Oral contraceptives reduce general well-being in healthy women

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A new study, published in Fertility and Sterility, conducted by researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden in collaboration with the Stockholm School of Economics shows that one of the most common combined oral contraceptive pills has a negative impact on women’s quality of life. The women who were given contraceptive pills estimated their quality of life to be significantly lower than those who were given placebos. Specific aspects of quality of life like mood/disposition, self-control and energy level were affected negatively by the contraceptives. On the other hand, no significant increase in depressive symptoms was observed.

This study is a part of an ongoing research project conducted by researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden in collaboration with the Stockholm School of Economics where we are studying the effect of oral contraceptives on health outcomes and behavior. To study the effect of oral contraceptives on health and behavior 340 healthy women aged between 18 and 35 were randomly allocated to three months with either pills with no effect (placebos) or contraceptive pills. “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 and behavior" The aim of our research project is to increase our knowledge on the causal relationship between OCs and women’s health, and behaviour", says Niklas Zethraeus, researcher in health economics and economic evaluation.

In a previous study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism in 2016, Niklas Zethraeus and co-authors show that oral contraceptives have no negative impact on overall sexual function, although three (desire, arousal, and pleasure) of seven sexual function domains were adversely affected.

Other co-authors are: Angelica Lindén Hirschberg (KI), Liselott Blomberg (KS), Bo von Schoultz (KI), Eva Ranehill  (University of Zurich), Anna Dreber and Magnus Johannesson (Stockholm School of Economics), and Fernand Labrie (Laval University).

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The study in the media

Independent
New York Magazine

Previous study on the effect of contraceptives on women's health

Combined Oral Contraceptives and Sexual Function in Women – a Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial
Niklas Zethraeus, Anna Dreber, Eva Ranehill, Liselott Blomberg, Fernand Labrie, Bo von Schoultz, Magnus Johannesson, och Angelica Lindén Hirschberg
The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, online 15 augusti, 2016, doi: 10.1210/jc.2016-2032.