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Long-term studies on hormonal birth control - What we know

October 26, 2023
Clinically reviewed by Dr. Mary Oleksowicz

Essential Takeaways

  1. Long-Term Efficacy: Studies consistently demonstrate the high effectiveness of hormonal birth control in preventing unintended pregnancies when used correctly.
  2. Health Outcomes and Risks: Research suggests potential reductions in ovarian and endometrial cancer risks, but a slight increase in breast and cervical cancer risks. Some studies also indicate a minimal rise in cardiovascular events and bone density changes associated with long-term use.
  3. Varied Impacts and Considerations: Hormonal birth control affects menstrual patterns, mental health, and may be associated with managing reproductive disorders such as endometriosis and PCOS. Understanding individual risks and consulting healthcare professionals is crucial for informed decision-making.

Long-term studies on hormonal birth control have significantly contributed to understanding the impacts, benefits, and potential risks associated with various contraceptive methods. This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the findings from these extensive studies, shedding light on the effects and outcomes observed over extended periods.

Understanding Hormonal Birth Control:

Hormonal birth control methods, including oral contraceptive pills, patches, injections, hormonal IUDs, and implants, are designed to prevent pregnancy by altering hormone levels in the body. These methods primarily contain synthetic forms of estrogen and/or progesterone, which regulate the menstrual cycle and prevent ovulation.

Here are some key findings from these studies:

  1. Reduced risk of pregnancy: Hormonal birth control methods, such as oral contraceptive pills, patches, and hormonal intrauterine devices (IUDs), have proven to be highly effective in preventing unintended pregnancies when used correctly.
  2. Decreased risk of certain cancers: Long-term use of hormonal birth control has been associated with a reduced risk of ovarian and endometrial cancers. The risk reduction appears to persist even after discontinuing hormonal contraception.
  3. Increased risk of certain cancers: While hormonal birth control may reduce the risk of some cancers, it has been associated with a slight increase in the risk of breast and cervical cancers.
  4. Impact on cardiovascular health: Some studies have suggested a slightly increased risk of cardiovascular events, such as blood clots, in women using certain types of hormonal birth control. The risk varies depending on the specific formulation and individual factors, such as smoking and pre-existing cardiovascular conditions.
  5. Bone density changes: Some research has suggested a possible link between long-term use of hormonal birth control, particularly Depo-Provera (a progestin-only injectable), and decreased bone density.
  6. Menstrual cycle changes: Hormonal birth control often leads to changes in menstrual patterns, including lighter or absent periods, more regular cycles, and reduced menstrual pain. These changes can be desirable for some individuals but may vary depending on the specific method used.
  7. Impact on mental health: Studies examining the relationship between hormonal birth control and mental health have yielded mixed results. Some research suggests a potential association with increased risk of depression or mood changes, while other studies have not found a significant link.

Conclusion

It's important to note that individual experiences with hormonal birth control can vary, and these findings represent general trends observed in research studies. If you have concerns or specific questions about hormonal birth control, it's recommended to consult with a healthcare professional who can provide personalized advice based on your unique circumstances.