Birth control pills make eggs look old, but they do not affect a woman’s fertility

Taking birth control pills may make women’s eggs seem old, at least as measured by two tests of fertility, a new study has found.

In younger women taking the pill, hormone levels associated with the ability to make mature, healthy eggs are more like those of older women than they are like the levels of younger women who don’t use these contraceptives, according to the study. Women on the pill also have fewer structures in their ovaries that can mature into viable eggs.

Birth control pills make eggs look old, but they do not affect a woman’s fertility

However, the new results don’t imply that the pill prematurely ages women’s eggs, the researchers said. Instead, the findings suggest that the pill obscures a woman’s underlying reproductive status, said Lubna Pal, director of the menopause and polycystic ovarian syndrome programs at Yale University. As a result, tests that are typically done to assess women’s fertility shouldn’t be done on women taking the pill, she said.

“Women should not be freaking out that they are losing their eggs” if they’re taking birth control, said Pal, who was not involved in the study. “These [tests] are yardsticks that should be applied only in the context of fertility assessments.”

A woman’s “ovarian reserve” is a measure that predicts how well her ovaries produce mature oocytes, or eggs, that can be fertilized. As women age, their ovarian reserve diminishes, leading to fewer eggs and to fewer that reach a mature stage.

Most doctors assess ovarian reserve by measuring the levels of anti-Mullerian hormone, or AMH, in the blood and by conducting a vaginal ultrasound to count the number of early-stage ovarian structures called follicles. Together, these two markers are strongly correlated with how a woman’s ovaries are aging. (Women nearing menopause tend to have lower values on these tests.)

In the new study, researchers looked at both markers in 833 Danish women between ages 18 and 46, including some who used oral contraceptives. Those who were taking the pill had 19 percent lower levels of AMH and 16 percent fewer early-stage follicles. Their ovaries were also much smaller than those of women who were not taking the pill.

The findings make sense from a biological perspective, Pal said.

The hormone levels that the researchers measured generally increase as eggs mature inside the follicles, in a process akin to a production line, she said. “So, if you suppress the ovarian function, particularly with higher-dose oral contraceptives, you are slowing that production line,” Pal said.

However, that doesn’t mean these women’s egg quality has permanently declined. Instead, hormonal birth control simply suspends the egg maturation process in an earlier stage.

Source: washington post

Birth control pills — effectiveness, side-effects and health risks

Contraceptive pills

Every day, over 100 million women all over the world pop an emergency oral contraceptive pill. Oral contraceptive pills are no doubt an effective way to birth control in sexually active married women. But, such widespread use of birth control pills is definitely alarming because most women using them are unaware about its mechanism of action and its safety aspect. In this article, we highlight important aspects about birth control pills that every woman should know.

How does a birth control pill work?

A woman is said to become pregnant when the ovaries release an egg (through reproductive hormonal regulation) that gets fertilised by the male sperm. This fertilised egg then gets attached or implanted to the uterus, where it is nourished over the period of nine months to develop into a baby.

Oral contraceptive pills are designed such that they disrupt the normal hormonal cycle in women and create an artificial hormonal environment that does not allow you to conceive by interfering with contraception and implantation. Most birth control pills that are available today are a combination of oestrogen and progesterone (female reproductive hormones). These pills:

  • Block the release of egg from the ovaries
  • Make the entry of the sperm difficult by thickening the cervical mucus
  • Affect the sperm motility so that it does not reach the egg to fertilise it.

When should you take the pill?

Most birth control pills have clear instructions regarding dosage and use on their leaflet. Some pills are to be taken on specific days of the menstrual cycle. Emergency contraceptive pills are usually required to be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex. But not all brands of birth control pills can be used for emergency contraception. Further, the number of pills required to be taken in a dose differs for each brand.

What are the side-effects?

Birth control pills can cause minor side-effects which can appear immediately or any time after taking them. Every woman taking birth control pills will experience different side-effects including:

  1. Nausea
  2. Headache
  3. Weight gain
  4. Digestive problems- diarrhoea or constipation
  5. Vomiting
  6. Stomach cramps
  7. Changes in menstrual cycle
  8. Mood changes

These side-effects do not last for a long time. But there are some rare side-effects which need immediate medical attention:

  1. Severe headache
  2. Dizziness
  3. Sever stomach pain
  4. Swelling of hand and feet
  5. Unusual bleeding
  6. Heaviness in the chest
  7. Dark coloured urine
  8. Skin rash
  9. Speech problems
  10. Potential health risks of birth control pills

Several studies have linked the use of birth control pills with increased risk of breast cancer and cervical cancer. A study by Danish researchers suggested that oral contraceptive pills may increase the risk of heart attack and stroke in women. The risk is largely dependent on the dose of oestrogen used in the pill. There are several registered cases where women have suffered from blood clotting (deep vein thrombosis) after having a contraceptive pill.

Source: Health India