Hi. It’s Jenny at AnxietyBoss.com. Our question today is from Elizabeth in Shopville, Kentucky. I am taking birth control pills and it’s giving me anxiety. I’ve read that birth control pills can increase the risk of blood clots which is about 6 in 30,000 and it gives me anxiety. What can I do about it?
Well, a 6 out of 30,000 chance of an adverse event, that’s pretty slim. Six out of 30,000 is a .002 percent chance, if I’ve figured this out correctly. When someone has anxiety, it’s very easy to focus in on a detail, expand it and start worrying.
A few years ago, I had minor surgery. The surgeon was going to give me bupivacaine, a long lasting local anesthetic, so I looked it up. And I found that there’s a risk of cardiac arrest with difficult resuscitation. This can only occur if the anesthesiologist or surgeon misses their target and hits a large blood vessel, typically a vein. Do you know what’s worse than cardiac arrest? Is cardiac arrest with difficult resuscitation? I felt so freaked out when I read this. I spoke to the surgeon about my concern and he said he did quality assurance for a major hospital for years. Meaning he reviewed cases looking for adverse events and he never saw this happen.
Move to the world of probability instead of possibility. What are the chances? Nothing in life is risk free, but focusing on the most miniscule risk can feel very daunting and overwhelming. All medications have side effects and the risk of adverse events.
A medication prescribed by your doctor – at least in the US – has gone through an extremely rigorous process which typically takes about 10 years. The medication has been tested on lab animals, typically rodents or primates, including multi-generation testing on at least two different species of animals, which means studying effects on pregnancy, birth and lactation. Then the medication is subjected to human clinical trials. A small number of healthy volunteers, usually employees of the pharmaceutical company, then the larger number of healthy volunteers, then finally a larger number of volunteers who actually have the medical condition that the medication is intended to treat.
During this process, all side effects and any adverse reactions must be documented along with the severity of the side effect or reaction and the probability of the side effect or reaction occurring. If one lab mouse loses a whisker after taking an experimental medication, that effect must be documented. Failure to do so can result in a federal criminal charge. The side effect or adverse reaction must occur so seldom or be so minor that the risk is far outweighed by the potential benefit of taking the medication.
This is why you cannot buy prescription drugs of any kind without a physician diagnosing you with the condition or in the case of contraception, a medical need or preference. The physician selects a specific medication which is best for you and then writes an order for it to a pharmacist who dispenses it.
You have to decide if this low risk is outweighed by the much greater risk of unwanted pregnancy. Hesitating to use contraception due to fear of side effects could lead to involuntary motherhood. Other thoughts and options include have you spoken to your doctor or your pharmacist about this? Are there any other medications or methods of contraception? For example, condoms, which do not have this risk if you are fixating on the increased risk of blood clots in this particular instance.
Is there anything that you can do to lower the risk even further? Remember, pharmacists are there to answer questions about medications and they love talking about medications. It’s what they do. Never hesitate to use them as a resource. They also dispense a lot of medications to a lot of people and they, therefore, have seen a lot and they have a broad and varied sample of patients. They may help to dispel your fears.