When 23-year-old Sarah Brison awoke at 1 a.m. one early July morning with excruciating chest pain, she thought she was having a panic attack. A heart attack didn’t cross her mind; after all, she was a fit and healthy gym rat. There was no reason to believe it was anything serious.
Even when the Surrey, England, woman’s vision went blurry, she suddenly couldn’t feel her limbs and she started to sweat profusely, she was still in denial about the grave danger she was in. Healthy women in their early 20s don’t have serious health problems.
“The pain was unbearable. It was like brain freeze except it was all over my chest, as if someone was pressing down on me with all of their weight,” Brison explained. “They say your hearing is the last sense to go before you die. Everything else had gone. I felt like my body was shutting down.”
Finally, Brison’s boyfriend, Billy Pamment, 23, called an ambulance. She apologized to the paramedics for wasting their time.
But the young woman was having a heart attack. At the hospital, tests revealed that she had a hole in her heart and the blood vessels leading to her heart were loaded with clots. Normally, blood clots would cause a stroke, but because of the hole in Brison’s heart, the clots got stuck there instead, resulting in a massive heart attack.
Brison was stunned to learn about the hole, but was even more surprised to learn that she had blood clots. Her consultant at the hospital had a hunch as to their cause: oral contraceptives.
“The consultant told me the most likely reason was because I was on the Pill.”
For 7 years, Brison took Cerazette for bad skin, but she had recently switched to the combined Pill, Marvelon. 
“I had heard about it being linked with an increased risk of blood clots so I asked my doctor if it was safe. But my GP told me it would be highly unlikely anything would happen,” she said.
Marvelon is part of a class of newer-generation birth control pills that combine synthetic versions of the naturally occurring female sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone. Perhaps the most famous combination oral contraceptives are Yasmin and Yaz. The 2 pills are the same drug, but Yaz is a lower dose. 
The American Stroke Association says that women who take even a low-estrogen oral contraceptive are twice as likely to have a stroke as those who don’t.
The results of a study published in May shows that women who take third-generation birth control pills, including Marvelon and Yasmin, increase their risk of a blood clot four-fold compared with women who don’t take the Pill, due to the synthetic hormones in the drugs.
Drug maker Bayer has been slammed with thousands of lawsuits filed on behalf of patients who allege Yasmin and Yaz caused them blood clots and subsequent strokes. In April 2014, a suburban Chicago woman who claimed that Yasmin had caused her a debilitating stroke was awarded $14 million by a jury in Cook County, Ohio. 
Brison, now 24, spent two nights in the U.K.’s equivalent of the intensive care unit and then several days in the cardiac unit. She survived, but she says she will need to make regular doctor visits and take blood-thinning drugs for the rest of her life. She may need future surgery to close the hole in her heart.
She has a message for any girls that are considering going on the Pill:
“I know the chances of this happening are rare so I guess I was just unlucky but people need to think seriously before taking the Pill because there are other, safer alternatives. I still have a long road ahead of me but if I can warn just one other girl about the dangers of the Pill, it’ll be worth it.”
 The Tab
 Fox News
Featured photo credit: Becky Dickinson
Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.