birth control pill reduces bone mineral density

More and more young women are being prescribed birth control pills for all kinds of reasons. But a very unwanted side effect down the road may need to be taken into consideration.

In Canada, 65% of women between the ages of 16 and 19 are, or have taken, combined estrogen and progesterone hormone birth control. This is a period of physical development during which adolescents are building bone mineral density that is necessary to prevent fractures later in life.

A new Canadian meta-analysis looked at nine studies of women between the ages of 12 and 19 who were on combined estrogen and progesterone birth control pills and compared them to women who were not. The studies followed 1,535 women for one year and 885 women for two years.

What the researchers found is very concerning. The one year study found significantly lower bone mineral density in the birth control group; the two year study found highly significantly lower bone mineral density. That means that taking birth control pills as a teenager could increase your risk of collapsed vertebrae and fractures as an adult.

The researchers called these results a “concern” that, given the increasing use of birth control pills, “suggests a potential public health problem.”

Recent studies of combined estrogen and progesterone birth control have highlighted other concerns with giving women the pill, including almost quadrupling the risk of blood clots and significantly reducing general well being.

Clin Endocrinol (Oxf) 2019;doi: 10.1111/cen.13932

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