Dangers of the Pill with Briana Berg

My posts for Genuine Joy usually center around celebrations: which bottle of bubbly to pop at midnight or which wine will impress your guests more at your next dinner party. Today, I’m putting cocktails to the side to talk about a more important issue: your health.

A few Saturday’s ago I woke up with chest pain. As a healthy 24-year-old girl who does yoga and eats kale, I thought nothing of it. On Monday I still wasn’t better. A trip to the doctor confirmed bronchitis and pleurisy (inflammation in your lungs), and I was sent home. The next morning I was in so much pain I could barely move. To make matters worse, I passed out on my way to the kitchen to grab some Advil.

I contemplated going to the ER, but thought I was being a sissy. What healthy girl has chest pain? I was almost embarrassed. I reluctantly went in and within hours I was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism, or in layman’s terms, a blood clot in my left lung.

Everyone involved in my diagnosis was beyond surprised, and during my stay in the hospital I had over 8 different doctors visit me to chat about my condition. What would cause this to happen in a young and healthy girl? This Vanity Fair article, coincidentally out this month, dives into the topic a little more. Just a warning, it’s pretty frightening.

After a battery of tests, the doctors ruled the culprit as none other than my birth control. The very drug I was taking to avoid an unpleasant (for the moment) situation caused an even more disturbing one. To make matters worse, one of the doctors concluded that my reactions and symptoms to birth control weren’t normal and an OBGYN should have caught on years ago.

I was floored. How could this happen to me? They made me throw out my birth control at the hospital with a promise to never take it again. It’s been almost two weeks since I’ve stopped taking the medicine, and I seriously feel like a different person. Truly, I am lucky.

There is no doubt in mind that birth control is a lifesaving drug for some, and its benefits go on and on. But more and more, young girls are dying as a result of something that could have been caught. A mandatory blood test would catch any deficiencies or genetic propensities to clotting that a girl has. Those expensive tests, however, aren’t covered if you don’t have a reason to be tested for them. But ask your OBGYN anyway. Don’t just settle for, “it won’t happen to you.” Take my advice, it could.  

In a sense, this post is about a celebration. I am alive and will be fine! And hopefully, someone will read this and think about their birth control options. Talk to your OBGYN, and don’t be afraid to question them. Do your research. If you think something is wrong, ask a doctor and get it checked out. There are too many moments ahead awaiting a celebration; you don’t want to miss them!

-- Briana Berg