Vicky Spratt | Deputy Editor | Monday, 25 January 2016

the pill

Is Taking The Pill Putting Women At Risk?

The Debrief: Just how safe is the contraceptive pill? Is it time to reconider our options?

Sophie Murray’s mother found her collapsed at their family home in Accrington last November.

Sophie, 16, had fallen ill in September, suffering from severe chest pains and breathing difficulties. A year after being prescribed microgynon, one of the many varieties of contraceptive pill available in the UK.

Last week, an inquest at Blackburn Coroner’s Court heard, that at one point the difficulties she was experiencing were so serious that she was unable to walk upstairs.

The inquest heard that there around 10,000 women currently taking the combined pill, and that 6 in 10,000 of them were at risk of blot clots, compared to 2 in 10,000 of women not taking it.

Sophie’s mother told the inquest that her GP had given a preliminary diagnosis of ‘exercise-induced asthma’, ordered tests to confirm this and, later, prescribed an inhaler. Her mother also told the inquest that she was otherwise healthy and had had no previous health problems.

The NHS lists one of the possible side effects of the oestrogen in the combined pill as being an increased risk of thrombosis, or blood clots.

Last year Fallan Kurek, a 21 year-old from Tamworth in Staffordshire, also died from a fatal blood clot after taking Rigevidon, another form of combined oral contraceptive pill.

Now, while it's important to stress that cases like Fallan or Sophie’s are, relatively speaking, compared to the number of women currently taking the combined contraceptive pill, rare, that doesn’t mean they don’t raise serious questions. Just how safe is the pill? That tiny, sugar coated, contraceptive that many of us take, on autopilot, as part of our routines for a wide range of reasons, primarily to prevent unwanted pregnancy but also to regulate periods or clear up bad skin.

Indeed, new study, published in the British Medical Journal, shows that more than a million women are at increased risk of developing a life-threatening blood clot because they are taking ‘second generation’ (newer forms) of the contraceptive pill, like Marvelon, Yasmin of Femodene.

The pill, undoubtedly, was a revolutionary scientific advancement for women. But, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have drawbacks and downsides, ranging from relatively more minor problems like bigger, more painful boobs, to unwanted weight gain and mood swings (which feel anything but minor if you’re experiencing them, I know). Tragic loses of life, like Fallan or Sophie’s, show us that the pill can also pose bigger problems and can make you help but wonder whether GPs are asking the right questions.

If you’re not happy with your pill, or you have any concerns about it speak to your GP. There are also plenty of other methods of contraception available which you can check out if you want to avoid hormonal contraception all together; we’ve listed eleven of them here.

You might also be interested in:

How Safe Is Your Contraceptive Pill?

Male Contraception? Only One In Ten Men Would Use It

14 Things Every British Woman Should Know About Having An Abortion

Follow Vicky on Twitter @Victoria_Spratt

Tags: Health, Contraception