Four years ago, Natalie Trickett went downstairs to make breakfast for her two sons when she collapsed. The British mom, now 32, quickly got up but started experiencing numbness and hallucinations. Doctors later diagnosed the sensations as a migraine, but Trickett actually experienced something much worse. Her symptoms stemmed from a dangerous stroke.
In a recent interview with Lancashire Post, Trickett remembers how she couldn’t feel the right side of her face, eventually losing her eyesight as well. When her mom drove her to the doctor’s office, medics told her to rest and make a follow-up appointment.
“It was when I had the eye test the next day that I was told I’d had a stroke and the optician called an ambulance,” she said. “I was so shocked, I panicked and fainted and it was all a bit of a blur.”
A MRI scan eventually revealed a blood clot in her brain, which permanently affected Trickett’s vision and weakened her right side. Trickett even had to retake her driving test, but although she regained her license, the aftermath still impacts her daily life.
“The worst side effect from the stroke has been anxiety. Some supermarkets and shops have poor lighting so I struggle to see and that brings on the anxiety,” she says. “But on the whole, I have made a good recovery and I try and live my life to the full.”
Since she doesn’t drink or smoke, Trickett believes her contraceptive pill, Microgynon, caused the blood clot. “It is actually listed in the potential side effects on the leaflet that comes with the pill,” she said. “But I think until you have been a victim of a stroke yourself, you don’t realize how real a risk it is.”
A 2015 meta-analysis, which combined the results of multiple studies, did find a small but significant link between hormonal birth control and ischemic strokes, the kind caused by blood clots. According to Science Daily, there are about 4.4 ischemic strokes for every 100,000 women of childbearing age. The pill almost doubles the risk, but only to 8.5 strokes per 100,000 women.
If you’re concerned about the potential side effects of your contraception, talk to your doctor. Other important factors to consider include smoking, high blood pressure and frequent migraines.
Most importantly, memorize the acronym “FAST.” The first three letters represent warning signs of a potential stroke: Face spasms or droopiness; Arm numbness or tingling; and Speech difficulties. T is for Time, meaning you should call 911 as soon as you experience symptoms. Blurry vision, dizziness and even hiccups could signal something else is going on.
“I would urge people to be aware of the ‘FAST’ signs of a stroke as I had all those symptoms,” Trickett says. “The quicker you can get treatment after a stroke, the greater your chance of recovery.”