Birth Control And Stroke
I’ve been asked to talk about my “story” many times and, on occasion, have agreed. It’s funny. I work in front of a camera each day with ease, yet when I have to speak before a crowd of people, I’m hesitant. Maybe it’s all those eyes looking at me. The funny part is, there are many more people watching me on television than any one event I’ve attended. I guess it’s just easier talking to a camera lens, where you can’t see anybody. But, I also believe it's more difficult talking publicly about a very personal situation.
I'm speaking at the opening of a community garden in a low-income housing district this week. It's to promote healthy eating and an active lifestyle and how a garden can play into both. I’ve been working on what I want to talk about and remembered I never touched on what exactly caused my stroke in my blogs.
The cause was ultimately my birth control pills. After my stroke, my cardiologist told me I naturally had “thick” blood and that the pill put me over the edge. I remember I had only been taking birth control pills for a short time. Actually, it was my dermatologist who put me on the pill. It’s quite common for doctors to prescribe birth control pills to help clear up acne. I was having trouble with blemishes and it worked like a charm. The only downside was it caused me to have a stroke.
I’ve since talked with many of my friends about it. Some of them stopped taking birth control pills because of what happened to me. The warning label clearly reads birth control pills can cause blood clots, especially in woman who smoke and who are older than 35. I was only 31, didn't smoke, wasn't overweight and didn't have high blood pressure.
I definitely didn't fit the bill, but it happened to me anyway. I asked my doctor why there wasn't some sort of screening or test women could have done before going on the pill. He really didn't have an answer for me. He basically said there wasn't one single test that would give doctors an answer like that. Looking back to that day in the emergency room, I remember the nurse took around 20 vials of blood from my arm for a variety of tests. I was white as a ghost. I guess it makes sense that not everyone would want to drop that much blood in one setting and unless it was absolutely necessary, my doctor said it would be expensive. He also said most insurance companies wouldn't pay for tests like that anyway. I would love to compare the cost of those tests to the more than $30,000 it costs me and my insurance company for the treatment of my stroke.
But back on the subject, my doctor told me serious medical risks from contraceptives, such as stroke, are relatively rare. I still believe we need to get the word out about birth control pills, though. I think most women don't really take the warning that seriously. I know I didn't. I recently read about Ortho Evra and the reports of women dying from unexpected heart problems. Ortho Evra is a popular birth control patch and apparently contains 60 percent more estrogen than the traditional birth control pill. The hormones are delivered directly into the blood stream through the patch. That patch is now linked to blood clots, heart disease, stroke, and death in young adult women. So many links, in fact, that the Federal Drug Administration asked the maker of Ortho Evra to revise the warning label about the risk of blood clot, stroke or heart attack.
Women just need to be aware of these warnings. I know many friends who have taken birth control pills for years and have had no problems. I would never suggest a ban on the pill. It is very beneficial for those women who can take them. But if you have any of the warning signs, it's just not worth the risk. Those signs are being over the age of 35, smoking, being overweight or having any pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
A Drug Recall
Published On: June 23, 2006