Even women with no history of strokes or blood clots have suffered from a debilitating, life-threatening Yaz stroke. Several studies have found that women who take Yaz have a higher risk of developing a blood clot, which can travel to the brain and become trapped in a blood vessel. When this occurs, brain cells begin to die almost immediately.
What is the problem with Yaz?
Yaz is a birth control pill containing the synthetic hormones drospirenone and ethinyl estradiol. It is manufactured and sold by Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and it was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2006. In just a few years, Yaz quickly became the most popular birth control pill in the U.S. However, use of this medication dropped off sharply after 2009, when several critical studies were published linking Yaz to an increased risk of blood clots and strokes.
All women who take a birth control pill containing progestin have a higher risk of developing blood clots, which can cause strokes, heart attacks, and pulmonary embolisms. In 2001, a new progestin (3-mg drospirenone) was introduced in Yasmin birth control pills. The manufacturers claimed that it could reduce the unpleasant hormonal effects of menstruation, and had a lower risk of side effects. Once the product was available on the market, however, this was not proven to be the case.
In fact, subsequent studies involving hundreds of thousands of women who were taking drospirenone found that they had a three-fold increased risk of developing a blood clot. Recently, the FDA announced that the labels on all birth control pills containing drospirenone would be updated to include this risk information.
Yaz and Strokes
Several studies have linked the use of Yaz birth control pills to a higher risk of blood clots. The risk is still small — approximately 10 women per 10,000 instead of 4-6 women per 10,000 taking levonorgestrel or other older progestins. However, even a slight increased risk means that a few women will potentially develop a life-threatening or deadly blood clot.
When a blood clot develops in an artery (a blood vessel carrying oxygen-rich blood away from the heart and toward major internal organs), there is a risk that the blood clot could break away from the wall of the vein and travel to a major internal organ, such as the brain.
An ischemic stroke (also known as a cerebral embolism) occurs when a blood clot travels to the brain and becomes stuck in a smaller blood vessel inside the brain. It cuts off all blood flowing to the brain tissues ahead. These tissues are deprived of oxygen, and brain cells begin to die within minutes. If the obstruction in the brain is not quickly removed, large sections of the brain can become irreparably damaged. This can cause severe physical disabilities or intellectual disabilities. In the most severe cases, a Yaz stoke can cause death.
Signs & Symptoms of a Yaz Stroke
The symptoms of an ischemic stroke typically appear suddenly, without warning. Once brain tissue dies, there is no way to reverse or repair this brain damage. The symptoms of the stroke depend on what part of the brain was deprived of oxygen, and they may be relatively minor. Prognosis is best when patients immediately seek treatment for a suspected blood clot or stroke.
Because any woman who takes hormonal birth control pills has a higher risk of stroke, it is a good idea to be familiar with the symptoms:
- Severe, sudden headache, which may wake a person up from sleep
- Changes in consciousness (confusion, memory loss, dizziness, fainting, unconsciousness, sleepiness)
- Changes in senses (hearing, taste, touch, blurry vision)
- Loss of motor coordination (clumsiness, poor balance, trouble walking, trouble writing, swallowing)
- Muscle weakness in the face, arm, or leg (usually just one side)
- Numbness or tingling on one side of the body
- Trouble speaking or understanding speech
- Sudden personality, mood, or emotional changes