We’ve talked both here on our blog and in our knowledge center about the many applications of hormone-based birth control beyond the obvious use of preventing pregnancy, but some new research suggests there may be another, previously unknown use.
According to University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health’s Kelly Egan and co-researcher Carey Gleason of Wisconsin’s William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital, women’s cognition later in life may be improved by taking hormonal birth control prior to menopause. In fact, it appears that the longer the duration of a woman’s birth control use, the more improvement can be seen.
The study involved 261 participants whose ages ranged from 40-65 years old. Participants were chosen from their involvement with the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention. After performing testing on these women to measure their verbal abilities, spatial abilities and memory, researchers compared the data with participants’ medical histories to determine what, if any, connection exists between hormone-based contraception and mental aging.
The results: “Hormonal contraceptive users scored better in domains of Visuo-spatial Ability and Speed & Flexibility than never users, with a duration-dependent trend.”
So what does this prove? Well, nothing quite yet. As one of the earliest studies of this kind, the Wisconsin research will need to be checked and duplicated, as well as performed with different participants and testing other variables, before anything can be considered concrete.
However, if it does pan out, Alzheimer’s prevention could be added to the already extensive list of applications for birth control pills.
The study could also help inform future, more in-depth research into the effect that women’s hormone levels have on cognitive abilities. It’s also interesting to note that previous studies attempting to link hormone replacement therapies during menopause with mental abilities later in life failed to find any correlation.
This means, in essence, that hormone levels may well have a real impact on a woman’s likelihood to suffer mental degeneration as she ages, but that any intervention using these methods must occur before menopause.
It will be fascinating to watch where these findings lead researchers in the future, and learn what other unsuspected affects hormone levels may have on a woman’s overall health.