Hailey Bieber is speaking out about what led to her being hospitalized last month for a blood clot and subsequent mini-stroke. In a video posted to her YouTube channel on Thursday, Bieber revealed that her use of birth control pills, in conjunction with other health conditions, may have been a factor.
“I had just recently started birth control pills, which I should have never been on because I am somebody who suffers from migraines anyway,” she told viewers. “And I just did not talk to my doctors about this.” She then implored “ladies” who “suffer from bad migraines” and want to use the pill to “make sure you tell your doctor, because having a stroke is a potential side effect from birth control pills.”
We’d like to clear some things up. While Bieber’s medical emergency sounds terrifying (and it’s certainly possible that her use of birth control pills put her at greater risk), it’s important to recognize that people who could be at risk of a stroke and other cardiovascular conditions can still safely use long-term contraception—if they’re thoughtful about which forms. Estrogen-containing pills are hardly the only form of birth control available. Multiple studies have found that progestin-only pills don’t increase risk of having a stroke. Similarly, copper, non-hormonal IUDs and the progestin-only arm implant, Nexplanon, also don’t increase risk of having a stroke. All of these are safe options for people who may be wary of strokes or blood clots.
Per the American Migraine Foundation, some oral contraceptives can carry possible, dangerous side effects for women living with migraines. For these women, birth control pills “may elevate their risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease, depending on their personal history.” They may also be at higher risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), or blood clots. And according to the foundation, estrogen-containing pills can especially increase the risk of DVT, and should be avoided by people with histories of blood clots, or “previous spontaneous abortions.”
Bieber also alludes in her video that she has a history of migraines and was also recently diagnosed with PFO, meaning that she has a small opening in her heart. That opening, she shared, led to a blood clot “escaping” through her heart and traveled to her brain to cause the stroke. Her experience with birth control pills is certainly a chilling reminder that for some people who take oral contraceptives, the side effects can be extremely serious, but it’s crucial to remember there isn’t just one type of oral birth control.
That said, this reality is all the more frustrating, considering the burden of taking birth control and preventing pregnancy as a whole is highly gendered. You’ll recall that in 2016, a study of male birth control was literally halted when human male subjects reported experiencing some of the same side effects that women and pregnant-capable people live with each day.
Frankly, it’s unfair that women and pregnant-capable people have to consider so many factors, and often shoulder all kinds of costs for different forms of contraception if they don’t have insurance or have bad insurance. Yet, despite how jarring Bieber’s story is, her many impressionable followers should know they have options, and shouldn’t be scared off of all birth control.