The idea for an organisation whose purpose would be to bring the health risks of hormonal contraception (HC) to the attention of young adults came about a month after my girlfriend had a brain episode.

She went jogging in the morning with her dog, suddenly got an extreme headache and vision problems. So she called me to bring her to the hospital. I said it would be better to call directly for an ambulance and I am glad, that she did. She was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm — a burst bulge on a brain vessel, followed by internal bleeding.

I did not understand how this could happen to someone only 26 years old!?

During my visits in the intensive care unit, where she has to stay for a month, I found out that another friend of mine had had a bulging brain vessel found six months earlier, based on her strong, localised headaches. Fortunately, the doctors found it before the vessel burst. Both used the same type of HC without always keeping to the prescribed pause between sheets of pills.

I started thinking more about the pill after both my mum and my sister were diagnosed with the Leiden mutation, which causes blood to clot easier and faster. My mum was fortunate enough to survive a lung embolism caused by a blood clot following the removal of a cast on her broken leg.

HC also causes (amongst other things) increased clotting–thickening–of blood and so nobody with the thrombophile mutation (around 5-15% of the European population) should use it.

This and other risks are very seldom mentioned by doctors who prescribe HC. Women on the verge of adulthood thus often lack sufficient knowledge to understand the risks they are undertaking. A blood test prior to prescription of the pill used to be free of charge, but has since sadly been subjected to a fee (in the Czech Republic).

Further and further evidence and arguments push me to bring this topic, which can be difficult to talk about, into the light.

HC probably contributes to an increased concentration of hormones in water and soils, because water treatment plants have no way to remove these (and other) pharmaceuticals from municipal waste water. Many studies provide a description of the state of our knowledge about the effects of artificially added hormones in natural waters. HC may also affect the production of pheromones and thus affect your choice of partner.

Modifying the body’s hormonal balance is a game of chance. And what is at stake is nothing less than the natural life and reproduction, which is the basis of a functioning society. We need not ban the pill, it is enough to stop and think. Everyone should be conscious of the risks — parents, partners and especially doctors — and the underaged should be told about them before their first pill. Only then will it be a truly free choice, whether to undergo the risk and for how long.

I believe that life can be enjoyed fully and parenthood can be planned easily and effectively even without the pill.

Stephen Cross (aka Štěpán Kříž)