Are Your Birth Control Pills Safe?


Last year during my annual exam, when I complained to my doctor about my terrible PMS, she was quick to pull out her pad and give me a prescription for the birth control pill Yaz. "You're going to love this," she said. "All of my patients that are on it think it's the best. It's even helped some of them lose weight!"

Less PMS and not having to worry about my weight? I was sold, even though I'd only intended to talk to her about lifestyle and/or diet modifications since my birth control needs were already taken care of. Before I stopped into the pharmacy however, I looked up the pill online (Paging Dr. Google!). The results were anything but the love-fest I'd been promised. In fact, the information I found scared me so badly that I never filled that prescription.

It quickly became evident that I wasn't the only woman concerned when Yaz and it's sister pill Yazmin, two of the most popular pills on the market, came up for review by the FDA after reports that the manufacturer may have hid and minimized critical health risks. But is the hysteria warranted?

A November 2011 study found that the pills containing drospirenone, including Yaz and Yazmin, have a 43-percent to 65-percent higher risk of blood clots than earlier types of birth control pills. This, combined with widespread reports of side effects on the Internet, forced the FDA to take another look. In December 2011 an outside panel commissioned by the FDA ruled the drugs slightly more likely to cause blood clots but still safe for general use.

"It's important to remember that all oral contraceptives are associated with a risk of blood clots," Dr. Susan Solymoss of McGill University in Montreal adds in an editorial published with the study. And compared with the pills, "pregnancy is a bigger risk for blood clots."

Still, the debate continues as a watchdog group is calling for the FDA to reconsider after it was found that four of the 26 panel members had ties to the manufacturer of Yaz and Yazmin. What should you do if you are currently taking these pills? Doctors say that the risk of clotting is greater in the first few months, so if you've been on them for a while and don't have other risk factors-like smoking-then you're probably all right. Still, you should always talk to our doctor about any concerns you have about your birth control.