A small-scale study argues that birth control pills can alter the size of the hypothalamus, exacerbating feelings of anger and depression. However, there are no effects related to their intelligence.
Women who take oral contraceptives tend to have a smaller hypothalamus in comparison to women who do not take birth control pills. The hypothalamus is a pea-sized component located within the brain that plays an important role in the case of involuntary functions, among which we can count body temperature, appetite, and emotions. It is also a link between the nervous system and the endocrine one.
The researchers argue that the hypothalamus of women who took oral contraceptives was smaller by approximately 6%. According to the lead researcher, the difference is quite significant for a region of the brain.
Oral Contraceptives Can Affect The Brain
During the study, the researchers analyzed the MRI scan of 50 women. Twenty-one participants took a combination pill, a type of birth control that releases a dose of synthetic estrogen and progestin. Complete online interviews and tests were run to observe and record data related to mood, personality, and cognitive functions.
It is important to note that the study has not been reviewed by peers. The findings remain in the preliminary stage as it is too early to say how the oral contraceptives can affect brain functions if they can do it at all. The lead researcher states that people shouldn’t throw their pills away since the purpose of the study is to explore a potential risk and learn more about it.
Several researchers have already tackled the initial results, and they seem to be cautious. One of them has stated that the link between the use of oral contraceptives and smaller hypothalamic volumes have to explore on a larger scale. Others have mentioned that while the results are interesting small-scale studies tend to be prone to false-positive results, and further research is needed.