Birth Control Pills

Topic: Birth Control Pills May Reduce Risk of Severe Asthma

A new study found that taking hormonal contraceptives may have a small protective effect on severe cases of asthma in reproductive-age women.

Here’s some promising news for women with asthma: Women of reproductive age who use hormonal contraceptives, such as the birth control pill, may lower their risk of severe bouts of the respiratory condition, according to a 17-year study published online November 23, 2020, in the journal Thorax.

Sex Hormones Influence Your Health

While the connection may seem random, sex hormones such as estrogen have long been thought to affect the likelihood of both the development of asthma and the severity of the disease. “While asthma is more common in boys than in girls during childhood, starting from around puberty, we see a switch between the genders across the global population, in which the incidence becomes higher in women than in men,” says the lead study author, Bright Nwaru, PhD, an epidemiologist at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. In other words, sex hormones increase in activity around the time of puberty, just when the asthma risk profile flips between genders.

Aside from the naturally occurring hormones in the body, the impact of synthetic sex hormones (such as the types of estrogen and progesterone in the pill) on asthma has been studied frequently over the past several decades. But scientists had not yet reached a consensus on hormones’ protective effect. Dr. Nwaru and his team tracked more than 80,000 women over the course of nearly two decades, and they investigated the potential impact of different types of hormonal contraception, how long it was used, and what effect body weight (BMI) and cigarette smoking might have on asthma severity.

The Pill, Patch, Vaginal Ring, and Other Hormonal Contraceptives May Play a Role in Asthma Severity

At the beginning of the study, around a third (34 percent) of the women were using hormonal contraceptives: 25 percent combined; 9 percent progesterone-only. The percentage of women who had 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 gynecological condition.

But they also found that women who take 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.

Topic Discussed: Birth Control Pills May Reduce Risk of Severe Asthma

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