Over one hundred million women take birth control medications. Their experiences vary from extremely positive to life-threateningly negative. For instance, a young woman I have known for some time took Depo-Provera for a short period and ended up crying in public places for no apparent reason and even pulling her own hair out. It is worth noting that drugs like Depo-Provera are also used in chemical castration, hardly ironic but bizarre all the same.
Still, for every horror story, there are tons of women who are very satisfied with their contraceptive pills. But what effect does birth control have on the mind? Well, recent studies have suggested that they just may be the female form of nootropics.
Recent research by UC Irvine points to notable changes in memory and cognition among women actively taking birth control meds. In the course of Irvine’s research, they found that the ladies were able to more lucidly recall emotional events and improvement was observed in the area of processing social cues.
“It’s a change in the type of information they remember, not a deficit,” said Shawn Nielsen, a UCI graduate researcher.
Nielsen works with noted neurobiologist Larry Cahill who said that by inhibiting the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone, birth control affected a woman’s strong “left brain” memory.
Pauline Maki, a professor of psychology at the University of Illinois agreed championed Cahill’s research and agreed with regard to this particular study’s results.
“The fact that women on oral contraceptives remembered different elements of a story tells us that estrogen has an influence on how women remember emotional events,” Maki said.
In the course of the study, photographs were shared with the researchers’ test subjects. The pictures showed a boy, his mother, and a car accident. The official narrative varied from test subject to test subject with some being told that the car hit the curb and others being told that the car struck the boy and left him critically injured.
A week later, surprise tests were administered as to the test subjects’ recollections of the photos. Subjects who had been on these hormonal suppressants for a period of a month recalled with great clarity the traumatic events that weren’t ever visually depicted in the photographs themselves.
There is still much to be discovered about contraceptive drugs, but researchers are confident that these studies can help to eventually explain why women experience PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). And it is all too clear that these hormonal changes can have powerful effects on cognition and memory recall.
The evidence suggests that visuospatial capabilities and verbal memory are altered when taking birth control meds. Emotional recognition is likewise enhanced.
For further reading on the exact history and nature of oral hormonal contraception, readers are advised to click here.
Now to those women who are taking birth control while also taking nootropic supplements for a variety of reasons, you are urged to take precaution. Certain nootropics can cause a drastic reduction in the desired effects of birth control medications. Adrafinil and Modanifil are two such herbal supplements. The same can be said for those using Provigil.
On the other hand, evidence supports the idea that there is no contraindication among certain varieties of nootropics, particularly Levetiracetam. But all users should be careful due to the stimulating effects these supplements can have.
Those trying to emancipate their minds while taking birth control need to be careful. Always consult your physician before using either hormone-based contraceptives or herbal supplements.