Did you know that a single little pill can change your entire life and potentially kill you?
Two-thirds of Australian women aged between 18 and 49 use either a temporary contraceptive method (such as the Pill or IUD) or have permanent contraceptive protection (such as female sterilisation) and according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 200,000 Australian women take the Pills Yaz or Yasmin.
The largest pharmaceutical company that manufactures the Pill in Australia, Bayer, launched Yasmin in 2001 and Yaz followed in 2006. Since then, sales for the two drugs have skyrocketed past eight billion dollars worldwide.
But now, 13 years later, doubt has been cast over both Yaz and Yasmin, and its potentially deadly side effects such as blood clots, which is something Hannah*, 26, from Sydney experienced first hand.
“I went on the Pill when I was 17, and not because I was having copious amounts of sex, I was about to go travelling around the world and I didn’t want to have to deal with my period,” she told The Newsroom.
“After I’d been on the Pill for a couple of years, I was in a skiing accident and needed surgery. My surgeon was massaging my calf muscles and asked if I felt any pain. I told him yes, my right calf was sore. He asked me if I was on the Pill. He said that he’d seen a few girls – all young and on the Pill – in the last few months have blood clots so he suspected I might have one too. Sure enough, I did. It was 14cm long and across two veins,” Hannah said.
According to General Practitioner Dr Linda Murphy, all hormonal contraceptives slightly increase the risk of blood clots. “Blood clots are formed when the oestrogen dose is higher,” she said. “Women who have family history of blood clots and or have attributing health problems are at higher risk of developing a blood clot.”
If Hannah’s surgeon had operated, the risk to her health would have been great; a bit of the blood clot could’ve broken off and travelled to Hannah’s lungs or brain. So Hannah had to wait three weeks until the clot dissipated before she could have surgery. Once she had her surgery, the treatment continued.
“I stayed on blood thinning tablets called Warfarin and injecting myself twice a day with Clexane to stop blood clots forming,” she said.
After A Current Affair aired a segment about a fit and healthy young women who suffered from a blood clot that doctors believed to be linked to the contraceptive pill they were taking, Bayer made a statement saying: “Based on a thorough assessment of the available scientific data by regulatory authorities, external independent experts and Bayer scientists, the benefits of combined oral contraceptive outweigh the risks when used as directed for the vast majority of combined oral contraceptive users.”
Dr Murphy said it’s possible to reduce the risk of a blood clot. You should get lots of exercise, stay as close to your ideal body weight as you can, and of course, don’t smoke cigarettes.
Before changing your Pill or going on or off it, always consult your doctor. “The key thing is not to be afraid of taking birth control pills, but have your antennae heightened,” Dr Murphy said.
“I am never allowed to go on the Pill again. I also have to take precautions when I fly – I take Aspirin a couple of days before, always wear flight socks and sit in the aisle so I can walk every hour,” Hannah said. “But I don’t mind. I think if I was allowed to go back on it, I probably wouldn’t anyway.” – Kyanah Lawson
Top photo from Environmental Illness Network’s Flickr Photostream.
*Names changed for privacy.