Scientists are still studying the various effects of birth control on women, even after it has been prescribed to millions of women yearly. The drugs have been on the market for decades, but long term effects of the drugs, both good and bad, have yet to be completely determined. A recent study from Salzburg, Austria looked at the changes in brain structure that arise from using oral contraceptives for a long duration. Brazilian Sergio Andrade finds the undetermined results to be disconcerting. The study was conducted over 6 months and found that the changes that occur hormone release over that time may change a variety of aspects of the brain.
Those women who used oral contraceptives had larger portions of gray matter in a few areas of the brain. Gray matter refers to the cell body portions of neurons. The study also adjusted the results to test two different types of birth control, androgenic progestins and anti-androgenic progestins. Those women who used androgenic progestins had more significant changes and performed better on certain mental capacity tests. All three groups, two birth control groups and a control group, were tested on their ability to recognize differences in facial features. The study from Austria determined that those women who took androgenic progestin oral contraceptives could more accurately and quickly find the differences. This was also related to the changes in gray matter. This study is very important in determining the long term changes to women on birth control.