Conceiving while on birth control doesn’t harm the baby, researchers have recently announced, in a study featured on Wednesday, January 6, in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
A team of experts from the United States and Denmark carried out an analysis spanning across 880,694 Danish infants, who had been born sometime between January 1, 1997 and March 31, 2011.
Around 2.5% of these babies had been diagnosed with a congenital malformation in the first year following delivery, and the aim of the researchers was to identify the prevalence of such birth defects, depending on fetal exposure to hormonal contraceptives.
Among the mothers of these infants, approximately 20% had never used such drugs, 1% had been on the Pill when the baby was conceived, 8% had become pregnant less than 3 months after stopping this type of medication, while the rest had ceased to use such protection more than 3 months before conception.
Birth control pills are currently the most popular means of preventing an unwanted pregnancy, being much more frequently used than condoms, intrauterine devices (IUDs), contraceptive implants and permanent female sterilization (tubal ligation).
Even so, this method of protection doesn’t have a 100% success rate: in fact, around 9% of all the patients who take such contraceptives still conceive a baby, especially during the first year of treatment, when their bodies haven’t fully adjusted to new hormonal levels, and any mistake in administering the pill turns out to be costly.
Due to their failure to take even just one of the daily doses, or after using the tablets in conjunction with other drugs, which lower their potency, women on birth control can get pregnant after all.
Also, other female patients who have been using the Pill sometimes conceive a baby shortly after discontinuing their hormonal treatment.
As explained by Brittany M.Charlton, the study’s lead author, employed as a teacher at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, such ill-timed pregnancies leads to worries that the fetus will experience developmental issues as a direct consequence of being exposed to hormonal medication.
However, now researchers have determined that such fears are actually unfounded, and that studies which had suggested such a link were in fact case-controlled, assigning a faulty explanation to an already-existing medical condition.
In reality, commonly encountered birth defects, affecting the face (cleft palate and cleft lip), limbs or eyes, tend to be evenly distributed among all categories of babies, irrespective of their mothers’ birth control use.
More precisely, 25.1% of such diagnoses refer to newborns whose mothers have never been on the Pill while 25% involve babies who were conceived by women that had stopped taking birth control medication more than 3 months before getting pregnant.
24.9% of the birth defects are identified among kids whose moms took the Pill less than 3 months before conceiving, whereas 24.8% are found among infants whose mothers had been on birth control during or after conception.
Therefore, women can now take at least this stress factor off their minds, given that unplanned pregnancies while taking hormonal contraceptives, or even intentional ones occurring too soon after halting such treatment aren’t in fact detrimental to fetal development.
As study authors point out, being exposed to sex hormones while in the uterus doesn’t actually put the baby more at risk of developing congenital malformations, the likelihood of having such structural defects or anomalies being almost the same regardless of the amount of birth control medication ingested by the future mother.
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