Study: Birth control pills change your brain

Is this a concern and should you stop taking them?

A new study has shown that women taking oral contraceptives, commonly referred to as birth control pills, have a smaller hypothalamus. This normally almond-sized area of the brain regulates different hormones within the body, helping regulate body temperature, mood, appetite, sleep and heart rate. It also is involved in helping control normal function of the ovaries.

Should You Stop Taking Birth Control Pills?

“This study is very preliminary,” said Maria R. Schweichler, M.D., OB/GYN with Total Woman, a part of Norton Women’s Care. “Birth control pills have been used for years and have been deemed safe. If you’re concerned, talk to your medical provider about options.”

Birth control pills contain hormones that stop the ovaries from releasing eggs while also thickening mucous in the cervix to keep sperm from fertilizing an egg. When taken correctly, they are 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.

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“In addition to preventing pregnancy, birth control pills can help lighten periods, reduce pain from endometriosis and fibroids, and even decrease the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease, uterine cancer and ovarian cancer,” Dr. Schweichler said.

This is the first study to look at the effect of oral contraceptives on the hypothalamus. It highlights the need for additional research. It involved 50 women, 21 of whom were on birth control pills.

“It’s important to put this study in context and not make decisions based solely on it,” Dr. Schweichler said. “I expect we’ll see additional research into this subject in the future.”

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