After Hailey Bieber's Health Ordeal, What You Need to Know About Birth Control and Strokes

As Hailey Bieber recovers from her hospitalization for a mini stroke and heart procedure, a doctor gave E! News her analysis of the model's health ordeal.

By Beth Sobol, Corinne Heller Apr 29, 2022 10:53 PMTags
Watch: Hailey Bieber Reveals She Underwent Heart Procedure After Stroke

Hailey Bieber's health scare has raised awareness about strokes among young people, which aren't uncommon, a doctor says.

In an April 27 YouTube video, the model, 25, shared details about her hospitalization last month. She revealed that while having breakfast with husband Justin Bieber, she suffered stroke-like symptoms such as facial drooping and the inability to speak coherently. Doctors found she "suffered a small blood clot" to her brain, which they labeled a Transient Ischemic Attack, or TIA, also known as a "mini stroke."

What is a TIA?

E! News spoke with New York-based neurologist Dr. Alina Sharinn, formerly Rabinovich—who has not treated Hailey—for more information about what causes strokes and how to prevent them.

Sharinn said a TIA "is a stroke, essentially." She added that "80 percent of strokes occur because of a clot blocking blood flow" and that with a TIA, "the clot, fortunately, resolves and blood flow restores to that vessel into that portion of the brain and the symptoms go away within 24 hours." 

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In her video, Hailey said that she felt no symptoms upon arrival to the hospital and that her clot resolved spontaneously.

"The symptoms of [Hailey's] stroke, the location of the brain where the symptoms were occurring is honestly, unfortunately, one of the worst locations in terms prognosis and potential outcomes," the doctor said. "So the fact that it was actually a TIA and how quickly they were able to recognize the symptoms and get to the hospital and the workup was able to be turned around is just great. So, very happy for her."

Can birth control pills, migraines, plane trips or COVID-19 cause a stroke?

According to the National Library of Medicine, birth control pills carry a small risk of strokes or blood clots. Sharinn said it's a case by case basis.

In Hailey's case, the model said her doctors told her that the recent start of birth control pills coupled with her migraines, two transatlantic plane flights and her recent recovery from COVID-19 could all have contributed to the development of her blood clot.

"I think in her case, a few factors played a role," Sharinn said about Hailey. "But the fact that she has a migraine condition and the fact that, in addition to that, she did start a birth control pill, those could have added small risks. I think one of the main risks was probably the long plane ride. And then on top of that, the fact that there was a hole in the heart that was quite sizable." 

In her video, Hailey said further test results showed she had a "grade 5" Patent Foramen Ovale, or PFO.

Amy Sussman/Getty Images

What is a PFO?

A PFO is a congenital condition—a hole in the heart that is present in every baby at birth. "We're all born with a hole in the heart," Sharinn told E! News. "In most people, this hole in the heart closes. In probably about a quarter of the population, it does not. It persists."

She added, "If you do have that hole that persisted, the clot can, before entering the lungs, escape into the left side of the heart and that's how it gains its access to the brain and can unfortunately cause a stroke. So I think with her, it was just many factors that played a role."

Hailey said her doctors repaired her PFO. The procedure involves a catheter inserted through the femoral artery near the groin.

Are young people really at risk for strokes?

Scary as it was, the model's experience is "unfortunately, not uncommon," Sharinn said. "I do see a small percentage of strokes in young people, specifically with PFO and migraines because it's such a prevalent condition in the young."

The doctor praised Hailey for posting a video to raise awareness about the issue, saying, "The more awareness, the more people are educated about this, the more we can help and the more patients can save themselves and help us."

How can you prevent a stroke?

Some ways that people can lessen their chances of a stroke are to drink plenty of water and occasionally move their legs and walk around if they have to be stationary for a long period of time (like on a flight), Sharinn said, adding, "And then if you have any medical condition, just talk to your doctor and they'll be able to explain and basically give you precautions based on those conditions."

How do you know if you're having a stroke?

The doctor said stroke symptoms can include numbness, tingling or weakness on one side of the body, slurred speech, or double vision. Sharinn said they are usually abrupt and when they occur, "it's better not to think or guess, just call 911 and let them take you to the emergency room."

Can strokes be treated?

She added, "We currently have a lot of ways to treat strokes. We have medications that can dissolve the clot within a 4.5-hour window from the time of onset of the symptoms. And there are also clot retrieval procedures that can be done for most patients within 24 hours of the symptom's onset. So we could do a lot to help, but patients need to get to us."

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