Birth Control Pills May Impact Part Of Women's Brains Responsible For Decision-Making: Study

The team said that further research is still needed to confirm the findings. (Representative pic)

Researchers in Canada have suggested that daily contraceptives could alter women’s brains and make them risk-takers. According to a study published in the journal Frontiers in Endocrinology, researchers from Montreal analysed the effects of oral contraceptives on the brain. Specifically, they investigated the role of naturally and synthetically produced hormones on the way fear is processed. 

“When prescribed [combined oral contraceptives], girls and women are informed of various physical side effects, for example, that the hormones they will be taking will abolish their menstrual cycle and prevent ovulation,” said study author Alexandra Brouillard, a researcher at the University of Quebec in Montreal, in a statement. Yet, the researchers claim that the pill’s effects on the brain’s development have not been thoroughly investigated. 

Therefore, the researchers from Montreal enlisted 139 women, ages 23 to 35, who were using oral contraceptives at the time, who had stopped taking the pill, or who had never used hormonal birth control. They also enlisted 41 men. 

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The team found that compared to men, the women on birth control had a “thinner ventromedial prefrontal cortex,” which is responsible for “emotion regulation, such as decreasing fear signals” in safe situations. Ms Brouillard noted that this thinning could mean an impairment of emotional regulation, which could make them risk-takers. 

However, the researchers also noted that this thinning could be reversed once consumption of the pill stops since the former birth control users did not demonstrate the same results. 

In the study, the team said that further research is still needed to confirm the findings. “The objective of our work is not to counter the use of [combined oral contraceptives], but it is important to be aware that the pill can have an effect on the brain. Our aim is to increase scientific interest in women’s health and raise awareness about early prescription of COCs and brain development, a highly unknown topic,” said Ms Brouillard. 



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