It’s Blood Clot Awareness Month: Here’s What Women Need to Know

March is Blood Clot Awareness Month, and though blood clots were never something I ever took a moment to think about because I thought they were something that only affected older people, I now understand the impact they have on our population. I currently intern for the National Blood Clot Alliance, so when I began reading about blood clots and the risk factors for blood clots, I was stunned to learn that young, college-aged women are affected, too. That’s right, women our age are too often the victims of life-threatening blood clots.

What puts young women at risk? College-aged women often begin using birth control at this point in their lives, and many forms of birth control – including the pill, patch, and ring – contain estrogen, which can increase their risk for developing a clot. Estrogen increases a woman’s risk for developing a dangerous blood clot, because it tricks the female body into thinking it is pregnant. The body’s natural reaction to a pregnancy is to increase its ability to clot in the event that excessive bleeding occurs during childbirth. While this is a necessary survival mechanism for a birthing emergency, it puts non-pregnant females at a much higher risk for blood clots, especially if they have a family history of a clotting disorder.

This month, in honor of Blood Clot Awareness Month, I encourage you to use the risk assessment tool on the Women & Blood Clots website to learn more about your risk. Fill it out and discuss your results with your healthcare provider. Twenty questions are all it takes to assess your chance for a potentially life-threatening clot.

If you find that you are at an increased risk for clotting, there are other birth control options available that do not contain estrogen. Some of these methods include IUDs, barrier methods, progestin-only pills and spermicide. Of course, this is a conversation you will want to have with your doctor, who can help you decide which method is best for you.

You can learn more from the National Blood Clot Alliance at www.womenandbloodclots.org and www.stoptheclot.org.

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