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Is Birth Control Overdosing People With Unnecessary Hormones? Study Says Yes

A package of birth control in front of a pink and blue background

Have you ever wondered what, exactly, is in birth control pills and why? Well, a new study in PLoS Computational Biology has provided some insight into the chemical makeup of common birth control pills and the results are shocking.

In fact, the study found that the dosage of hormones in contraceptives could be up to 92 per cent less and still have the same effectiveness.

Related: British Columbia becomes the first province to make prescription contraception free.

How does birth control work?

Whether you’re using pills, injectables or implants, most contraceptives contain either estrogen, progesterone, or both, to block ovulation – the phase of your cycle where an egg is released into the uterus (AKA when a person is most likely to get pregnant).

The average menstrual cycle involves multiple phases that depend on levels of various hormones, and birth control methods essentially use hormones to suppress ovulation. But, the study found that the hormone dosage in these common forms of contraception could be much lower and still have the same level of efficacy.

Related: 5 obvious signs you’re ovulating (and 3 signs you’re not).

A set of a contraception methods in front of a yellow and blue background

Could the hormone levels in contraceptives be reduced?

The researchers looked at 23 women between 20 and 34 years old with “normal” menstrual cycles, analyzing their hormone levels.

Essentially, the research found that estrogen-only contraceptives could still work just as effectively if the total dose was lowered by a shocking 92 per cent. For progesterone-only contraceptives, the dosage could be reduced by 43 per cent for the same results.

Even further, contraceptives with a combination of estrogen and progesterone could allow for even lower doses of hormones.

The model also found that the timing of hormones during the cycle could allow birth control and contraceptive users to target specific phases of their menstrual cycle. Estrogen and progesterone could be given at only certain phases rather than through constant doses and still have the same effect.

See also: What you need to know about every contraception method available in Canada.


What are the risks of birth control pills with high levels of hormones?

According to Planned Parenthood, most people can take birth control with no problems, but just like with all medications, the pill isn’t for everyone.

Even though birth control pills are often very safe, the combination (estrogen and progesterone) pill slightly increases your risk of health problems.

“Complications are rare, but they can be serious,” their website details. “These can include heart attack, stroke, blood clots, and liver tumors.”

While the chance of having these complications are extremely low for most people, the findings from this study are important because it’s possible that birth control with lower levels of hormones could have a much more positive effect on a user’s health.

You may also like: Interview: Dorcas Obayemi talks endometriosis, advocating for herself with doctors as a woman of colour.

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