If you are sexually active at all, chances are you are taking birth control. The tricky part is that it’s not always clear which ones are safe and which ones can harm you. The popular birth control pill Yasmin made headlines once again when a young woman in the US suffered a stroke within 13 days of beginning treatment with Yasmin. According to her lawsuit, the prescribing physician failed to take into account her increased risk of stroke, a potential consequence for taking Yasmin. She ended up receiving a $14 million settlement. The case sparked a new controversy over the safety of contraceptive pills that contain drospirenone, a progestin associated with an increased risk of thrombosis, blood clots and stroke. The debate is leaving women who are currently taking the pill confused and worried - is it safe to continue taking Yasmin or should they switch?
There are pros and cons to the pills Yasmin and Yaz. A pro would be that both pills contain the progestin drospirenone, have been found to reduce unwanted side effects such as weight gain commonly experienced with contraceptive pills. However a con would be that they have also been found to increase the risk of thrombosis and stroke to a larger extent than contraceptive pills which contain a different progesterone, such as the commonly used levonorgestrel.
To put this into perspective, a woman’s risk of suffering thrombosis while taking a contraceptive pill - including Yasmin - is still lower than during pregnancy or the weeks after giving birth. According to MHRA data, thrombosis affects one in 10000 women who are not pregnant and not taking a contraceptive pill, as opposed to 6 in 10000 women who are pregnant. For women who are in good health and are using Yasmin, this risk increases to an estimated 3 - 4 cases in 10000 each year.
While this increase in your risk for thrombosis seems relatively small, it is important to consider this when choosing a contraceptive. For women with an increased risk of thrombosis, Yasmin is not the best option. However, if there is a family history of stroke or blood clots, combined contraceptives of any kind must generally be avoided. This caution also goes for women who smoke or who are very overweight. The risk of thrombosis is known to increase with age, which is why combined contraceptives are not recommended for women who smoke and are over 35. It is important to have a consultation with a doctor before taking any hormonal contraceptive pill to assess possible risks and side effects. In some cases, women with a slightly increased risk of thrombosis can still use a contraceptive pill, provided they choose a progestin-only mini pill.
Be it Yasmin or any other contraceptive pill, choose the method that is a suitable for you according to your general health and family history. The MHRA states that there is currently “no reason” for women who are not at risk for health concerns to stop taking Yasmin or change their birth control medication. However, if you are still worried about thrombosis you could switch to a combined pill which contains levonorgestrel, the progestin assumed to cause the least significant increase in your risk of thrombosis.
Parenthood is the most rewarding job of them all. It’s something that most women look forward to their whole lives. However, more than half of all births to unmarried, 20-something women are unintentional according to the Knot Yet Report. Pregnancy and childrearing are things that you want to be completely ready for. And if you aren’t ready? No worries, MWM has got you covered. We’ve provided a rundown of the variety of options to choose from when it comes to having sex without babies.
Intrauterine contraception is a very effective method of contraception with a less than one percent fail rate. This means that for every 100 women using the device .2% of those using copper IUD and .8% of those using the Levonorgestrel IUD will become pregnant. This is a great method for those with a busy schedule, because there is nothing to remember once it is inserted.
Copper T intrauterine device (IUD) —This IUD is a small device that is shaped in the form of a “T.” Your doctor places it inside the uterus to prevent pregnancy. It can stay in your uterus for up to 10 years.
Levonorgestrel intrauterine system (LNG IUD) —The LNG IUD is a small T-shaped device like the Copper T IUD. It is placed inside the uterus by a doctor. It releases a small amount of progestin each day to keep you from getting pregnant. The LNG IUD stays in your uterus for up to five years.
Implant—The implant is a single, thin rod that is inserted under the skin of a woman’s upper arm. The rod contains a progestin that is released into the body for three years.
Pro: This highly effective method will last you awhile, so you won’t need to constantly think about birth control.
Con: There are some risks, however, including abnormal vaginal bleeding, acne and weight gain.
Injection or the "shot"—The shot is an injection of the hormone progestin in the buttocks or arm every three months.
Pros: The shot is a good option for women who want a highly effective method of contraception but don't want (or can't use) an IUD or implant, can't take estrogen, or have trouble remembering to take the pill.
Cons: You’ll need to get repeat injections and remember to get them on time in order for this method to be effective. Also, this is not a good option for women who would like to become pregnant within a year because it takes time for fertility to come back once you stop taking the shot.
Combined oral contraceptives—Also called “the pill,” combined oral contraceptives contain the hormones estrogen and progestin. This form of contraceptive is prescribed by a doctor and taken at the same time each day.
Pros: No shots, or implants required, just pop a pill. Good option for those who don’t like needles or who might want to plan a family in the near future.
Cons: This contraceptive method takes the most diligence because you must take it daily in order for it to be effective. The possibility of forgetting increases the chance of getting pregnant.
Progestin only pill—Unlike the combined pill, the progestin-only pill (sometimes called the mini-pill) only has one hormone, progestin, instead of both estrogen and progestin. It is prescribed by a doctor.
Pros: This may be a good option for women who can’t take estrogen.
Cons: Like the combined pill, it’s important to remember to take the progestin pill daily in order for it to be effective.
Patch—This skin patch is worn on the lower abdomen, buttocks, or upper body (but not on the breasts). This method is prescribed by a doctor. It releases hormones progestin and estrogen into the bloodstream. You put on a new patch once a week for three weeks. During the fourth week, you do not wear a patch, so you can have a menstrual period.
Pros: Your fertility returns right after you stop using this method. There’s also the added benefit that it can help clear up your acne.
Cons: Bleeding between periods, nausea and vomiting are common side effects.
Hormonal vaginal contraceptive ring—The ring releases the hormones progestin and estrogen. You place the ring inside your vagina. You wear the ring for three weeks, take it out for the week you have your period, and then put in a new ring.
Pros: Like the patch, fertility returns quickly when you stop using the ring and it may also help lighten your period.
Cons: Some bleeding and possible infection are some common side effects of the ring.
Why are we talking about abstinence in an article about birth control? Because not having sex is the only "foolproof" way to prevent the natural consequences of getting it on. All of the methods listed above are great for my sexually active sisters out there. But if you’re in a relationship and you have not taken it there yet, then abstinence is a great way to prevent unplanned pregnancy, STD’s and potentially unhealthy relationships.
With birth control it’s important to find the right fit that works with your body’s chemistry and your busy lifestyle. You can visit the CDC to learn more about the effectiveness of the different options or locate a women’s clinic near you.