I didn’t know there was a difference in the level of dangerous side-effects when taking newer vs older birth control pills. I assumed newer pills would be safer. I was wrong.
A Danish study published in the British Medical Journal in 2011 (as reported by France 24) found newer pills were twice as likely to cause venous thromboembolism (blood clots). If you choose to take a 3rd or 4th generation pill instead of using a birth control method like condoms, you are three to six times more likely to get a potentially lethal blood clot.
There are four generations of birth control pills. Pills which were introduced in the 1990s are called 3rd generation, and in the 2000s are called 4th generation. And yes, Yasmin, Yaz, Beyaz, and Safyral are included on this list. Bayer, which makes the Yasmin and Yaz contraceptives, said it had spent $750 million last year to settle nearly 3,500 lawsuits for alleged deep-vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism.
Up to 2 million women in France are taking 3rd or 4th generation pills. When the story of Marion Larat broke out, it shook women up in France. As a teenager, she was left 65% handicapped by a stroke caused by one of the later-generation pills. It’s expected that 30 other women will also be filing suit.
The French Health Minister, Marisol Touraine, demanded that the EMA “modify its market authorization” for newer third and fourth generation pills, which carry a higher risk of blood clots, to ensure they will not be prescribed as a first option. The EMA licenses drugs in the UK and Europe. The EMA doesn’t believe there is any evidence of safety problems with contraceptives on the market.
The Agence nationale de sécurité du médicament (ANSM) believes doctors are over-prescribing 3rd and 4th generation pills and wants doctors to prescribe them only in specific circumstances – never as a first option.
Even though the FDA announced the risk of a blood clot from one of these pills is lower than when pregnant or giving birth, it should still concern us. Many women are on the pill for years, while a pregnancy only lasts 9 months. The Independent reported:
“Third generation pills are known to carry a slightly higher risk of blood clots (25 per 100,000 women per year) than second generation (15 per 100,000). For fourth generation pills the risk is higher still. But pregnancy carries a risk of 60 per 100,000.”
I’ve been on and off the pill for 10 years. I remember when it was first introduced to me by a doctor. He rushed through the risks, telling me they were nothing – that they were so rare, I’d be fine. Ever since then, I paid no attention to them. After reading the story about Marion Larat, I feel lucky.
The choice to go on the pill is a very personal decision. For some women, the risk of a blood clot or other side effect is less disastrous than getting pregnant (whether for medical or emotional reasons). I’m fortunate to be in the position where if I was to get pregnant by accident in the future, it’s okay. I’m going to think twice about taking the pill again. Even if the risk of a blood clot is low, I’d rather get pregnant. However, if we reach four kids, my husband will probably hide a pill each night in my dessert.
France heaps pressure on newer birth control pills – France 24
EU agency backs Pill after France blood clot scare – The Independent
Pilule : Marion Larat, l’injustice transformée en combat – Le Monde (French)
Marion, 25 ans, handicapée à 65% à cause de sa pilule – L’Express (French)