Birth Control Boosts the Brain?

Cognitive function of women who had taken hormonal birth control was higher

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Most women take birth control for the obvious reason: to avoid getting pregnant. But it can have some unexpected side benefits. Hormonal birth control might help your brain too.

A recent study found that women who took hormonal birth control had better cognitive scores later in life.

This does not mean that birth control caused the women to be smarter. There may be a link, though.

"Discuss birth control options with your doctor."

The study, led by Kelly R. Egan, MS, from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison, aimed to find out whether hormonal birth control before menopause might be linked to cognitive function later in life.

The study involved 261 women, aged 40 to 65, with normal cognitive function.

They all filled out a women's health history questionnaire and went through a series of tests to assess their cognitive function, including their verbal ability, their visual/spatial ability, their memory and their mental speed.

The researchers found that women who had taken hormonal contraception at some point in the past did better in two areas than women who had never taken hormonal birth control.

The areas where women who had taken birth control excelled were visual/spatial skills and their mental speed and flexibility skills.

In addition, the researchers found that the women performed better the longer they had used hormonal birth control. The best performances occurred among those who had used them for 15 years or longer.

The women who used birth control scored better than the women who didn't in the other domains as well, but the results could have been due to chance.

The results had been adjusted to a count for the women's age, their socioeconomic status, their years of education, how many children they had and whether they had used hormonal therapy for menopause.

The authors concluded that these results mean hormonal birth control might have an impact on women's cognitive outcomes later in life, even years after having used the birth control.

The study was published September 20 in the Journal of Women's Health. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Wisconsin Alzheimer's Disease Research Center. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 9, 2012
Last Updated:
November 11, 2012