Young woman’s warning about contraceptive pill after blood clots found on both lungs

News

A young footballer has warned others of the dangers of the contraceptive pill after she developed deadly blood clots on both lungs.

Hollie Olding, 21, was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism (PE) by shocked medics when she was rushed to hospital after coughing up blood.

The communications student, who was on a football scholarship in the US at the time, had developed a cough at the time.

She was left heartbroken because her medication meant that she had to stop playing the sport she loved for nine months.

Hollie, from Putney, southwest London, has now returned to the pitch and feels healthier than ever.

She is speaking out for the first time to encourage other women to listen to their body and know the risks of taking oral contraceptives.

Hollie said: “I would like to spread awareness of the condition especially in female athletes who play football and use contraception.”

Hollie, who plays in central midfielder, had been taking a combined oral contraceptive to help control her bad period pains so they wouldn’t affect her performance during matches.

But while studying at the University of Pittsburgh, she had been flying state-to-state for football games every weekend and noticed she had developed a dry cough in September 2019.

Doctors first believed she had pneumonia because they thought she was too young and active to have PE, a condition more commonly diagnosed in the elderly.

But after her symptoms worsened, Hollie’s lungs were scanned where lots of clots in her left lung and some in her right were found.

She was then prescribed blood thinners to help get rid of the blood clots, which left her unable to play football.

Hollie said: “At first, the doctors thought I was too healthy and fit to have PE – but after a CT scan, they found blood clots all over both lungs.

“They told me that my lungs were very damaged and scarred. One of the nurses even said I lit up like a Christmas tree in the scan which was worrying.

“My initial symptoms were strange – I had a dry cough but it was winter time so I just kept an eye on it but I’d also get night sweats.

“The diagnosis came as a massive shock to me because before I was diagnosed, my team flew from Pittsburgh to Florida and I played a full game but the next morning I started to cough up blood.

“For months, I suffered a lot mentally because I’ve been playing football ever since I could walk so to have the game taken away from me was heartbreaking.

“Now I’m back playing and I feel as fit as I’ve ever been so it’s crazy to look back. I’m so proud of how far I’ve come.”

Hollie, who has also played for England and Chelsea, recalled when she first fell ill saying: “The cough just wouldn’t go but I carried on playing because I was the type to push through the pain.

“In October 2019, my team and I were travelling to Florida for two games before returning to Pittsburgh.

“Although I played the whole game on Sunday and didn’t have any symptoms that bothered me, the next morning I started to cough up blood.

“It was then that I knew something was very wrong and was taken to hospital.”

She added: “The doctors figured out straight away that it was due to oestrogen in the combined contraceptive pill I was taking at the time, plus the constant flights I had to make for football.

“There was no history of clots in my family, so it does seem it was the pill and long periods of being sat down travelling.

“It was really tough. I had gone from being extremely fit and active, to not even being able to make it up the stairs because I would get so out of breath.”

After being unable to play the sport she loved for nine months, Hollie returned to the UK and began training once again in August this year after switching to a progesterone only pill.

She is now hoping to get a new professional football contract, whilst urging other young people to act quickly when they feel something isn’t right with their body.

“I was the type of person to push through pain but if I had listened to my body a bit more I’d have caught this earlier,” she said.

“I feel like I’m in a fortunate position because I did get a diagnosis and was able to overcome my illness and learn much more about blood clots.”