Death by Birth Control: An Unacceptable Risk
Last month, 23 young women died because of complications with their birth control pills. The culprit? Yaz and Yasmin.
You’re probably not surprised by this information because this isn’t the first time the risky nature of these new generation birth control pills has hit the media. As of February of this year, nearly 10,000 lawsuits against Bayer — Yaz and Yasmin’s parent company — are still pending, and around 1,200 claims remain unfiled. The company has promised to pay $24 million to patients who have suffered complications with their gallbladder and are anticipating even more lawsuits because of other treacherous side effects, such as pulmonary embolisms, deep-vein thrombosis or other blood clot related injuries.
Yaz and Yasmin are relatively new pills, hitting the market in this millennium, and they tout all sorts of new and desirable effects. Yaz, particularly, can help with symptoms of PMDD including bloating, weight gain, fatigue, depression and anxiety. Plus, it has been approved to treat acne.
However, is the risk worth the reward with these pills?
The truth is that all birth control pills — and, in fact, any hormonal birth control from rings to patches to shots — carry risks of blood clots. According to Ms. Magazine:
For most users, this is a minor concern, affecting approximately six of every 10,000 pill users. For users of new-generation pills — that is, pills containing drospirenone, the fourth-generation synthetic progesterone found in Yaz, Yasmin, Ocella and several other brands — the risk jumps to ten of every 10,000 users, although Bayer maintains that their own clinical studies find the risk comparable to older pills. Note, however, that the risk in most of these studies is compared either to other hormonal contraceptives or to pregnancy, not to using effective non-hormonal contraception.
Some might argue that Yaz and Yasmin are getting a bad rap because they are new to the market and most drugs go through a phase where people want to sue over undesirable side effects. However, how many more young women need to die before we realize that there might be some serious complications with these pills? Even more dangerous is the fact that some professional associations of OBGYNs are actually defending the drugs, saying that the deaths of these young women could have been caused by other complications such as diabetes or PCOS – the latter is a condition that Yaz and Yasmin are actually purported to help manage – which both include a higher risk of blood clots, as well. When you think about it, though, should someone with a condition that already puts her at a higher risk of blood clots be on a pill that could increase the risk of blood clots even further? I’m not a doctor, but I’d venture to say that’s something we should be looking into.
As a profession, doctors are fond of giving people pills to help them manage something unwanted; in this case, that is pregnancy or the side effects of hormones such as acne, heavy periods, anxiety, etc. However, there are other options for women who do not want to mess with their hormones or who do not want to take the risk of these horrible side effects. If you feel something isn’t right with your birth control, or if you feel you need a change, talk to your doctor and ask about your options.
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