TW – periods, birth control.
“It’s just so amazing that people are finally caring about the side effects of medication” say a whole generation of women through gritted teeth and clenched jaws. “It’s not like we have to live with these side effects every day of our lives. Aha. Ahaha. Ha.” That’s right folks; we’re talking about birth control and blood clots.
I imagine you would have seen it on the news by now but I’ll break it down into four simple phrases.
- Astra-Zeneca COVID vaccine goes through successful trials and is released to be used in public!
- Oh no, the vaccine runs the smallest risk of very rare cases of blood clots (a blood clot is when blood in the body turns into a gel or semi-solid state, and can cause blockages).
- The vaccine, despite its positives outweighing the negatives, is pulled by many countries because it’s deemed ‘unsafe’.
- Everywhere around the world, people who have ever been on birth control bury their hands in their face and scream into the abyss.
I can tell you, I was one of those people screaming into the abyss. “But, why?” I hear some of you ask. Because the risk of blood clots has been a severe side effect of birth control for decades and nothing has ever been done about it. According to Sky News, the risk of getting a blood clot or thrombosis from the Astra-Zeneca jab is “a risk of one in 250,000, or 0.0004%.” And for someone on a contraceptive pill? The National Blood Clot Alliance says that the risk “only” affects “1 in 1000” people; that’s a risk of 0.1%. Millions of women and those with uteruses around the world have been walking around with a 0.1% chance of having a blood clot, but as soon as 0.0004% of the population pose a risk, everything gets shut down. And why is that? Well, I won’t sugar coat it. It’s because women’s health has always been secondary. Once men are involved… Well, of course the risk of blood clots become an issue.
I don’t want anyone to be reading this thinking I’m a horrible human. If you develop a blood clot in your body, it can become dangerous and life-threatening very quickly. I’m glad that precautions are being made to avoid risk regarding the Astra-Zenenca jab. By precautions, I mean people with a history of blood clots or related conditions being offered a different jab, like Pfizer – not millions of doses being pulled from countries causing a backlog and the inevitable deaths of others (as demonstrated in March). I don’t think that makes me a bad person.
I’m just angry and disappointed – but not at all surprised.
People on birth control (or any form of estrogen based medication), from the pill, to patches, to the implant, have been hit with the 1 in 1000 statistic for years and nothing has been done about it. We’ve been told it’s a risk, and just to get on with life. Oh-ho, and it’s not just a lovely little risk of blood clots that we get to deal with, oh no! Let me list you the wonderful side effects we deal with whilst on birth control (men reading this, please take note. Folks on birth control, please feel free to add your experiences and symptoms to the list in the comments!) –
- Sweet, sweet depression. It’s no coincidence that a spiral in my mental health coincided with my choice to start birth control. I’ve tried four different kinds, and the depression comes with them all!
- Random bleeding that isn’t a period. Surprise, you’ll never wear white pants again.
- Excessive weight gain or loss. All sensible people know that your weight does not define you, but sudden fluctuations in weight is not healthy for your body.
- Period disruption. Sometimes that’s the goal. Other times, it’s just annoying, frustrating, scary, and worrisome.
- Raised blood pressure. Not only do we run the risk of blood clots, let’s throw in some high blood pressure for fun too.
- Mood swings. Goes hand in hand with the depression I guess.
- Bloating. There’s nothing like fitting into your jeans one day and then being two sizes bigger the next, for no discernable reason.
- Nausea. Sometimes I throw up, just because! #justgirlythings
- Sore boobs. I like to think my pain tolerance is high but there’s something about the burning pain in a mammary gland that is another kind of pain.
- Headaches and migraines. Sometimes you are put on birth control to help with migraines. Other times, it gives you them. We love Russian Roulette.
- Eye problems. That’s right – birth control can change the shape of your EYE.
- Fainting. Because what’s the harm in another side effect?
- Pregnancy. Oh, yeah. Sometimes, it just doesn’t even WORK.
All of that, and the 1 in 1000 risk of having a blood clot. I will be honest, sometimes some of these side effects fade away after three or so months, once your body is used to the medication. However, more often than not, the side effects are something we just learn to live with. And we just have to get on with it – there’s no other choice.
“But you don’t have to get on with it, do you? Being on birth control is a choice, it’s to do with sexual relations.” I know some people out there will be thinking this; heck, maybe even typing it.
First off – no. Being on birth control isn’t always a choice or anything to do with sex. Birth control controls the hormones in the body, and a change in hormones is required for management of so many different health conditions. People have been put on birth control to help manage crippling periods, acne, endometriosis, migraines, cancer, heavy uterine bleeding, and seizures, just to name a few. My birth control even helps to regulate my PCOS; I can’t imagine the pain I would have during my period if I wasn’t on birth control. And it’s not just birth control; anything that is estrogen based causes a higher risk of blood clots.
Secondly – yes, it can be a choice. In a world where there’s still a gender-pay gap, women earning less when they become mothers, and a universe that is still governed by remnants of the patriarchy, I would like the choice to have autonomy over my body. I don’t think that’s too much to ask for. Some people are not in the right time in their life to have children, whether in regards to health, money, relationship, age, career, etc. Also, have you considered the fact that some people simply don’t want children?
The news that the jab has been pulled by so many countries or only being given to a small group of people is just another gut punch. It reinforces the idea that women’s health is something to be shoved on the backburner, again. “Oh no, there’s a 0.0004% risk of something bad happening. Let’s pull the vaccine instead of acting sensibly! What’s that? The women? The women have a 5%-10% of having a blood clot in pregnancy? And a 0.1% chance if they use birth control? Same for the folks who take estrogen? It’s a choice, they can get on with it.”
In a world where the positives and the safety of the Astra-Zeneca jab vastly outweigh the negatives, it’s disappointing to see governments and countries taking such liberties with the allocation of vaccines. The negative attitude the press has given to the vaccine is certainly going to spread misunderstanding and fear, fear that isn’t needed. If the world is that concerned over the risk of blood clots, it certainly isn’t reflected in women’s health.
Please, when you are offered it, get vaccinated. The jabs are safe. If you have health issues like a history of blood clots, you should be offered another type. Please, do you bit to get the world out of this mess, and get vaccinated.
Oh, and support research into birth control and hormonal medication whilst you are at it.