Birth Control Pills May Be Altering Important Regions Of Your Brain

If you're an adult female, there's a good chance you're either on, or have been on, birth control. It's one of the only ways to prevent unwanted pregnancies aside from condoms and abstinence (neither of which are particularly popular methods).

You're probably also familiar with the physical changes that can result from birth control, like weight gain and breast growth.

According to a scary new study, weight gain may be the least of our worries: Birth control may prompt physical changes in our brains -- changes that dramatically alter its function.

Neuroscientists at UCLA studied the brains of 90 women and found that both the lateral orbitofrontal cortex (emotion and reward region) and the posterior cigulate cortex (planning and memory region) were thinner in women who take oral contraceptives than in those who do not.

Lead author Nicole Petersen said,

Some women experience negative emotional side effects from taking oral contraceptive pills, although the scientific findings investigating that have been mixed. So it's possible that this change in the lateral orbitofronal cortex may be related to the emotional changes that some women experience when using birth control pills.

Whether these physical changes are permanent remains unclear.

Interestingly, however, the UCLA findings contradict a 2010 study, which found that taking birth control actually thickened the same brain regions.

But some researchers say it doesn't matter how the brain changes; it's only important that it does.

Scientist Craig Kinsey argues,

The possibility that an accepted form of chemical contraception has the ability to alter the gross structure of the human brain is a cause for concern.

Learn more about the 2010 study here and the most recent study here -- and maybe try condoms for the time being.

Citations: Birth Control May Alter The Structure Of A Womans Brain (Huffington Post), Birth Control Pills May Alter The State Of Your Brain Says Scary New Study And Its Unclear How Long These Changes Last (Bustle)