Nelson Pill Hearings

Birth Control and Blood Clots: Where Do We Go from Here?

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When I was 28 years old, I had a massive stroke (a cerebral venous thrombosis in the sagittal sinus area) from a combination of birth control pills and a fairly common clotting disorder, Factor V Leiden. You can read my story here (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3).

As I mentioned in a previous article, I’ve recently been contacted by an amazing group of people who are making it their mission to research and share information about the safety of hormonal birth control and other women’s health issues. In looking for answers about her daughter’s death from the Nuva-Ring, Dru West came across my thesis online and contacted me about my research. After a series of equally serendipitous events, I was then invited to be part of a research team who will further study blood clots and hormonal birth control. I’m embarking on this journey to share what I find—the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’m embarking on this journey with the hope that we can prevent what happened to me from happening to other women. I’m embarking on this journey for the countless women who lost their lives by taking these drugs for birth control, for irregular periods, for acne, or the myriad other reasons for which they have been prescribed.

My role in this project includes sharing my own story, the research from my thesis, and combing through 1500 pages of congressional testimony from the 1970 hearings about birth control pills. These documents, the Nelson Pill Hearings, have been fascinating and overwhelming. And more than anything they’ve made me want to know more. I want to find out what was known about hormonal birth control back then and how the research has or hasn’t changed since. I want to know why synthetic estrogen was banned in chickens because it caused cancer in animals at the same time it was approved for women (at 100,000 times the quantity). I also want to understand why no women were allowed to testify at these hearings (they were kicked out). And I can’t wait to share what I find with you.

Like so many issues, women’s healthcare is complicated and multi-faceted. And I plan to explore all the possible strings tied up in this knot. Starting with the research from my thesis, I’ll be writing pieces about risk communication, clotting disorders, what women really know, and what they need to know. I’ll be sharing what I find in the Nelson Pill Hearings. And I’ll be investigating other women’s health issues as they come up, or as you bring them to my attention. At times I may get angry, I may get snarky, I may get overwhelmed. But I promise I will try to be as thorough, honest, and real as I can. We may be a small community—those of us who know there are far more dangers in these drugs than the pharmaceutical companies want us to believe—but we are smart and we are strong. And when we all come together to share knowledge, we are powerful. I hope that you will join me on this journey. Unlike corporations who have no problem putting a dollar value on the life of a person, I believe that if we can save just one woman from what happened to Julia, to Brittany Malone, to Erika Langhart and so many others, then all of this work will be worth it.

Real Risk Study: Birth Control and Blood Clots

Lucine Health Sciences and Hormones Matter are conducting research to investigate the relationship between hormonal birth control and blood clots. If you or a loved one have suffered from a blood clot while using hormonal birth control, please consider participating. We are also looking for participants who have been using hormonal birth control for at least one year and have NOT had a blood clot, as well as women who have NEVER used hormonal birth control. For more information or to participate, click here.

Kerry Gretchen is a researcher, writer, stroke survivor, and a women's health advocate. She has a master's degree in communication from Clemson University, with a research focus on blood clots and hormonal birth control. When not conducting research or writing about women's health issues, she can be found teaching at the College of Charleston.

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