In a tragic sequence of events, two young women in Auckland, New Zealand lost their lives due to complications related to blood clots within a span of ten days. This has ignited concern regarding the use of the contraceptive pill and has led to a call for increased awareness among doctors who prescribe it. The victims, Georgia O'Neill, 24, and Isabella Rangiamohia Alexander, 17, both suffered fatal venous thromboembolism (VTE), linked to unidentified blood clotting conditions which were intensified by the contraceptive pill.
Unveiling the Tragedy
The unfortunate event unfolded in September 2021 when Georgia, a make-up artist, succumbed to thrombosis in her pulmonary artery, worsened by the oral contraceptive pill. The root cause was a previously undiagnosed condition known as the Factor V Leiden mutation. The second victim, Isabella, also had an undetected blood clotting condition that resulted in her untimely death. The coroner's findings into these tragedies sparked a call for heightened awareness of VTE risks for women on the contraceptive pill.
Understanding the Risks
Coroner Alex Ho emphasized the importance of informing women about the increased risk of VTE when initiating the contraceptive pill, especially those with a family history of such events. Symptoms of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and Pulmonary Embolism (PE) were underscored, and it was recommended that medical practitioners should properly counsel women about the increased risk and the symptoms to watch out for before prescribing the pill.
Debating the Screening
However, despite the risks, Dr. Eileen Merriman of Te Whatu Ora Waitemat holds the view that routine screening for Factor V Leiden, a mutation that substantially heightens the risk of blood clots when on the contraceptive pill, is not beneficial. This is because most cases of DVT or PE do not involve this mutation. Nonetheless, Coroner Ho's findings have initiated a conversation about diligent symptom monitoring and adequate counselling by medical professionals regarding the increased risk of blood clots.
It is noteworthy that the risk of DVT and PE during pregnancy is significantly higher than from taking the combined oral contraceptive pill. Yet, the tragic deaths of these two young women have laid bare the need for increased vigilance, awareness and risk communication about blood clotting conditions and the contraceptive pill.