A new study, conducted by a team of researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, has suggested that women who take the contraceptive pill could have a slightly different shaped brain. Or, more specifically, an altered area of the brain known as the hypothalamus – which helps to control things like hunger levels, temperature and hormones.
During the small experiment, 50 women (21 of whom were taking the combined pill) had their brains analysed by an MRI scanner and were asked to complete tests on their mood, personality and cognitive functions. It was found that those on the pill had a hypothalamus that was 6% smaller than the women who were not on oral birth control. Leader of the investigation, Dr Michael Lipton said, "That's a pretty sizable difference."
As reported by Live Science, Dr Lipton also said [on the effects of the pill on the brain], "It's a pretty understudied area."
Interestingly, the study found that while this particular area of the brain was smaller, overall the women who were on the pill had a regular sized brain and that their mental abilities weren't impacted. But, researchers did suggest that a smaller hypothalamus may be linked to anger and depressive symptoms - which is interesting because of the previous correlation reported between the contraceptive pill and an increased likelihood of mental health issues. These possible repercussions of a smaller hypothalamus are merely theoretical, however, and would need far more exploration before drawing any firm conclusions.
But before you start binning off all your packets of Microgynon 30, researchers have said that's not necessary. "We're not saying that people should run out and throw away their birth control pills," Dr Lipton concluded. This is a particularly small study, and for any correlation to be confirmed there would been to be more research done into the impact of birth control on the brain.
These findings come at a time shortly after exciting new scientific developments have been made surrounding the way we take the pill in general, notably with the idea that a once-a-month option may soon be on the way.
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