Women who have reached the reproductive age and use hormonal contraceptives, such as the birth control pill, there’s some promising news for them if they have asthma. Hormonal contraceptives may lower risks of severe bouts of the respiratory condition. This according to a 17-year study published in November 2020, in the journal Thorax.
Sex Hormones Influence Your Health
At first glance the connection between asthma and contraception may seem random. Hormones such as oestrogen have long been thought to affect the likelihood of the development of asthma and the severity of the disease.
During childhood, asthma is more common in boys than in girls. According to the study, starting from around puberty, there’s a noticeable switch between the genders across the global population. In other words, sex hormones increase in activity around the time of puberty, just when the asthma risk profile flips between genders.
“We know that more than 40% of women who have asthma experience increased exacerbations during their menstrual cycle, which points to the role of sex hormones,” said study author Bright Nwaru, of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.
Apart from the naturally occurring hormones in the body, synthetic sex hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone in the pill have had their impact on asthma studied over the past couple of decades. It must be noted that scientists had not yet reached a consensus on hormones’ protective effect.
The Role Hormonal Contraceptives May Play in Asthma Severity
Close to a third of the women at the beginning of the study were using hormonal contraceptives. The percentage of women who experienced severe bouts of asthma rose with advancing age, BMI, and more pregnancies. It was also higher in current and former smokers, and among women who had had a gynaecological condition.
The research also found that women taking the pill were less likely to have severe asthma. “Our results showed that women who were using hormonal contraceptives, particularly combined contraceptives, but not progesterone-only contraceptives, were at a small decreased risk of having severe asthma exacerbations than women who did not use hormonal contraceptives,” says Nwaru.
How Long You’ve Been on the Pill Is a Factor
Women who had taken hormonal contraceptives for only one or two years didn’t experience a reduction in asthma risk. But those who had taken it for three more years were associated with a lower risk when compared with people who don’t use it at all. This is indicative of the length having a significant impact on its protective effect.
Other Health Benefits of the Birth Control Pill
We know that the pill is highly successful in its core function: preventing pregnancy. But the hormones found in these medications offer a number of other wellness perks. Both combination and progestin-only pills have the capacity to reduce menstrual cramps, lighten menstrual periods, and lower the risk of ectopic pregnancy. But they also can improve acne, keep bones from thinning, reduce breast and ovarian cysts, and lower the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer.
One thing to remember:
Birth control and sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention are NOT the same thing. Only condoms protect against STIs when used correctly.
How Marie Stopes can help you
Marie Stopes South Africa offers a wide range of different contraceptives. Whether you’re interested in a monthly option like the pill (oral contraception) or patch; or a long-acting method like an implant or IUD, we can help you find contraceptive method that suits your lifestyle.
We also offer HIV and STI testing and safe pregnancy options which will provide you with all of the support you may need. Get protected! Find your nearest Marie Stopes centre and pop in to get the facts about contraception, then find the right option for you.