(StatePoint) As college students gear up to return to campus, they will have long lists of things they need, or need to take care of, before they leave. One item that might be overlooked is their healthcare.
While items like bandages and cold medicines always make the grade, women heading off to college have other factors to consider, including for many, their first decisions about birth control.
The birth control pill is the number one contraceptive choice among millions of women of child- bearing age in the United States. While experts stress that the pill is safe and effective, they also caution that birth control with estrogen, including the pill, patch or ring, can increase a woman’s risk for potentially deadly blood clots.
Birth control pills with estrogen increase a woman’s risk for blood clots three-fold, and some newer birth control pills pose a risk two-times greater than older birth control pills. The use of birth control patches and rings containing estrogen poses a risk double that of birth control pills. These risks are significantly increased when women have other blood clot risks factors, such as a genetic clotting disorder like factor V Leiden or a family history of blood clots.
The National Blood Clot Alliance and the Alexandra Rowan Foundation urge women who might be exploring their birth control options as they head off to college to understand their blood clot risks and take these steps:
• Complete a Risk Assessment, available at www.womenandbloodclots.org, and discuss their results with their doctor.
• Speak with their doctor about their existing risk for blood clots, including any personal or family history of blood clots, and identify contraceptive options to reduce their risk.
It’s also important to recognize the signs and symptoms of blood clots in the legs or arms, including:
• Pain or tenderness not caused by an injury
• Skin that is warm to the touch, red, or discolored
Left untreated, blood clots in the legs or arms can break apart and travel to a person’s lung and be deadly. Symptoms of a blood clot in your lung may include:
• Difficulty breathing
• Chest pain that worsens with a deep breath or cough, coughing up blood
• Faster than normal or irregular heartbeat
Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of these signs or symptoms. Acting quickly may help save your life, or the life of a friend or family member.