Maybe Birth Control Pills Would Be OK

Talking to Hart about hormonal birth control, migraine and stroke risk got me wondering what my risk really is. If it is low, multiplying the number by eight isn’t that big of a deal. Kersti explains this well in her comment on the post:

[T]he problem with statistics is that they’re misleading. 8 times more likely… 8 times what? You need to find out what the baseline actually is, and you need to find it out for your own ethnicity, gender, circumstances before you know if this is a problem. If for example the baseline is 10% then 8 times is pretty ghastly, however, if the baseline is 0.01% then you’re still at 8 times 99.92% likely to NOT get one.

I’m kind of embarrassed I didn’t think this through before I wrote the post. I’m always urging readers to think critically. No matter how much I recommend caution, I too fall into the trap of fear. “Stroke? Eight times more likely? No way!” is how I reacted yesterday.

According to the American Heart Association’s stroke risk factors, I’m at very little risk. That’s reassuring. I’ll talk with the doctor on Monday and see what she recommends.

Check out the this BBC article on understanding — and critically evaluating — statistics, which Kersti suggested.

7 Responses to Maybe Birth Control Pills Would Be OK

  1. NHKAT says:

    This is a very good point! My mother had Hormone Positive Breast Cancer so, I can never take hormones of any kind, raises my risk too high so, birth control pills are OUT.

  2. Katie Burke says:

    I think that when the stakes are high (such as the possibility of a stroke!), it can be easy to abandon critical thought. That there would be ANY chance of something terrible happening is frightening. And yet, taking a step back from it and looking at the numbers makes the most sense.

    When I read your post about the possibility of strokes, I went exactly where you did with it. And now I’m going with you again: “Oh yeah, we have to see what the other multiplier is!”


  3. K1Frog2 says:

    You know what they say…There are lies, damn lies, and statistics!

  4. True information…keep watch to see if b/c pills trigger more attacks. They’re in some people’s “stackable triggers” list.

  5. Marisa says:

    I *love* having an IUD. I have the Mirena, and I don’t menstruate on it. It’s great – and it’s meant no hormonal migraines for me.

  6. Shooter McFly says:

    Hormonal trigger is my biggest, too. I’ve been on the pill for 20 years. To some degree it’s been worth it to prevent “accidental” babies. But now I’m 40, had a recent annual exam that produced a high blood pressure reading (higher than readings I get at home regularly) and an “abnormal” PAP… it’s time for an alternative course of action. I have a cyst on an ovary and have opted to have my tubes tied while the Doc is in there taking care of the cyst. Killing two birds with one scalpel and reducing my threshold for migraines. I’ll still get them but I refuse to let them run my life.

    Thanks for keeping your site going, I’ve enjoyed reading every single “page” of it and it’s SO good to know I’m not weird. Ha ha! Good luck to you all!

  7. Megan Oltman says:

    Things like “eight times more likely” can sound just plain scary. I’m glad you’re having a chance to re-evaluate. It’s always good to have options. I had fewer Migraines when on BC pills, when pregnant, when nursing, and now that I’m on bio-identical HRT, my Migraines are less severe. For me, my cycles were always irregular so anything that modified or enhanced my hormones has been helpful. Of course, some women don’t react that way at all. I guess you don’t know until you try. Good luck!
    – Megan

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