My experience with blood clots started in 1980 as a 16 year old after Family Planning recommended the pill to me. At the time, I played sport – sailing and ice-hockey, was lean and fit, didn’t drink alcohol nor smoke. I grew up eating mostly home-cooked meals; no junk food or soft drinks.
Within 6 months of going on the pill the only obvious side-effects were weight gain and possibly the migraine headaches that I would sometimes get. Then, at some point, I had leg pain that felt like muscle cramping. I didn’t think or know that this was a side-effect of the pill. I don’t remember being advised about this as a known problem with the pill.
Calf Cramp or Blood Clots?
My right calf muscle would seize with pain and feel very tender. I couldn’t flex my ankle and it became difficult to walk up and down stairs. The pain grew worse over the following few weeks, so mum and I went to the hospital. The doctors in the ER insisted I had pulled a muscle, even though I was certain I had not. At the same time the doctors suggested I return if I felt tingling or if my foot felt cold.
I returned the next day with a cold foot. Again, the doctors measured my calf muscles with no difference between the painful leg and the other leg. A student doctor suspected deep vein thrombosis and after much debate with other doctors, ordered a venogram for the next morning. I was admitted to the hospital. The result was positive and I was bed-bound in hospital for twelve days while taking heparin and warfarin.
While I was in hospital, another teenage girl arrived in my ward. She was flown to Sydney by helicopter from Mudgee with the clots under her upper arm.
Six years later in 1986, after trying several other contraceptive devices, like the diaphragm which popped out of place when I moved, family planning suggested that I go on the ‘mini pill’ as it was a very low dose. After some time, I don’t remember how long, I had the same leg pain, in the same calf muscle.
I knew what it was. After two weeks of hoping it would go away, I went to the hospital ER closest to where I lived. The registrar there would have none of it, even with my history, and refused to check using venogram. Again, there were no visual signs of a blood clot. Just the pain.
So, I traveled over an hour on a train to go to the hospital where I was previously treated. They admitted me straight away and performed a venogram the next morning. The treatment was the same as before.
I’ve not used chemical contraceptives since then. I found naturopath Francesca Naish and followed her natural fertility management program for the rest of my fertile life. I have never had any further issues with blood clotting, even with two pregnancies.
Because of this history, the obstetricians tried to label me as a high-risk pregnancy when I was pregnant, prohibiting me from a natural birth in the birthing centre. After I strongly insisted, they signed me off. I agreed to take a shot of anticoagulant when my baby was born. I had no sign of clots during either of my two pregnancies and delivered both naturally, without pain medication.
I realize I was a very lucky woman.
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.
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