FERTILITY medical consultant Dr Terry Kent has found a link between an American study that shows the pill changes a woman’s brain structure and a treatment option he gives to women who have used oral birth control for decades.
The Radiological Society of North America has reported a “strong association” between the contraceptive pill and the size of the hypothalamus, the region of the brain responsible for regulating hormones, and a connector between the endocrine and nervous systems.
The small part of the brain supports functions such as sex drive, body temperature, childbirth, weight control and sleep cycles.
The RSNA ran a study, which was presented at the society’s annual meeting on December 5, comparing brain MRI scans of 50 women, 21 of whom were using the pill.
It found the women on the pill consistently had smaller hypothalamic volumes.
Dr Kent, who is a medical consultant for Napro Technology, a Church-approved science that treats women with fertility issues through ethical and natural methods, said the study corresponded with the prescription of naltrexone by Napro physicians.
Naltrexone is used to treat drug addicts and alcoholics, as it blocks the effects of opioid drugs.
The St Paul VI Institute, the home of Napro Technology, recommends the prescription of naltrexone in treating fertility problems.
In low doses, which is how Napro doctors prescribe naltrexone to patients with fertility issues, it has been shown to support the hypothalamus and stimulate the production of endorphins.
“With the Napro we are often seeing women who have been on the oral contraceptive pill for 15 to 20-plus years and then wonder why they have trouble conceiving,” Dr Kent said.
“Some of the drugs we give, such as low dose naltrexone, specifically help the hypothalamus.”
As well as being used by Napro physicians for fertility-based care, it has also been used to treat people with weight-related illnesses.
Dr Kent said he was interested to see further research from the RSNA, which he described as a reputable medical group.
Dr Michael L. Lipton, a professor of radiology from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, said the RSNA’s study was the first time researchers had reported significant effects of the oral contraceptive pill on the brain.
“We found a dramatic difference in the size of the brain structures between women who were taking oral contraceptives and those who were not,” Dr Lipton said.
“There is a lack of research on the effects of oral contraceptives on this small but essential part of the living human brain.
“This initial study shows a strong association and should motivate further investigation into the effects of oral contraceptives on brain structure and their potential impact on brain function.”
Other “preliminary” findings from the study included an association with greater anger and depressive symptoms.
The study found the oral contraceptive pill’s effect on the hypothalamus did not disrupt cognitive performance.