When it comes to birth control, women seem to have all the options. Men have the choice of using methods that rely on self-control and awareness, various brands and “flavors” of condoms, or getting snipped. For women, on the other hand, selecting a methods of contraception can be about as complex and detail-driven as choosing a dress for some formal gathering where she wants to make an impression. There are the pills and patches that release a variety of hormones that make the body think it is already pregnant, which ironically prevents an actual pregnancy from happening. There are a number of devices available for women that function in the same way as condoms do for men, though methods that rely on self-control are much less common. However, recent news may have helped take off at least one option from women’s birth control menus.
The Ortho Evra patch, which is basically a patch that releases the same batch of hormones into the body that a pill does, has recently been found to have a potentially fatal side effect. While the Food and Drug Administration has long ignored the possibility that the patch can cause potentially fatal blood clots in some women, there have been a number of reports that appeared to counter this belief. The prominence of some recent cases of this happening has prompted a reexamination of the scientific data. According to a popular urban legend regarding the patch, the hormones that it releases can force blood clots to form in the body. The legend goes on to say that this has led to the death of a number of women, who have all had operations to remove the blood clots in their brains. Supposedly, the clots blocked proper circulation to the brain, and that the hormones kept forming the clots.
The reality is notably different from the legend, but there are enough similarities to constitute a reasonable level of worry. The patch does release hormones that can cause the clots to form, but unlike in the legend, this is not a constant occurrence. The hormones do not continually cause clots to form, which means that women who use them are not always at risk. Another detail is that, while the clots can cause damage to the body, they are not lethal in all situations. Finally, the legend attributes the death of various women to the clots caused by the patch, but this claim is easily disputable. While investigators have found the names of the women in the stories to be real, there is no way to verify what they died of and whether or not they used birth control patches because of medical privacy laws.
However, the recent ruling by the FDA for Ortho Evra patches to have warnings on them stems from a single case, where the doctors did verify that the hormones the patches released could have caused complications. The procedure was a delicate one that required operating on some sensitive areas of the human brain, and that the blood clots increased the risk of a surgical mistake becoming a fatal one. It is noted that the pill does not pose the same risks as a patch, mainly because the patches expose the body to up to 60% more estrogen than the pill would. In theory, this is what causes the increased clot formation.