A story on NPR today focuses on the dangers associated with newer versions of the birth control pill. In the report, the interviewers talk to women who have taken Yaz, a birth control pill that came on the market in 2006. Touted as being “beyond birth control” Yaz quickly became America’s No. 1 birth control pill. Today thousands of women are suing the manufacturer, Bayer HealthCare saying that Yaz caused them serious harm.

There have long been concerns about side effects from taking birth control pills – headaches, nausea, blurred vision, blood clots, strokes, and even death. Despite these concerns, many women have decided that the benefits outweigh the risks. Often this decision is made with the incorrect assumption that only women who are over 35 years old and/or smoke are at real risk for potential side effects.

The truth is that there’s a risk for anyone who chooses a hormonal birth control option. It may be a worthwhile risk for some women in that hormonal options are slightly more effective at preventing pregnancy than most other birth control options. But for others the potential side effects are not worth that risk.

No matter one’s contraceptive choice, it is important to understand the available research and who conducted it, to know the truth about the potential risks, and to be aware of the options. It is also prudent to be careful about taking the newest versions of pharmaceuticals where there may be unknown risks associated.

Read or listen to the NPR report here.

Posted in: Birth Control Side Effects

Tags: hormones, research on side effects, side effects, side effects of hormonal contraception, the pill, Yaz

2 comments for "How Dangerous are Birth Control Pills?"

Dianne says:

My one issue with the NPR report is that they don't give any context on the numbers. How many women are at risk for these kinds of issues 1 in a million? 1 in 10? It'd be good to have a better understanding of the magnitude of the problem.

Cycle Technologies says:

Dianne that is a great point. There are some older, but still respected and cited studies that look at "Method Related Deaths" from oral contraceptives by age. One particularly popular study shows that depending on your age, the risk of death from taking oral contraceptives can range from 0.3 per 100,000 women (age 15-19 non-smokers) to 117.2 per 100,000 women (age 40-44 smokers)- Source: H.W. Ory, Family Planning Perspectives, 15:57-63, 1983. Apparently this risk may be even greater with some of the newer oral contraceptives. We have not found much research that quantifies other serious side effects (strokes, blood clots)or the less extreme side-effects (headaches, nausea). We will look into this though and get more details soon in a future post.

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