Blood clots, strokes, and heart attacks: the serious negative side effects of hormonal contraceptives are undeniable.
Last month saw the release of a new study that makes the connection, not for the first time, between newer birth control pills
and the risk of serious injury or death. Researchers from the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom revealed that a woman using a brand of oral contraceptive
with a more recently created formulation has 4 times the risk of developing a blood clot when compared to a woman who is not taking any brand of birth control pills. These pills contain newer synthetic progestins
with the names drospirenone, desogestrel, gestodene, and cyproterone. Women using older formulations with older progestins still have a risk that is 2.5 times the risk of non-users. Even when the researchers took into account other contributing factors such as obesity and smoking, the connection was still stark.
New formulations of the birth control pill are created partly in response to the side effects experienced with older types, but also partly so that new patents can be purchased, allowing for the higher profits of bringing "new," "improved," and often more expensive products, to the marke
t. This study may be new evidence, but it's not exactly "news". The makers of the drospirenone-containing Yaz and Yasmin brands, which were the top selling oral contraceptives for some time, have had to settle thousands of cases of women injured or killed by deep vein thrombosis
, pulmonary embolism
, strokes and heart attacks out of court, with a cost of $1.7 billion dollars.
Those in the media that report these findings are often accused of scare mongering. Women are encouraged to keep taking the pills, consult with their doctor, and then ask about switching brands to lower, but not remove, the risk. These days we also see the suggestion that women should instead use the hormonal IUD device, implant or the shot. However, all of these other delivery systems hold their own set of side effects and risks. The blood clot risk might not be as high, but the danger to a woman's health and wellbeing does not disappear when we replace one hormonal contraceptive with another