A recently published study shared that the most common combined oral contraceptive pill pose a negative impact on the quality of life of women who use the said pills; although it does not cause an increase in depressive symptoms.
The above findings were published in the scientific journal Fertility and Sterility earlier this year. The data was collected from a major randomized placebo-controlled study conducted by the collaborative efforts of Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet researchers and the Stockholm School of Economics.
New OCP Study Sheds Light on Important Issue
Karolinska Institutet Department of Women’s and Children’s Health professor Angelica Lindén Hirschberg stated that we know very little as to how oral contraceptive pills truly affect women’s health, despite the fact that women users of contraceptive pills around the world number at around 100 million (some males on hormone therapy also use them). She also shared that the current scientific base regarding the effect of contraceptive pills on depression and quality of life is very limited. Due to this, the professor thinks that there is a great need for studies wherein the use of oral contraceptives is compared to placebos to ascertain what other effects it may have on women’s health and fertility.
In light of the above, professor Lindén Hirschberg led a study together with the Department of Learning, Informatics, Management and Ethics associate professor Niklas Zethraeus, Stockholm School of Economics’ Anna Dreber Almenberg, and the University of Zürich Eva Ranehill to gather necessary data. The research team gathered their study’s data from a group of 340 healthy women belonging to the 18 to 35 years old age group. The women were treated randomly for over 3 months with placebos (pills that have no effect) or contraceptive pills that contain a combination of levonorgestrel and ethinylestradiol, the most common form of combined OCP in the world and in Sweden. The lead researchers and the women were kept unaware as to which treatment was given to each woman.
Findings Could Mean More
Women who were given OCPs estimated that their quality of life is lower than women who were treated with placebos. It appears that the contraceptives negatively affected both the general quality of life and aspects of it such as the women’s well-being and mood. It is to be noted that no marked increase in depressive symptoms was seen.
The researchers emphasize that caution must be applied to the interpretation of the study’s results since changes observed were relatively small. Despite this, they also stated that the negative effect of the use of OCPs in individual women may be of clinical importance.
Niklas Zethraeus stated that the negative effect shared by some women may be a contributing factor to the irregular use or low compliance of use of OCPs in some women. Zethraeus further added that these findings should be taken into consideration when prescribing various forms of contraceptives and specific OCPs.
It is to be noted that the findings of the study are only applicable to the specific OCP combination of ethinylestradiol and levonorgestrel – the most common OCP combination prescribed in most countries due to a relatively lower risk of physiological combinations among other OCPs. Other OCP combinations have a different risk profile and possible side effects.