Choosing a birth control isn't always easy. Many women worry about how effective their choice will be, how easy it is to use, and whether or not they'll have a negative side effect that can come with a lot of birth control methods. But now there's some heartening news about birth control for a change — there's just may be a very positive side effect of today's birth control pills. New research shows that use of the modern combined pill and lower levels of ovarian cancer are linked. Although so far the research has just shown a link, rather than causation, it's a positive start.
For the study, published in the BMJ, researchers from the University of Aberdeen and the University of Copenhagen looked at data from 1.8 million women between 1995 and 2014. This is not the first time this link has been studied, but this study, unlike the previous versions, focused on the modern version of the Pill. "Previous research has found a reduced risk in ovarian cancer in women using the combined pill but this evidence relates to older products," Dr. Lisa Iversen, first author of the research, tells Bustle. "It is important for women who are currently of reproductive age and using hormonal contraceptives to know whether or not they have a reduced risk of ovarian cancer."
They found that 86 percent of women on hormonal birth control were using the combined pill, which combines estrogen and progesterone to prevent pregnancy. The researchers found that women who had used this pill at some point in their lives had a 34 percent lower risk of ovarian cancer than those who had never used it, while those who were still on it had a 42 percent lower chance of developing ovarian cancer than those who had never used it. Even for those who had taken it previously but had come off of it for a year or more, there was a 24 percent lower risk of ovarian cancer than those who had never been on it.
Although they did not find a causal link, it's interesting that they found that women had lower risk rates the longer they had been on the Pill. The researchers argued that, taken as a whole, hormonal birth control had lowered the rate of ovarian cancer by 21 percent. "Our findings are reassuring to women of reproductive age as contemporary combined oral contraceptives are still associated with a reduced risk of ovarian cancer, with patterns similar to those found with older products," Dr. Iversen says. "Up-to-date information about the risks and benefits associated with contemporary hormonal contraceptives should help women with their decisions about contraceptives." This particular study only looked at women of reproductive age, so more inclusive further research is necessary.
What To Know When Choosing A Birth Control Method
Although these results are heartening, it's important to take a holistic approach when choosing a birth control method. Other research has found that those on the Pill are more likely to be treated for depression. "Many of my patients find that they cannot tolerate how emotional the Pill makes them," Dr. Holland says, "and after trying several different brands over the years, they abandon the idea of using oral contraception for birth control."
That being said, there are many different variations of the Pill, "The cause of these side effects depends on how sensitive you are to these man-made or synthetic estrogen and progesterone hormones," Sherry Ross, MD, OB/GYN tells Bustle. "There are many different brands of oral contraception pills, each varying in the types and doses of these two key hormones. Some women are more sensitive to one or both of these hormones, which exacerbates these side effects. If you try two or three different brands of birth control pills and still experience many disruptive side effects, it’s time to consider another type of contraception."
But every form of birth control comes with its own risks and certain medications can interfere with certain types of birth control, so it's important to talk to your doctor about all of the options to understand the right choice for you.