like facial hair, and acne. The modern newest iterations use much lower doses of estrogen, along with progestins that are kinder to the skin and weight. Although these nuisance side effects are less common than in years past, the latest generation of birth control pills are substantially more likely to trigger dangerous blood clots that may form in the legs and travel to the heart and lungs, obstructing vital blood flow. In some cases, the clots, called pulmonary emboli, can be deadly.
Forbes.com reporter Tara Haelle describes a recent study clarifying this risk, and shares her personal story of surviving a near fatal Pill-induced pulmonary embolus at the age of 18.
In an interview with Haelle, I noted that the risk is especially high for Pill users who smoke, are over 35, are obese, or who have underlying blood clotting disorders. Yet Haelle had none of these risk factors.
It’s important to understand that while the risk of blood clots is important, it will happen to less than 20 in 10,000 women on the drugs.
To read more about the study, along with Haelle’s personal story of survival, click the link below.