For my entire life, I’ve been a very healthy person. No chronic illnesses, a well balanced diet, a hatred of sugary drinks, and a schedule jam-packed with sports kept me out of doctors' offices with the exception of my yearly checkup. However, this changed very quickly when I found myself in the emergency room during syllabus week of my sophomore year of college, and doctors found extensive blood clots in my right arm and both of my lungs.

During my junior year of high school, I was looking for something to help with acne, and several of my friends raved about the condition of their skin since starting birth control. I did a quick google search and read about all of the other purported benefits of the pill- lighter periods, reduced cramps, no more PMS- it sounded like a dream.

With one 20 minute visit to a gynecologist I had a prescription for a generic brand of Yaz.

Since I was young and healthy and had no family history of clotting or any blood disorders, my doctor had no reason to question which pill I started taking or to do a blood test during my first appointment. Getting a prescription for oral contraceptives was nearly easier than picking up a box of decongestant.

This pill contains drospirenone and ethinyl estradiol and is approved to treat moderate acne, PMS, and prevent pregnancy in girls ages 14 and older. Of course I saw the scary warnings on the extensive booklet that came with the first pack of pills, but I was 17 and had never smoked a cigarette in my life. So, I quickly ignored the list of potential health risks.

I took the pill every day for 2 ½ years with almost no negative side effects. That was until my arm swelled up like a balloon, and I was diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis (DVT) of the right upper extremity and an acute pulmonary embolism (PE).

According to the National Blood Clot Alliance, only 1 in 1,000 women per year will develop blood clots while on the birth control pill, and I was one of them.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises in a 2012 safety announcement that “[w]omen should talk to their healthcare professional about their risk for blood clots before deciding which birth control method to use. Healthcare professionals should consider the risks and benefits of drospirenone-containing birth control pills and a woman’s risk for developing a blood clot before prescribing these drugs.”

While the FDA recognizes the link between drospirenone-containing oral contraceptives and an increased risk of blood clots, they conclude only that “[t]he risk of blood clots is higher when using any birth control pills than not using them, but still remains lower than the risk of developing blood clots in pregnancy and in the postpartum period” in the 2012 report. The use of the birth control pill was the only known risk factor I exhibited that could potentially lead to such extensive blood clots.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 62% of women of childbearing age use some form of contraceptives, and of that group, 28% (or 10.2 million women) use the pill. Birth control pills are some of the easiest prescription medications to get, and it is easy to forget that anything you put into your body is a big deal. For the vast majority of women, the pill is an easy and effective way to prevent pregnancy and help with a slew of other health issues.

For others, like myself, it can lead to 3 days in the hospital during the first week of fall semester. I encourage everyone to educate themselves before taking any type of medication. Please do not be afraid to ask your doctor or pharmacist questions about oral contraceptives, including the risks, no matter how small they seem.

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of “that will never happen to me” until it does happen to you, or to your friend, or to your sister. If you notice something off, speak up!

As for now, I’m on blood thinners for 6-9 months, which means I can’t drink or participate in contact sports. I’ll have to inform all of my future doctors about this issue for the rest of my life, as any form of trauma, including pregnancy and surgery, could pose a risk for further clotting. I’m lucky that I went to the ER before the blood clots could spread or get worse. I want to urge everyone (especially college kids like me who think they’re invincible) to be thankful for every single day and resist taking your health for granted.