Oral contraceptives, or birth control pills, have been widely used since the 1960s. When taken as directed, birth control pills are one of the most effective means of preventing pregnancy. The hormones in birth control pills “trick” the woman’s body into thinking it’s already pregnant. While all oral contraceptives carry side effects, birth control pills containing drospirenone and ethinyl estradiol, including Yaz and Yasmin, have been linked to particularly dangerous complications, including deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
DVT is a deadly blood clot that forms in the deep veins of the body, mainly in the legs. Birth control pills that contain drospirenone and ethinyl estradiol hormones are much more likely to cause DVT than birth control pills that do not contain this synthetic form of progesterone. If you or a loved one is currently taking drospirenone birth control pills, the following information may be helpful.
Which Birth Control Pills Contain Drospirenone/Ethinyl Estradiol?
A number of popular birth control pills contain dorspirenone/ethinyl estradiol hormones, including:
The FDA has issued warnings to advise the public that these birth control pills have resulted in a higher number of serious complications and even death.
Cardiovascular Risks of Drospirenone/Ethinyl Estradiol Birth Control Pills
While all oral birth control pills have risks, FDA funded studies have shown that adverse cardiovascular events can occur three times as often with drospirenone/ethinyl estradiol drugs than with other birth control pills. Other published studies show up to a seven-fold increase in incidences of blood clots among Yaz, Yasmin, Beyaz, and other drospirenone birth control pills.
Drospirenone/ethinyl estradiol hormones can cause deep vein thrombosis (DVT), stroke, heart attack and pulmonary embolism because they incite hyper-coagulation, or excessive blood clotting. DVT can result in interrupted blood circulation and lack of oxygen to the affected leg. If the blood clot breaks loose, it can travel to the lung, resulting in a life-threatening pulmonary embolism. If not treated promptly, DVT and pulmonary embolism can lead to circulatory collapse and sudden death.
What Are the Symptoms of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)?
About half of those with DVT will not experience symptoms right away. However, if detectable, DVT symptoms (in the leg) include:
- Redness or discoloration
- Pain, especially when standing or walking
If the blood clot has moved into the lung causing pulmonary embolism, the symptoms are much more serious. They include:
- Shortness of breath
- Coughing up blood or bloody “foam”
- Sharp chest pain
- Fast heartbeat
If you notice any evidence of DVT, you should call you doctor for guidance. If you experience symptoms of pulmonary embolism, you should call 911 immediately. Do not try to drive yourself to the hospital.
How is DVT from Birth Control Diagnosed and Treated?
After a physical examination, the doctor may perform a variety of tests to diagnose DVT. An ultrasound of the area, blood testing for D-Dimer to measure clotting, a CT scan, an MRI, and a venography x-ray may be used to find out if deep vein thrombosis is present.
Treatment for DVT from birth control includes blood thinning medications like warfarin or heparin. In some cases, the patient may be required to take these medications on a long-term basis. For stubborn clots, “clot busters” or thrombolytics can be given through an IV. If these DVT medications are not appropriate, the clot can be removed surgically, or a filter can be inserted into a large artery in the torso to stop clots from moving into the lung.
Bayer, the manufacturer of Yasmin and Yaz, has been ordered by the FDA to correct misleading advertisements that downplayed the risks associated with Yaz. In addition, the FDA required that Bayer change Yaz labeling in order to highlight the serious risks and complications associated with the drug. So far, Bayer and other birth control manufacturers have paid out settlements that total one billion dollars to the victims of birth control complications.