Tuesday, March 28, 2023

How do birth control pills affect the brain?

More than 150 million women worldwide use oral contraception. Many adopted it early, during their adolescence. Although it has contributed to the liberation of women, the pill is also notorious for its side effects, some of which have yet to be discovered. At the University of Ottawa in Canada, a team of researchers wanted to study the effects of oral contraceptives on the brain, especially when taken early.

Changes in the structure of the brain

Nafissa Ismail and Andra Smith compared the stress reactivity (the way a person reacts in a stressful situation) of women who had taken the pill from a young age, and others who had never used it. They found differences in brain structure and function between the two groups of women. “The use of oral contraception is associated with an increase in the activity of the prefrontal cortex when the memory is negatively stimulated, by images of weapons or car accidents for example.according to Nafissa Ismail, associate professor of psychology.

The two groups of women also had different brain activity when the images evoked were neutral. Women who took the pill from a young age also reacted differently to stress: they did not react as much to stressful situations as other women. “Use of oral contraception is associated with significant structural changes in brain regions related to memory and emotional processing.according to the researcher.

Could this be the explanation for the mood disorders?

This conclusion could help to better understand some of the effects of contraception. The scientist thinks that this “neural mechanism” may explain why some women experience mood disorders after taking the pill. “Some women complain of depression when they take the pill,” she said.

Previous research has also investigated the link between mood disorders and birth control pills. In 2016, Danish researchers found that women on birth control pills are more likely to take antidepressants than women using another form of birth control. More recently, other scientists have shown that pill-taking mood disorders are associated with oxytocin, a hormone present in the body, secreted according to social or emotional cues. “The goal of our research is not to worry women or prevent them from taking the pillexplains Nafissa Ismail. We just want to inform them so they can make an informed decision about what’s best for them.”

Nation World News Desk
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