Woman suffers lung blood clot after abusing morning-after pills

By Minh An   August 23, 2022 | 07:08 pm PT
A 34-year-old woman in northern Vietnam who was regularly taking morning-after pills for years has been hospitalized with pulmonary embolism.

The 108 Military Central Hospital in Hanoi said Tuesday its doctors saved her life after she was admitted last week with chest pain and breathing difficulty.

The woman, whose identity has not been disclosed, told the doctors she had been taking 12-15 Levonorgestrel pills meant for emergency birth control per month for 10 years.

CT scans and ultrasound tests showed she has an enlarged right heart chamber, severe regurgitation of the tricuspid, one of the four valves in the heart, increased pulmonary artery pressure and blood clots in the pulmonary artery, which carries deoxygenated blood from the right side of the heart to the lungs.

Doctors diagnosed her as having acute pulmonary embolism due to abusing emergency contraceptives.

Chest CT image of the patient with acute pulmonary embolism. Photo by Hanois 108 Military Central Hospital

Chest CT image of the patient with acute pulmonary embolism. Photo by Hanoi's 108 Military Central Hospital

She had fully recovered by Tuesday and was discharged.

Dr Pham Quang Trinh, who treated the patient, said pulmonary embolism occurs when a blood clot gets stuck in an artery in the lung, blocking blood flow to a part of the lung.

Its complications are varied depending on the size of the clot and the number of veins that are affected. It could be fatal in some cases.

Normally, its causes include hereditary blood diseases such as thalassemia, vascular diseases such as venous insufficiency and atherosclerosis.

Some diseases such as breast and lung cancer, and conditions such as obesity, pregnancy, women within six weeks postpartum, those that are smoking or abusing birth control pills can also lead to pulmonary embolism.

A study by Alain Weill published in British medical trade journal BMJ said, "Under real conditions of use, among 100,000 women using a combined oral contraceptive for one year an estimated 33 will experience pulmonary embolism."

In the case of emergency birth control pills, doctors widely recommend that women should not use more than two in a menstrual cycle.

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