27 Investigates

First News anchor opens up about her struggle with a common medication

27 INVESTIGATES: The Risks of Birth Control & De-Bunking Myths

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) - Local doctors say the majority of women are on some type of birth control, but many may not realize the side effects it can have on their bodies.

WKBN 27 First News dug into the risks and benefits to keep you safe.

Contraceptives can have positive results, like clearing up your skin and cutting down on menstrual pain. But it also runs the risk of creating blood clots.

Overall, the chance of it happening to you is low, but Dr.Jenna Fluegge, with Steward Medical Group, says there are certain people who may run a higher risk.

“If women have a known clotting disorder, there are certain things we can and can’t use. Women who smoke, particularly if they are over 35, they’re at a much higher risk of developing DVT – obesity can play a role,” Fluegge said.

For these women, non-hormonal options like the copper IUD could be an alternative. Fluegge says it's best to talk to your doctor to figure out the best route for you.

First News anchor Chelsea Spears explains her scare with oral contraceptives: 

Take me, for instance. I'm seemingly healthy, but this summer I started having severe chest pain and a hard time breathing. Eventually, I ended up in the E.R. only to be told the pill had given me not one but two blood clots in my lungs," she said. " I was lucky. I didn't have a stroke or heart attack. Three months of blood thinners and the clots were gone."

Dr. Fluegge answers some common questions about birth control: 

Q: What is the most effective type of birth control? 
A: Intrauterine Devices (IUDs) and Non-Uterine Implants (in arm) work the best at preventing pregnancy, according to Fluegge. The shot, vaginal ring, pills, and patch work "pretty well." Options that "don't work as well" include condoms, other barrier methods, withdrawal, and fertility awareness. Fluegge says you should talk to your doctor or health care provider about the best option for you.

Q: Will I gain weight as a result of taking birth control?
A: "One of the main things that women always ask about is weight gain," Fluegge said. "That's kind of a concern for a lot of women of reproductive age and that actually hasn't even been shown to be a consistent side effect."

Q: What are the benefits to birth control? 
A: Fluegge says birth control can help your cycles become more regular, reduce the pain associated with cycles including cramping, cut down on pain with endometriosis, and make blood flow lighter. Fluegge also says there are studies showing a decreased risk in ovarian and endometrial cancer with being on a hormonal contraceptive.

Q: What are the risks or potential negative side effects? 
A: Some of the initial side effects include things like bloating, breast tenderness or changes in menstrual cycle, Fluegge says. There's also the risk of Venus Thromboembolis (VTE), Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), or Pulmonary Embolism (PE), which are all types of blood clots.

Q: How likely is it to happen to me?
A: Fluegge says women who are not taking contraception run a lower risk of developing a blood clot, about 2-4 women out of every 10,000 cases develop some type of blood clot. It's about twice as high of a risk for women on birth control, about 7 out of every 10,000 cases. 

Fluegge went on to say, "The absolute risk is still very low, and the risk of actually developing a blood clot during pregnancy and in the immediate post-partum state is actually much higher than being on contraception."

Q: Am I at risk for blood clots? 
A: If you have a known blood clotting disorder, smoke, are over the age of 35 or are obese, Fluegge says you run a greater risk of developing a blood clot with contraception.

Q: What are the symptoms of blood clots?
A: Fluegge says tenderness, warmth or pain in the leg, particularly in the calf or behind the knee are signs of a DVT. Chest discomfort, shortness of breath, and difficulty breathing are all signs of a PE.

Q: I've been on birth control for so long. Will I have trouble getting pregnant?
A: "Some women actually come to me and say, 'I've been on birth control for this many years, now I want to get pregnant. Will I still be able to?'" Fluegge recalled. "The majority of women do resume normal menstrual cycles and fertility and are able to become pregnant within about 90 days or 3 months of stopping a birth control pill."

Q: What types of birth control are there?
A: Fluegge listed several options: The combined oral contraceptive pill, an IUD, an implant, patches, and an injectable birth control. She says your health care provider can discuss your medical conditions, history of birth control and your plan for the future to help you find the best option for you.

Q: Knowing the potential side effects of birth control, what would you recommend? 
A: "Overall, being on birth control - the benefits far outweigh all the risks," Fluegge said. "It's something to speak to your medical provider about, and I'm sure there's a form that would be right for you."


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