My Birth Control Gave Me A Blood Clot – Yes, It Can Really Happen
This article was written by The Zillennial Zine’s editor in chief Sabrina Grimaldi. Find her on Instagram at @sabrinamgrimaldi. If you would like to share an article with The Zillennial, send us an email at email@example.com.
I woke up in the middle of the night to sharp chest pains. Mind you, I’m the type of person who can sleep through just about anything. One time, I slept through my roof being redone. Seriously, I’m a heavy sleeper. However, this night, I woke up to a sharp pain in my left side, every time I took a deep breath. The pain moved around from my lower back, to my upper shoulder, to my ribs, but stayed on the left side. I took some meds and waited it out until morning then headed to Urgent Care as soon as they opened. They told me I had pulled a muscle – hey, I had been going to a bunch of workout classes, maybe I had?! And I went home with a prescription for ibuprofen. Until over a month later, my left leg turned purple and got so swollen I could barely walk. What happened to me? My birth control caused a blood clot. This is my story.
What are the chances of a birth control blood clot?
WebMD states that blood clots due to the pill are rare – 0.3% to 1% over 10 years for a woman on the pill (around 10 in 10,000 people). I personally was on the pill for just about 6 years when I got one, but if this is really the case – why does it seem so common? Stats are skewed all over, with some stating that it’s closer to 1 in 3,000 and some saying 10 in 10,000 people.
Either way, it happened to me. And it could happen to you, too. I am not a medical professional – however, I did think it would be helpful to share my story. I posted this TikTok explaining my story and so many women commented and shared their stories. Stories of blood clots in their lungs, stories of blood clots that caused strokes, and blood clots in the legs. These stories baffled me and surprised me so much because besides the “birth control may cause heart attack, stroke, blood clots, and liver tumors” disclaimers, I had never heard anyone warn me of this.
How does this happen? Birth control pills that contain estrogen can cause higher risks of blood clots. But hey, lucky us, there hasn’t been a ton of research on this, infact – “Dr. Brant says doctors are still trying to understand the link between hormonal birth control and blood clots,” according to Cleveland Clinic. Apparently, it is thought that “estrogen influences the way that the liver makes those pro-clotting factors.”
So – we’re not sure exactly why it occurs, just that it can. And I’m telling you, it does.
As mentioned, I had severe chest pain in late April. I went to Urgent Care to check it out and they did an X-Ray, which came back OK. This was because you can’t see blood clots with an X-Ray, only an ultrasound or CT scan. They told me that I must have pulled something and that I had costochondritis, the “inflammation of the cartilage that joins your ribs to your breastbone.” They gave me a prescription for stronger ibuprofen and told me to take it easy – I had been trying out new workout classes in my area. So, I did. Until late May.
It was a Tuesday at the end of May. My little sister was graduating eighth grade and that morning and I woke up with a strange pain in my left leg. It felt like I had pulled something, or like I had a problem with my sciatic nerve. I threw my yoga mat and stretched as much as I could. My husband I and went to my sister’s graduation and then we all went to Olive Garden after. I ate so much – thank goodness. After eating, I headed to the bathroom and when I sat down, I noticed that my left leg was turning purple and getting bigger. I headed back to the table and told my family and my mom had urged me to rush to the ER. (Side note: My mom had also had a blood clot due to her birth control when about ten years ago, so when she saw my leg, she knew what was happening).
My husband and I headed out, straight to the ER and got there around 3. As time went on, my leg got bigger and bigger and more and more purple. It hurt like hell to walk on it, so they got me a wheelchair while I waited. They did an ultrasound on my leg, took my blood and we waited. It wasn’t until 10 p.m. that we got a room in the ER and it wasn’t until midnight that they had finally confirmed that I was having a blood clot. But then they also told me I also had a blood clot in BOTH of my lungs (pulmonary embolism). It wasn’t until 1 a.m. that I got a room in the hospital.
For the next three days, I was hooked up to an IV of blood thinner, so they could see if it would help or if I would need to go into surgery so they could “scrape it out.” Real quote, I swear. I had an IV in the crease of both of my arms so I couldn’t bend them to eat or type or even scroll on my phone. There were two whole days where I just had to sit around and do nothing as we waited for the blood thinner to take charge. It wasn’t until Thursday that I was discharged and could go home. Still, walking hurt. My leg was still big and purple but a little better than it had been. My lungs hurt a little, but I could breathe fine. It took me two weeks to feel comfortable walking long distances and just now, I feel 100% back to normal.
My New Normal
Since I left the hospital, I have had to take blood thinners twice a day. It’s almost been three months, and I have an appointment next week to see if I can get off or if I have to keep taking them. Since birth control was the culprit, I had to stop taking it immediately, which messed up my cycle. The doctor said I could talk to someone about what birth control plans I can be on but I declined – I feel terrified to put anything into my body, I’ll just use rubbers.
Another side effect I wasn’t expecting was how heavy my periods are on blood thinners. None of my doctors warned me about this, and for someone who usually had a light/medium flow, I was blown away by how horribly heavy they have become. Yay, me!
I go to the doctor on Monday to see if I can stop taking the blood thinner or if I’ll have to continue, but this is something that will impact me forever. Please share your story below, let’s spread the word! I am not a medical professional (so don’t take any of this as medical advice). I didn’t write this article to scare anyone, but I thought it would be important to share my story. Just another piece of what it’s like to be a woman.
Have you experienced a birth control blood clot? Tell us your story in the comments below!