- Very little is known about the effects of oral contraceptive pills, despite their increased consumption worldwide.
- New findings state that a commonly used combination of contraceptive pills containing ethinylestradiol and levonorgestrel negatively impacts women's quality of life.
- Apart from the quality of life, contraceptives also affected specific aspects like mood, well-being, self-control and energy level
A common combination of oral contraceptive pills has been shown to negatively impact women's quality of life. It however, does not increase depressive symptoms.
The combination that included etinylestradiol and levonorgestrel, is recommended in many countries as the first choice due to its least risk of thrombosis among the other combinations of contraceptive pills.
The randomized, placebo-controlled study conducted by researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden in collaboration with the Stockholm School of Economics.`
‘While prescribing contraceptives and choosing a method of contraception, the possible degradation of quality of life should be taken into account.’
"Despite the fact that an estimated 100 million women around the world use contraceptive pills we know surprisingly little today about the pill's effect on women's health. The scientific base is very limited as regards the contraceptive pill's effect on quality of life and depression and there is a great need for randomised studies where it is compared with placebos," says professor Angelica Lindén Hirschberg at the Department of Women's and Children's Health at Karolinska Institutet.
Other authors were Niklas Zethraeus, associate professor at the Department of Learning, Informatics, Management and Ethics, Anna Dreber Almenberg from the Stockholm School of Economics, and Eva Ranehill of the University of Zürich.
For the study, 340 healthy women aged between 18 and 35 were treated randomly over the course of three months. One group was given pills with no effect (placebos) and the other group was given contraceptive pills containing ethinylestradiol and levonorgestrel, the most common form of combined contraceptive pill in Sweden and many other countries.
It was a double-blind study where neither the leaders nor the subjects knew which treatment was given to which women.
The results showed that women on contraceptive pills estimated their quality of life to be significantly lower compared to the placebo group.
Apart from the quality of life, contraceptives also affected specific aspects like mood, well-being, self-control and energy level were affected negatively by the contraceptives. Contraceptive pills did not increase depressive symptoms.
"This might in some cases be a contributing cause of low compliance and irregular use of contraceptive pills. This possible degradation of quality of life should be paid attention to and taken into account in conjunction with prescribing of contraceptive pills and when choosing a method of contraception," says Niklas Zethraeus.
The findings from this combination cannot be generalized to other kinds of combinations of contraceptive pills because they may have a different risk profile and side-effects.
The results are published in the scientific journal Fertility and Sterility
- Angelica Lindén Hirschberg et al. A first choice combined oral contraceptive influences general well-being in healthy women - a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Fertility and Sterility; (2017) DOI:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2017.02.120