The hidden dangers of contraceptives

We hear a lot of concerns these days about protecting women’s access to reproductive health services, including oral contraceptives. One the one hand, this matter is strictly private, between women and their healthcare practitioners, and a personal choice.

Yet, on the other hand, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, it is a public policy issue because everybody else must pay for it. Indeed, some of the debate reminds me of the old Chinese caveat, “may you get what you wished for.”

Today, I’d like to put aside the policy debate and focus on the little-known dangers associated with oral contraceptives.

First off, women who take oral contraceptives run a three-to-five times higher risk of developing blood clots compared to non-users.

These blood clots typically form in the lower legs. From there, they can break off and travel to the lungs, where they become lodged. Blood clots can cause blindness, brain damage, heart attack, and stroke. And in 10 to 15 percent of cases cause sudden death.

Of course, every medication has side effects. (Just listen to any primetime drug commercial during the evening news).

Prescribing physicians often tell women oral contraceptives are safe if they don’t smoke, but they fail to mention the dangers of potential blood clots.

That failure to warn patients represents deception and negligence, according to the courts. In fact, in 2013, the courts made Bayer pay out more than $1 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits against its low-dose birth control drugs called Yaz and Yasmin. At that time, an investigation by the Canadian Broadcasting Company revealed that pharmacists suspected those two drugs contributed to the deaths of 23 young women.

One 18-year-old girl was working out in a gym at the University of British Columbia, Canada, when she suddenly fell over and died. Her autopsy revealed blood clots throughout her circulatory system. She was taking Yasmin at the time of her death.

In another case, one young woman almost died from pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lungs) caused by her birth control pill. The shocked young woman asked her doctors if her experience was “bizarre” and unusual? They said no — they regularly encounter healthy, young women with blood clots, almost all caused by birth control pills

Of course, Bayer stands by its birth control products.

The hidden X factor

There is another common problem that exacerbates the dangers of contraceptives: dehydration. In fact, when women who take contraceptives become dehydrated following over-exercising (like the young woman in the gym) and air travel, for example, they further increase their risk of developing blood clots. Doctors may see the obvious signs of dehydration in these women, but they fail to look further and diagnose the blood clot.

Furthermore, staying well hydrated is not quite as simple as you might think. In fact, if you think replenishing electrolytes after exercise or air travel has you covered, think again. Electrolytes are just one of the three keys to good hydration.

The sports drink manufacturers have made billions by promoting the electrolyte piece of the hydration story. But these super sweet drinks do nothing to address the other two-thirds of the story.

The other parts of the story involve basic chemistry and physiology whereby cells must make their own water to stay hydrated. (The principles of this cellular hydration were established in 18th century chemistry, and hinted at in the 11th century by Avicenna.)

Of course, drinking neon-colored sports beverages filled with sugar and electrolytes won’t help you stay hydrated on this cellular level. As I often advise, you must use herbal constituents — such as aspal (rooibos or red bush) and dietary supplements like CoQ10 — to stay hydrated on a cellular level. (You should also avoid drugs that poison cellular hydration, like cholesterol-lowering statin drugs.)

Plus, as I told you last month, new research shows that sugary drinks — like sodas and sports beverages — “turn off” your body’s normal thirst mechanism, so you never know whether you are really dehydrated.

Blood clots are just the tip of the iceberg

Evidence links oral contraceptives to a host of other side effects in addition to blood clots. Including blindness and depression.

Plus, young women (and school girls) receive these pills at younger and younger ages. Not to mention they also get dangerous, mandatory vaccinations, to prevent the human papilloma virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection that may develop into cervical cancer. But the vaccine may cause life-long sterility, as well as other health complications and even death. Choice doesn’t even factor into this practice, since many public schools require it.

There are no quick fixes with pills when it comes to your health. Ask about safer alternatives to oral contraceptives.