Birth Control Pills May be Shrinking Key Part of Brain

A new study has revealed a troubling aspect of oral contraception currently used by 6 million women in the U.S. alone.

From the website Study Finds:

Women who take birth control pills have significantly smaller hypothalamus volume. The hypothalamus is among the most important areas of the brain, and has a hand in nearly everything one does on a day-to-day basis. This includes appetite, sex drive, overall mood, body temperature, sleep patterns, and heart rate. Situated at the base of the brain above the pituitary gland, the hypothalamus also produces essential hormones.

According to the research team, this is the first time the structural effects of sex hormones and birth control pills on the hypothalamus have been investigated. Mostly due to a lack of valid methods to quantitatively analyze MRI exams, that is, up until now.

“There is a lack of research on the effects of oral contraceptives on this small but essential part of the living human brain,” says Michael L. Lipton, M.D., Ph.D., FACR, professor of radiology at the Gruss Magnetic Resonance Research Center at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and medical director of MRI Services at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, in a release. “We validated methods for assessing the volume of the hypothalamus and confirm, for the first time, that current oral contraceptive pill usage is associated with smaller hypothalamic volume.”

Researchers noted smaller hypothalmus size is correlated with depression and is associated with increased feelings of anger.

Since this is the first study of its kind and involved a relatively small sample size of 50 women, 21 of whom were on the Pill, the results are not totally definitive.

However, thanks to new advances in MRI technology, this changes in brain size can now be accurately measured and this result reveals the need for a larger scale study.