If you watch any daytime TV at all, you’ve probably seen the ads asking you if you’ve ever taken a variety of medications, followed by a list of bad things that have happened to some people who HAVE taken them, followed by a lawyer’s phone number. In my office, the most common offenders are the birth control pill and the birth control patch.
The pill turned 50 recently, but the formulations my patients are taking are significantly different from the earliest pills. The original pill had over twice as much estrogen as many pills do now. There are also a variety of different progestins in pills today. Pills, no matter the brand, are safe and, when taken at the same time every day, EXTRAORDINARILY effective at preventing pregnancy. No brand has “better” results as a contraceptive.
Just as with everything in life, there are risks to taking the combined oral contraceptive or using the transdermal patch. Those risks, however, are rare, unless you have a relatively rare genetic predisposition to clotting. Stroke, heart attack, and other blood-clot related illnesses occur in less than one woman in a thousand who takes the pill, regardless of type. Studies and lawyers purporting to show other results are not scientifically credible.
To sum up, you and your OBG will decide what’s best for you. Don’t let worry stop you from taking contraception if you can’t use a barrier method EVERY TIME. Schedule an appointment and see your doctor if you need more information.
Dr. G. Sealy Massingill is the OBG Department Chair at JPS Healthnetwork, the medical director at Midwifery Texas Health Harris Methodist Fort Worth, and an associate professor at the University of North Texas Health Science Center.