By Darian Carrow
As early as age 13, women are prescribed various types of contraceptives for many reasons. Between regulating menstrual cycles, clearing acne, and the original intended purpose of preventing pregnancy, contraceptives have a variety of useful purposes. In some circumstances, though, birth control can come with complications that may outweigh the positive aspects of the contraceptive.
Selecting a form of birth control is a very personal choice that women typically make with their physicians. Some of the most common forms women choose are oral contraceptives, intrauterine devices (IUDs), and sterilization. While each has its own positives, there are side-effects to be considered. In some cases, contraceptives have left women with lasting effects and health complications so it’s no small decision.
Oral contraceptives can sometimes have some short-term side effects which tend to go away after a month or two of daily use. Common side-effects of oral contraceptives include inter-menstrual spotting, nausea, weight gain, and decreased libido. But occasionally, there are more traumatic and dangerous side-effects.
Most oral contraceptives are considered so safe that several advocacy groups believe that they be sold over-the-counter. But recently, pills containing the hormone drospirenone have given users severe and lasting side-effects. Pills containing this hormone have drawn in thousands of lawsuits over reports of strokes, pulmonary embolisms, gallbladder disease, death, and other serious health concerns.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) usually takes steps to either avoid or correct these happenings for women on these various contraceptives. With the potentially harmful drugs containing drospirenone, the FDA enforced label changes. This warned women of the dangers of blood clots that can sometimes occur because of these medications. The FDA also stepped in to regulate Bayer’s female sterilization device, Essure.
Essure is a non-surgical sterilization method that is implanted into a woman’s fallopian tubes to prevent pregnancy. However, some women experienced serious medical traumas from this device, including migrating coils that were later found in the abdomen and pelvic regions, and perforated organs surrounding the implantation location. Thousands of women have fought back against the manufacturer as a result of the severe adverse events.
The FDA tried to combat these adverse events by enforcing boxed warnings and patient-decision checklists that would help both provider and patient better understand the potential risks that come with Essure. In the Spring of 2018, the FDA restricted sales of the device to only those who had reviewed this checklist with their physicians. Just months after this announcement, Bayer voluntarily discontinued American sales of the device, which removed Essure from the last remaining market globally. The device had been banned or otherwise removed from sales in all other countries prior to this decision.
IUDs have faced some scrutiny in the past few years over the potential for “expulsion” of the device. Mirena, a long-term, hormone-releasing intrauterine device, has an 8 percent chance of expulsion, according to patient reports. This occurs when the body rejects the IUD and expels it from the body. This is very dangerous, as the device can then penetrate the uterine wall or migrate to various locations, where it can cause harm within the reproductive system or abdominal cavity.
“Many patients felt that they weren’t adequately informed of the risk of device migration and embedment,” says Medical Writer Katy Moncivais, PhD, “They chose Mirena likely due to convenience and the desire to avoid permanent, surgical contraception, and some ended up needing an invasive surgery to remove the wandering Mirena device anyway.” Many of the women who experienced these problems have fought against the manufacturer in court as a result.
Just because there are many commercials and advertisements for a product, or it is doctor-recommended, doesn’t mean it is always the right choice. Consumers can reduce their chances of suffering these dangerous side effects by doing extensive research on all options for contraceptives before selecting a method that works best with their lifestyle. Having an honest dialogue with one’s physician going over research you’ve already done can be very beneficial for one’s health.
With experience in writing and research, Darian spends her time at ConsumerSafety.org focusing her insights on trending safety and legal news that impacts consumers. Darian strives to be a trusted source for the general public, journalists, and wellness enthusiasts looking for connections to legal sources as a result of these health discoveries.