“I’m so glad to see you. I didn’t think you were going to make it,” said the doctor to Kerry Gomer two weeks after her hospitalization.
Kerry’s story needs to be shared: after being on the Pill for ten years, she woke up one day with headache that never went away. Then she felt sharp pain on her left thigh. Over the span of a month, she reported these symptoms to several medical professionals (including a chiropractor, a general doctor, an OBGYN, and a two different ER doctors), yet none of them suspected what was going on, and only prescribed medications to alleviate her symptoms. It was finally a pharmacist who told her about the risks of blood clot caused by the Pill. It was too late. The next morning she experienced a massive seizure and was saved only by her husband of one year who helped get her to ER. She was having a stroke at the young age of 28. She barely survived it.
I first heard of Kerry from my friend Karen Langhart whose daughter Erika died at the age of 24 from a pulmonary embolism caused by the Nuvaring. Again, blood clots caused by hormonal birth control going undetected. Karen sent me a copy of the master’s thesis Kerry wrote three years after her stroke. Kerry is a bright young woman, with a fighting spirit and amazing courage. Her thesis is at the same time a touching account of her story and a solid analysis of the failure of the medical and pharmaceutical industries to warn women properly about the risks caused by hormonal contraceptives.
What caused the stroke?
In her article series published last month, Kerry documents that it was caused by the birth control she was taking. The other important factor that all women need to know is that she has a fairly common clotting disorder, Factor V Leiden.
More prevalent among people of European ancestry, about 5% (1 out of 20) of white women have Factor V Leiden. In the United States, approximately 1-2% (1 in 100 to 1 in 50) of African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans also have the mutation. Factor V Leiden is a congenital blood condition that increases the chance of blood clot by 30 to 100 times for women who are on contraceptives.
The tragedy is that women are not tested for it. It’s not talked about. And then physicians don’t always recognize the symptoms in young women, which can mean a death sentence or a serious accident that will result in a painful and slow recovery and an increased risk for the rest of your life. 25-35% of stroke victims suffer a second one.
A public health issue
In my own country, France, there was an outcry concerning the number of death and cardio-vascular accidents caused by the Pill in 2012. The government studied the situation and found that contraceptive pills were responsible for 2,529 cases of deep venous thrombosis, a blood clot that travels to the lungs and blocks the respiratory system. The reality, according to the association founded by another stroke victim, Marion Larat(1), is that in France alone over 1,000 women die every year from a pulmonary embolism caused by the Pill. The French healthcare insurance system stopped reimbursing the third generation of oral contraceptives as a result, and discouraged physicians from prescribing it.
A call for action
Women all over the world need to be informed of these risks and take the appropriate precautions. Everyone can help. Here is what you can do:
- If you’re on the Pill, make sure to get a blood test for Factor V Leiden risk (2). Learn the sign of blood clots and strokes. Consider alternative options of family planning.
- If you know women who are on the Pill, share this article, so that they will be informed.
- If you have experienced symptoms from hormonal contraceptive, consider joining the study launched by Lucine Health Science to better understand the risks factors from blood clots and other side-effects of the Pill.
Blood clots, pulmonary embolisms, and strokes are tragic even if the victim survives. The recovery can be gruesome and the person is impacted for life.
Be aware, make wise choices, spread the word, and help others.
(1) Marion Larat was 18 when she suffered a massive stroke from the pill she was taking. After three days in a coma, she woke up half paralyzed. It took nine surgical operations and months of rehabilitation for her to be able to walk and speak again. When she understood the cause of the accident, she decided to alert other women and wrote a book. In 2012, her story appeared in Le Monde and other French media. The ensuing outcry triggered a major change in policy by the French government concerning 3rd- and 4th-generation pills. The battle goes on with a lawsuit to bring Bayer, the manufacturer, to compensate the thousand of victims for neglecting to properly inform patients of the enormous risks of blood clots.
(2) Not only women who suffer from the Factor V Leiden risk having a blood clot caused by the pill. Annie Ammons, who most likely didn’t have the blood disorder, died suddenly in her sleep from taking Bayer’s famous contraceptive pill Yaz, at the age of 35. Her autopsy showed that a microscopic heart attack had occurred several days before her death. Her whole story is told at www.letterstoannie.org. We do recommend all women to stay off the pill for this reason.