There are a slew of pros and cons when it comes to birth control pills. They help prevent unwanted pregnancies, but they can increase a woman’s risk of life-threatening blood clots. Now a team of Swedish researchers have concluded that oral contraceptives may reduce a woman’s risk of developing lower urinary tract problems.
“Hormone intake in the form or oral contraceptives has the potential to positively influence bladder and urethral function,” Dr. Daniel Altman from Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm told Reuters Health. The study involved 8,689 twins who were studied by researchers via the Internet, and was featured in the August issue of Fertility and Sterility.
Researchers looked for bladder disorders in their study subjects such as stress incontinence, urgency incontinence, and overactive bladder. They found that among women of child-bearing age, current use of oral contraceptives was associated with a 43 percent lower risk of stress urinary incontinence, a 48 percent lower risk of mixed urinary incontinence, and a 64 percent lower risk of urgency urinary incontinence. However, the study showed conflicting evidence on the effects of hormone intake on lower urinary tract symptoms in women who were past menopause.
Despite the findings, the Women’s Health Initiative does not support the use of hormone replacement therapy or oral contraceptives to treat lower urinary tract problems. Both can cause serious problems for older women. For example, hormone replacement therapy, generally prescribed to treat menopause symptoms, has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. And birth control pills put women at greater risk for life-threatening blood clots, strokes, and heart attacks.