25-year-old model Hailey Bieber has opened up about suffering a mini-stroke, saying that hormonal birth control was a contributing factor.
Hailey, wife of popstar Justin Bieber, suffered the stroke in March. One morning at breakfast, out of nowhere, she started feeling a “weird sensation” travel from her shoulder to her fingertips. Her face then started drooping, and she found herself unable to form words or speak, she explains in a video posted to her YouTube account:
“Immediately, I thought I was having a stroke. [Justin] thought I was having a stroke,” she says in the video.
“I had so many things running through my head: ‘I’m having a stroke. I’m really scared. I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know why this is happening. Am I gonna have permanent issues from this?'”
She was rushed to a Los Angeles emergency room, by which time her symptoms had subsided. It was here she learned she had suffered a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or mini-stroke, indicated by the lack of oxygen to a part of her brain.
A TIA is defined by the Mayo Clinic as “a temporary period of symptoms similar to those of a stroke” that “can serve as both a warning of a future stroke and an opportunity to prevent it.”
In a 12-minute video viewed over 3 million times since it was released last week, Bieber explained what caused what she has called “the scariest moment of my life.”
Doctors told her that one factor that led to a blood clot in her brain was her hormonal birth control, although said the mini-stroke was likely the culmination of a “perfect storm of events,” including Bieber recently having had COVID, and reclining for the entirety of her long flights to and from Paris.
Highlighting hormonal birth control as a factor, she said:
“I had just recently started birth control pills, which I should have never been on because I am somebody who suffered from migraines anyway. And I just did not talk to my doctor about this.
“So ladies, if you suffer from bad migraines and you plan on being on birth control pills, make sure you tell your doctor because having a stroke is a potential side effect from birth control pills.”
She added: “I wanted to make this video to share more info and a few resources in the video description below to turn to if you have gone or are going through something similar.”
The cause for the clot travelling to Bieber’s brain remained undetected until she had a transcranial doppler test which discovered that she had a hole between her heart’s right and left atrium, or a patent foramen ovale (PFO). Bieber underwent a PFO closure procedure to close the 12- to 13-millimetre PFO that allowed the blood clot to escape to her brain.
“It went very smoothly. I’m recovering really well, really fast,” she said in an update to fans last week. “I feel really relieved that we were able to figure everything out, that we were able to get it closed, that I will be able to just move on from this really scary situation and just live my life.”
Stroke symptoms can include numbness, tingling or weakness on one side of the body, slurred speech, or double vision. Strokes are usually abrupt and when they occur, it is generally advised not to think or guess, but to call for medical help straight away.
There are currently a number of ways to treat strokes, and medications are often used to dissolve the clot within a 4.5-hour window from the time of onset of the symptoms. There are also clot retrieval procedures that can be done for most patients within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms. The chances of suffering a stroke due to birth control are low but not not inconsiderable.
A 2015 report published in the journal MedLink Neurology found that birth control pills “cause a small but significant increase in the risk of the most common type of stroke.”
The study found that “24,000 women would have to take birth control pills to cause one additional stroke,” but for women who take birth control pills and also smoke, have high blood pressure or have a history of migraine headaches, the stroke risk is “significantly higher.”