Where you look, you may find. Because oral contraceptives seized the market in 1959 and have not let go since, there has been little to no incentive to actually research the safety of these pharmaceutical products for women of varied genetic and epigenetic makeups.
These are drugs for healthy people. Thus, they should be held to a standard of benefit vs risk that is distinct from that of an intervention designed as a treatment.
Because so many critical questions have not been asked about what happens when we manipulate the hormonal pathways and feedback loops in the body, we rely on post-marketing research including girls and women dying in the name of contraceptives used for acne or so they can avoid having an inconvenient period. These severe reactions pepper a landscape of flattened mood, libido, personality changes, and autoimmune disease all related to the inflammatory, microbiota, methylation, and metabolic effects of synthetic estrogen and progestins.
Who ends up treating these insidious side effects?
You guessed it. Your trusted psychiatrist, with prescription pad in hand.
This is why new data implicating the Pill in brain-based changes, may usher in research confirming what millions of women around the world have been complaining about for decades – the Pill makes them crazy, makes them depressed, makes them anxious.
Entitled, Oral contraceptive pill use is associated with localized decreases in cortical thickness, Peterson et al report:
In 90 women, (44 OC users, 46 naturally-cycling women), we compared the cortical thickness of brain regions that participate in the salience network and the default mode network, as well as the volume of subcortical regions in these networks. We found that OC use was associated with significantly lower cortical thickness measurements in the lateral orbitofrontal cortex and the posterior cingulate cortex. These regions are believed to be important for responding to rewards and evaluating internal states/incoming stimuli, respectively.
While preliminary, this is certainly provocative and adds to data that suggests we cannot pull one thread of the spider web without moving the entire thing. If you’re looking for a contraceptive alternative check out the Daysy, so you can learn about your cycle, and then optimize it if it’s ailing, through lifestyle medicine.