Birth Control May Alter The Structure Of A Woman’s Brain

Birth control pills have some troubling possible side effects, such as altering a woman’s mood or even her choice of romantic partner. A new study adds another potential concern to the list: Hormonal contraception may shrink portions of the brain and affect their function.

It’s possible that the synthetic hormones found in the Pill — and possibly the suppression of natural hormones that occurs when women are using the Pill — cause these alterations in brain structure and function, according to a new study published in the journal Human Brain Mapping.

In a study conducted on 90 women, neuroscientists at UCLA found that two key brain regions, the lateral orbitofrontal cortex and the posterior cigulate cortex, were thinner in women who used oral contraception than in women who did not.

The lateral orbitofrontal cortex plays an important role in emotion regulation and responding to rewards, while the posterior cigulate cortex is involved with inward-directed thought, and shows increased activity when we recall personal memories and plan for the future.

Changes in the lateral orbitofrontal cortex could be responsible for the increased anxiety and depressive symptoms that some women experience when they start taking the Pill.

“Some women experience negative emotional side effects from taking oral contraceptive pills, although the scientific findings investigating that have been mixed,” Nicole Petersen, a neuroscientist at UCLA and the study’s lead author, told The Huffington Post. “So it’s possible that this change in the lateral orbitofrontal cortex may be related to the emotional changes that some women experience when using birth control pills.”

Scientists have not yet determined if these neurological changes are permanent, or if they only last while a woman is on the Pill.

“We need to do more studies to find out what behaviors —> Read More