'I'm happy I've had an AstraZeneca vaccine but I'm never going back on the pill'

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An Edinburgh woman has called for more research into contraceptive pills with fewer risks after the Scottish Government announced it will not offer under-30s the AstraZeneca vaccine over a possible link to “extremely rare” blood clots.

Rachel Flynn, 23, said she hoped the decision would “start a discussion” about the side effects and risks of contraceptive pills, some of which carry a far higher (though still very small) risk of blood clots.

Ms Flynn is one of the few Scots under-30 to have already been given one dose of AstraZeneca vaccine, and she said she is happy to have had it, and will gladly get her second dose.

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But she hopes the move will draw attention to the negative aspects of female contraceptive pills.

Rachel FlynnRachel Flynn
Rachel Flynn

Ms Flynn stopped taking the pill six months ago, after spending years moving from one brand to another because of side effects including weight gain, temperamental acne, mood swings, excruciating migraines, and abdominal cramps, as well as concern over health risks.

She suffered nausea and shivers after receiving the Covid-19 vaccine in March, but said she would happily take the vaccine again, while she will not return to the pill.

“Whilst the side-effects of the vaccine led me to be extremely unwell for the best part of a week, I’d do it all again if it meant I – and those around me – were protected from the brutality of Covid-19,” she said.

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"But with all of this news coming out I am just flabbergasted that women are expected to go through so much and it’s never been a worry until now.

Picture: Rachel FlynnPicture: Rachel Flynn
Picture: Rachel Flynn

"If they’re going to talk about discontinuing the vaccine in certain age groups, why aren’t they doing the same thing for contraceptive pill which have more risks linked to them?"

She added: "Women have been suffering the cruel effects of oral contraception for far too long and, quite frankly, I feel we deserve better.

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"I hope that the discussions around risks of blood clots the next few weeks lead to many women opting for – and the creation of – healthier, safer and more pleasant routes of contraception.”

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The pill caused Ms Flynn to feel as though she was “losing control” of her own body with acne, cramps and weight gain.

"The risk of blood clots on the contraceptive pill is just another small bullet point in the cons column of every woman’s pros and cons list when weighing up their options,” she said.

The rate of blood clots is estimated by the MHRA at four per million people vaccinated, while the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) estimates between five and 15 cases per million people taking the combined contraceptive pill (CHC).

"The risk of someone having a blood clot when they are using combined hormonal contraception (CHC) is really small – much smaller than the risk of having a blood clot if they were pregnant,” the FSRH said.

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"Nevertheless, people are slightly more at risk of a blood clot when they are using CHC than they are when they are not using it, even if they are fit and healthy.”

Covid-19 carries a much higher risk. One in four of those who end up in an ICU with the virus will have some form of clot.

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