Birth Control Warning: What to look for and what to ask before filling prescription
6:08 PM, May 21, 2013
8:46 AM, May 22, 2013
(WXYZ) - Could your birth control be killing you? Several women claim it almost did!
For years, women went to the doctor, went on the pill and really didn't ask too many questions.
But the reality is: hormone replacement whether it's for birth control or for menopausal symptoms is a drug... and some women say the days of being casual about it should be over.
For 31-year-old Rian Kinney, exercise isn't just a passion -- it's a way of life.
"I got into boxing and loved it ever since," said Kinney.
By day, she's a no non-sense sports attorney. In her spare time, she's an athlete.
"I was actually training for a half marathon when all of this started going down, and I kept thinking, gosh I'm out of shape, I need to push harder," said Kinney.
Kinney didn't know it, but she was ignoring tell tale signs that her active body was shutting down.
Then finally she had a sign that wouldn't go away.
"It was a shooting severe pain that was in my chest. I called my mom and said, I don't know if this is what a heart attack feels like, but I'm pretty sure this is it," said Kinney.
Inside her local ER, Rian was taken for a series of tests, her mother waited for the shocking results.
"They told me there were multiple blood clots in every lobe of both lungs -- that there were two very large clots one on each side of her heart… And that, really, as a mother, if any one of those clots hadn't passed, we'd be having a different conversation," said Kinney's mom.
Rian was moved into the coronary care unit, all the while, doctors were asking her questions.
"They were looking to exclude hereditary factors but as soon as they found out I was on NuvaRing, it was case closed -- kind of like, ‘oh, you were on birth control and NuvaRing -- oh okay…' I was shocked and angry and upset. I didn't know this could happen," said Kinney.
It turns out, published reports do show that almost every form of birth control on the market, including NuvaRing, which Kinney was prescribed, has serious warnings about potential dangers.
NuvaRing's drug label warns of complications like "myocardial infarctions" which is a heart attack. Or thromboembolic events which translates to blood clots.
Open the patient information card, found inside the box and in small print you'll find the same warnings, spelled out in plain English.
Professional photographer and mother of two Mallory Park was using NuvaRing too. Doctors told her, because of those complications, at 23, her child bearing years were behind her.
"They said if you do get pregnant, there is a chance you may not make it through the pregnancy," said Park.
Mark Tate is part of Mallory's legal team for a class action suit filed on behalf of more than 1000 NuvaRing users across the country.
"It's ridiculous. No one should have to suffer those kinds of illnesses," said Tate.
"Every drug-every drug has side effects and can be potentially dangerous if prescribed wrong," said Dr. Jeffrey Litt, who has been prescribing birth control pills for 27 years.
"I think we just can't take these drugs for granted. We have to prescribe them appropriately to the right patients, with the right warnings and with the right monitoring," said Dr. Litt.
Dr. Litt says that includes patient accountability: truly knowing your family medical history several generations back and arriving at appointments armed with questions, such as:
What are the side effects?
What are the complications?
How effective is it?
What do I have to look for?
How do I know if I'm having a problem?
Things Rian Kinney says she never knew to ask.
As for NuvaRing, we found, company commercials do warn about possible complications. In a statement NuvaRing executives said "the company is confident in the efficacy and safety profiles of NuvaRing, which are described in our product label."
"Simply stating on a commercial that this may cause blood clots is not enough… I never thought it meant may cause DVT which throws clots to your lungs and your heart and P.S. you could die… I mean, you don't draw that correlation as an intelligent consumer," said Kinney.
As angry as Kinney is about her case, you may be surprised to learn, that this lawyer hasn't joined the class action suit against NuvaRing.
"I don't want them to do away with birth control… I don't think that's the way to go, but I do think that by getting the information out there and consumers being aware that they need to do some background research is the way we need to be looking at this," said Kinney. "To have as many symptoms as I did and for it to be so textbook, other people could not have the slightest clue that they're dying."
So how do you know if you're having complications with birth control?
Here are a few signs and symptoms:
Leg pain or leg cramping that won't go away
Shortness of breath for no specific reason.
Those were all symptoms that Rian Kinney
said she just kind of explained away.
All these symptoms are listed in very fine print and issued with all birth control, so take the time to read the package insert.