A startling new study suggests that birth control pills may affect the brain’s function and even structure. The study found that the brain can actually shrink in two key areas causing the areas to be thinner than those who do not take the contraceptive pills.
The study was published in the journal Human Brain Mapping which studied the effects of birth control pills on a woman’s brain. Researchers discovered that the areas of the brain that process emotions and handle decision-making were thinner in women taking oral contraceptives than those not on the pill. This suggests that the synthetic hormones are somehow altering the brain’s structure.
The Daily Mail reports that the lateral orbitofrontal cortex, which is responsible for decision-making, and the posterior cigulate cortex, which is responsible for processing emotions, can shrink in response to synthetic hormones found in the drug. The researchers point out that they are not the first to find a correlation between contraceptive use and brain structure changes.
“Two previous studies have documented effects of hormonal contraceptives on brain structure.”
Though the study showed a direct correlation between thinner brain regions in oral contraceptive users, researchers are still unsure if the thinning would affect the individual’s behavior and whether or not the thinning is a temporary side effect of the birth control pills. As of now, researchers do not know if the effects last days, weeks, months, years or if they are permanent
“Future studies will be needed to assess whether the effects reported here that did persist during the inactive OC week last for weeks, months, years, or permanently. We hope that these findings provide compelling evidence for future investigators to determine the answers to these questions.”
This isn’t the first study to find that unwanted side effects may occur from birth control use. The Inquisitr previously reported on a study that found that using hormonal birth control (including estrogen or combination hormones) can increase the risk of a rare form of brain tumor called gliomas, and that using progestin-only birth control for longer than five years more than doubles the risk of developing gliomas.
However, while birth control pills are not without risk, they are a very good prevention method when used properly.
[Image Credit: Getty Images/ Tim Matsui]