New research examines how oral contraceptives impacts brain function
A new Canadian study is examining how oral contraceptives affect the brain, a subject that researchers currently know very little about.
Laura Gravelsins, a PhD student with the Einstein Lab at the University of Toronto, is part of a team of researchers that are testing the cognition and memory of women who use oral contraceptives.
Traditionally, the brain was considered as a separate system from the rest of the body and that view has formed the questions researchers asked, Gravelsins said. But new research shows the importance of looking at the body and all its systems as a whole.
This means that while there has been a lot of research on how oral contraceptives may be linked to physical side effects such as osteoporosis and blood clots, not much is known about how the synthetic hormones in oral contraceptives are impacting the brain and a person’s cognitive function.
It’s also important to consider how oral contraceptives may be affecting the brain at various ages of a woman’s life.
For example, the adult brain doesn’t stop developing until around the age of 25 and many women start taking oral contraceptives at 16 or earlier, Gravelsins explained. Although taking oral contraceptives at this age is safe, it’s still not known how or if it affects the developing brain.
“It’s unfortunate that there isn’t more research on this, but it’s worth it to demand more research on it,” she said.
Start by asking your healthcare provider questions like how your hormonal birth control might affect your mood, she recommended.
“Hormonal medications have consequences on some people and not others, and it’s not widely understood as to why people have these different reactions while others don’t,”Gravelsins said.
For more information about the best birth control methods for you, visit your primary healthcare provider or Planned Parenthood.