Woman's horrifying ordeal after birth control leads to brain clot: 'Be aware'

A woman has discovered a blood clot in her brain after enduring headaches and "pounding migraines" – and it's all because of the contraceptive pill she had been taking for two years.

Sydney, from the US, shared a video of her sitting in a hospital bed, detailing how it all started with a headache that turned into a migraine, sweating and then getting chills.

After going to urgent care and getting a cortisone shot, Sydney woke up from a night of relief to yet another migraine.

After a couple of scans, it was revealed there was a blood clot on Sydney's brain, which was a result of her taking a birth control pill for two years.

The video has been viewed on TikTok over 12 million times and sadly, many others could relate to the horrifying ordeal.

A woman had a blood clot on her brain that was caused by the contraceptive pill. Source: TikTok/sydneymarshall
A woman had a blood clot on her brain that was caused by the contraceptive pill. Source: TikTok/sydneymarshall

Speaking to Yahoo News Australia, Professor Stephen Robson from Australian National University said that given how common contraception is, it's easy to be lulled into a false sense of security.

"But it's still a complicated area and there's still got some traps and pitfalls for women," he said.

"So never just take it as sort of nice and fluffy thing. Your contraception is critically important."

Speaking to Buzzfeed News, Sydney said she does not believe birth control is dangerous for all women.

"I think there are many risks with taking it, and there are definitely some things to watch out for," she said.

"There are many pros and cons to all medicines and I think that women should just be aware of the side effects and possible cons that birth control can cause."

Are there dangers to taking the pill?

There are advantages to going on the contraceptive pill and it is not just used as an effective form of contraception.

It can help make periods more regular and less painful, reduce the risk of cancer to the ovaries, womb and colon, and reduce PMS symptoms.

However, there are some downsides to taking the pill. There are some temporary side effects people may experience, such as headaches, nausea and tenderness, and mood swings.

If temporary symptoms persist, it is generally advised people change to a different pill.

However, the pill can also lead to more long-term effects. It can increase blood pressure and has been linked to serious health conditions such as breast cancer and blood clots.

The NHS explains that estrogen in the pill can cause blood to clot more easily,

"In pill users there appears to be a very small increase in the risk of breast cancer, but this is mostly in those aged over 35 years," Dr Kathy McNamee, Medical Director of Sexual Health Victoria told Yahoo News Australia.

"There can be a small increase in the risk of cancer of the cervix, but this is unlikely to be an issue in Australia due our vaccine and cervical screening programs."

There is a small but serious risk when taking the pill as a form of contraception. Source: Getty Images, file
There is a small but serious risk when taking the pill as a form of contraception. Source: Getty Images, file

Prof Robson stressed it is important to not only identify the risks and how likely you are to be met with complications, but also why you are seeking out a certain form of contraception.

The likelihood of getting a clot is significantly higher for someone who is pregnant.

For some perspective, if you're not on the pill, the chance of you getting a clot is about one in 1000. If you're on the pill, your chances are still relatively slim and around one in 400, Prof Robson said.

"I'm not talking the potential complication down, but I'm saying to put it in perspective, it's still a low risk," he said.

He added that while the risk is very small if there was a complication associated with contraception, it is understandably a huge deal for that person.

Dr McNamee said death rates between people who take the pill and those that don't are the same.

There are people who are more at risk of thrombosis and factors such as age, weight and whether someone smokes all play a part.

Dr Kathy McNamee added that people who get a certain type of migraine should not take the pill as their risk of a stroke is higher.

There are other forms of contraception that people can look to and Prof Robson says it is so important women choose the form that is best for them and their health.

Implants can be used, as can condoms. For more permanent solutions to prevent pregnancy, vasectomies are also an option to consider.

therapist consulting to patient male patient about pills writing his medical prescription drug in the office
Patients and their doctors need to determine what form of contraception is best for them. Source: Getty Images, file

Why is contraception important?

While there are risks when taking the pill, there are risks to not using contraception at all.

"Getting pregnant when you don't want to be pregnant is a potential catastrophe for women and families," Prof Robson said.

"Missing these medical conditions [associated with higher risk] can also be potentially disastrous. So never write off contraception as just something that's simple and easy."

Engaging with your doctor is important, but it's just as important to have a doctor who will listen to you.

Prof Robson says at his practice he has heard too many stories of young women being dismissed due to issues with their contraception or menstrual cycle.

Sometimes, severe period pain or irregular cycles are a symptom for something more serious.

"If you think there's a problem, never accept a fob off, insist on a thorough evaluation and if you don't get that, find another doctor," he said.

Dr McNamee added that usually patients will be asked about their personal health, family history and medications.

"This should be checked for whenever your contraception is reviewed," she said.

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