There have been a lot of headlines in the news recently about the risks of birth control pills, and increased dangers of blood clots. It’s not always made clear right away in these articles that these concerns are limited to a particular kind of hormone, not all birth control pills.
Here’s the deal: most birth control pills on the market contain both estrogen and progesterone. There are several different kinds of synthetic progesterone on the market, and the kind used in the pill varies between brands. Yasmin, Yaz, and their generics use drospirenone. It is this hormone that the FDA is currently concerned about, as there is recent evidence that the risk of forming blood clots, a potentially fatal side effect, is slightly higher on this medication than others. Just a week ago the FDA voted 21-5 that the labels for these medications should be updated to include more information about the risks; however, the pills will be kept on the market. Other, older birth control pills are not under investigation by the FDA as neither their effectiveness nor their safety has been called into question. Bloomberg at Businessweek did a small survey and found that many doctors are still choosing to prescribe Yasmin and Yaz, as the risk of blood clots is still very small and they have patients who are happy on the medication. It is important to note that on any birth control pill the risk of forming a blood clot is minuscule, especially for non-smokers under 35; in fact “the most recent study by the FDA found women taking Yasmin had a 75 percent higher chance of suffering a blood clot than patients taking a combination of older drugs. The absolute risk of a blood clot is still far less than a fraction of a percent”…It’s also been noted that some “studies suggest that 10 in 10,000 women taking the newer birth control pills will experience a blood clot, compared with 20 in 10,000 women who are pregnant or have just given birth.”
Overall, the birth control pill is still a safe and effective option for most women. If you are on a birth control method or need one and are concerned about your health risks, please talk to your health care provider. You can also find good information about your birth control choices, their effectiveness and their risks at Planned Parenthood or Bedsider.