Our perception of the world, the formation of memories, and the experience of satisfaction play a fundamental role in shaping our lives and identities. Recent scientific research and firsthand accounts now reveal that hormonal contraception, including the birth control pill, profoundly impacts these aspects by altering brain structure and neurochemistry.
For several decades, hormonal contraception (HC) has been widely considered a relatively safe and effective method for women to prevent pregnancy. It has also been prescribed to address various conditions, such as acne and polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Approximately 80 percent of women will use some form of hormonal contraception at some point in their lives, with the birth control pill being the most common choice. However, emerging scientific evidence indicates that HC can dampen women’s stress response, influence the formation of memories, and even alter their preferences in attraction.
Mechanism of action for the pill and other hormonal contraceptives
In a naturally cycling woman, the ovarian cycle consists of two main phases. The first phase, called the follicular phase, lasts about two weeks and ends with a surge in estrogen, a group of sex hormones. Around day 14, ovulation occurs when the ovary releases an egg.
The second phase, known as the luteal phase, is characterized by an increase in progesterone, another hormone. If fertilization does not occur, menstruation takes place, and hormone levels return to baseline. The cycle then repeats, typically lasting approximately 28 days.
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