Birth control and blood clots

The 25-year-old model Hailey Bieber was hospitalized last month. Her face started drooping, and she found herself unable to speak. At the hospital, she learned that she had suffered a blood clot that caused a transient ischemic attack or ministroke. Bieber released a video explaining what caused what she called “the scariest moment of my life.”

Birth control was a factor that led to a blood clot in her brain. “I had just recently started birth control pills, which I should have never been on because I am somebody who suffered from migraines anyway. And I just did not talk to my doctor about this,” she said. “So ladies, if you suffer from bad migraines and you plan on being on birth control pills, make sure you tell your doctor because having a stroke is a potential side effect from birth control pills.”

Some types of birth control methods are linked to clotting problems. The pill, the patch, and the ring contain the hormone estrogen which increases the risk of dangerous blood clots. Although estrogen is known to affect multiple variables in the coagulation system, the exact molecular mechanism of estrogen-induced thrombosis is not totally understood. Estrogens in the pill, the patch, or the ring cause the body to hormonally imitate pregnancy. In doing so, they not only prevent pregnancy but program the woman’s body to produce more clotting factor proteins. Their bodies actually produce clotting to protect them from any bleeding challenge that might occur with a miscarriage or during childbirth. These same changes caused by hormonal contraception put women at an increased risk for blood clots.

How common is the risk to develop a blood clot?

According to the FDA if 10,000 women who are not pregnant and do not use birth control pills are followed for one year, between 1 and 5 of these women will develop a blood clot. The chance of clots is 2 to 6 times greater among women taking the pill vs. women who don’t use birth control and the risk increases 6.5 times for women using the ring. One reason patches and rings are more dangerous is because the amount of estrogen absorbed from them is reported to be 60 percent higher than the amount of estrogen delivered by pills. The risk is greater for a woman who has a clotting disorder, a family history of blood clots, or who previously experienced a blood clot.

How can you reduce your risk?

It is projected that 300- 400 healthy women will die from blot clots associated with the use of contraception. There are healthier and safer options for women to avoid the risk of blood clots associated with hormonal birth control use. Natural Family Planning (NFP), doesn’t have the side effects of hormonal birth control, is based on the understanding of the woman’s body, and can help women to monitor their reproductive health.

Women who suffer blot clot disorders can experience heavy menstrual bleeding or bleeding at the time of ovulation each month. Heavy menstrual bleeding can be monitored with an NFP method and can be managed without the use of dangerous hormonal birth control. 

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