New mom, 26, suffers paralysis after contraceptive pill causes stroke

'I had no idea something like this would happen to me - I wasn't made aware.'
Fri Nov 21, 2014 - 3:06 pm EST
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A young mother is speaking out after her contraceptive pill caused her to have a catastrophic stroke, leaving her as helpless as her 5-month-old baby girl.

Donna Watson was just 26 when she began taking Rigevidon, an oral contraceptive, following the birth of her daughter Millie.  “I thought I was doing a good thing by taking the Pill,” Watson told the U.K.’s Daily Mail.  But within two months of starting on the drug, she suffered a massive stroke, which her doctors said was caused by her hormonal birth control, which had raised her blood pressure and caused two large blood clots to form in her brain stem.

“Although the risk of stroke in young women is generally low, pregnancy and contraceptive pills are both significant stroke risk factors,” a spokesman for the U.K.’s Stroke Association told the Daily Mail.

“[The hormones in the Pill] … increase the likelihood of the blood clotting and this may increase your risk of stroke,” the spokesman said.  “Stroke can hit you out of nowhere and rob you of your speech, your ability to walk, your memory, your independence and your dignity.”

Noted the spokesman, “This devastating condition kills three times as many women as breast cancer every year.”

According to the American Stroke Association, “Women who take even a low-estrogen birth control pill may be twice as likely to have a stroke than those who don't, and the risk may increase if other risk factors are present." The group says that 100,000 women in the United States will have a stroke this year. 

Watson, now 28, was at home with her young family when she heard a popping sound in her ears and began vomiting.  She was rushed to the University Hospital of Hartlepool, where she slipped into a coma.  When she awoke, she found herself unable to speak or move.

“The doctors said I would never walk again and I would probably leave the hospital after six months,” Watson told the Daily Mail.  She said hospital staff told her fiancé and parents to be prepared for a lifetime of caring for her every need, as they did not expect her to recover.

But the determined young mother blew away her doctors’ expectations, recovering sufficiently to return home after just three months in the hospital.  Once home, she began relearning how to walk, talk and eat solid foods – right alongside her daughter, who was by then eight months old.

“I was having physio sessions everyday and I started being able to move my arms,” Watson told the Daily Mail. “I learned to walk again by watching Millie gain her balance.”

Still, the stroke has had lasting consequences, leaving Watson unsteady on her feet with limited mobility, and unable to use her right hand.  As a result, she now requires supervision when watching Millie, who is now an active 2-year-old. 

“I still need people to accompany me when I am looking after Millie as I can not run after her if she runs away,” Watson explained.  But she says she hasn’t given up.  “I am hoping for a full recovery and to be to look after her like other mums do,” Watson said.

As for her feelings about the contraceptive pills that led to her stroke, Watson says she believes the medical industry needs to be more open about the risks of hormonal birth control.

“I had no idea something like this would happen to me - I wasn't made aware,” Watson said.  “I think nurses should tell people more about the risks and effects the Pill can have.  They should monitor your cholesterol while you are taking it.  I really regretted taking that one little tablet.”

“I will never take the Pill again,” Watson added.

  contraception, the pill