Birth Control Has Side Effects: I Should Know

As college students, we pretty much think of ourselves as invincible, I know I certainly have. Until recently that is. I’ve been in car accidents, including one where my car hydroplaned off a cliff. I’ve drank myself to the point where I should have gone to the hospital. I’ve had my life threatened. But those things never quite hit me to the point where I realized I could have died.

On January 2nd, I woke up at 4:30 in the morning with a searing pain in my left lung and back. It felt like two cinderblocks were pushing on either side of me and every breath felt like a knife going through my lung. I have a low pain tolerance, but this was the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my entire life. I managed to walk to my parents’ room to wake them up as I was gasping for air. My mom helped me back into my room while my dad furiously researched the new medication my dermatologist put me on, convinced it was a side effect. I eventually fell back asleep, but when I woke up again I was greeted by pain that was even worse than before. My mom came in to check on me, and I told her I needed to go to the hospital.

In the emergency room, one of the doctors listened to my symptoms and said “I think you may have a blood clot in your lung.” What? A blood clot? In an 18-year old? I was so confused and scared; I immediately started bawling. They quickly took blood out of my left arm while putting an IV in the other, and I woke up in the middle of a CT-scan. They did ultrasounds on my legs to make sure there were no clots because that’s where most clots originate. About an hour later, another doctor came in and told me they did find a clot in my lung.

I was terrified.

A nurse came in to give me a shot in my stomach that would start to seal the clot to the wall of my vein so it couldn’t break apart or move to my heart. I called my boyfriend and my best friend not really knowing what to say, partly because I was on a massive amount of painkillers and partly because I thought I was going to die.

The doctors believe that my birth control caused the clot, but they are still running tests. I was shocked. I knew blood clots were a side effect of the pill, but they are so rare, especially in women under 30. I received a shot to the stomach twice a day along with various painkillers from morphine to percocet. I was also told I had to be on a medication called Coumadin, a blood thinner, for 6 months. This medication comes with a lot of rules and requires weekly blood tests to determine if my blood is too thin or not thin enough. Depending on that level, I have to adjust the dosage of Coumadin I take. I’ve been on it for a week and the dosage has changed three times. I can’t eat foods high in vitamin K like salad or broccoli, I can’t drink more than 2oz of alcohol.

I left the hospital on January 6 and was allowed to go back to school on the 8th. I got tired and short of breath, accompanied with a much less severe but still noticeable pain in my lung which would not go away for about 6 to 8 weeks according to the doctors. But I’m alive. If I didn’t go to the hospital, I would be dead right now. The clot would have made its way to my heart or my brain, and I would have died. As much as the situation bothers me, and I keep asking why this happened to me, I am so grateful that I’m still here. Things like this don’t happen to people my age, and if it does, it’s usually too late. You hear about the funeral, not the recovery.

I’m glad I can sit at my computer and share this story with you all because I don’t want any of you to go through what I did. I want you to be aware of what can happen, to recognize the symptoms, and realize that birth control and other medicines do have side effects.

If you feel a pain like that, don’t assume it’s something minor because it’s probably not. Your body tells you things, so listen to it.

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