Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Pill Use and Healthy Babies

More potential good news for women who use the combination birth control pill (the Pill). According to a new study, using the Pill before you become pregnant appears to increase fetal birthweight and placental [afterbirth] weight.

The increase in fetal and placental weight seen in women who used the Pill before they became pregnant was 207.3-gram (7.312 ounce) and 64.9-gram (2.289 ounce), respectively. Although it's not yet clear why the Pill exerts this beneficial effect:

"Because fetal growth is conducive to the health of the newborn, these findings suggest that pregravid [before pregnancy] oral contraceptive [Pill] use may have similar effects," the authors note.


At 2:41 AM, Blogger annejumps said...

Now that's interesting! I wonder how much publicity this'll get. I'll keep it in mind though, for argument-making.

At 3:51 AM, Blogger ema said...

Anne, as usual, a very good point. It's important for Pill users to know its side effects. It's equally important for them to know the benefits, yet most don't. If you want to test this: pick a few friends at random and ask them to name, on the spot, 5 Pill benefits, other than pregnancy protection and period control (improved cramps, decreased heavy bleeding, etc.).

At 4:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recall that years ago, women were given DES (diethylstilbesterol, a synthetic estrogen?) during pregnancy, and it was supposed to prevent miscarriages and caused the placenta to look terrific (I'm relying on memory here). Years later, the DES babies turned out to have problems, didn't they? Do we know if the combination OC's are good for the offspring?

At 6:43 AM, Blogger ema said...

For about 25 years DES (yes, synthetic, nonsteroidal estrogen) was prescribed to about 3 million pregnant US women (I think estimates range from 2 to 10 million women total, worldwide) for treating abortion, preeclampsia (high blood pressure in pregnancy), diabetes, and preterm labor (not effective). Reports of problems in daughters of women who used DES include: increased risk of developing vaginal/cervical cancer (from 0.14 to 1.4 per 1000); structural variations of the vagina/carvix/uterus (like a ridge, or a smaller uterus)*.

Combination OCs, or COCs (synthetic, steroidal estrogen) have been used for about 50 years by hundreds of millions of women (worldwide). So far we know that COC use does not harm the fetus. (Even if woman is pregnant and takes COCs by mistake, there's no effect.**) The study I mentioned in the post takes this one step further and asks: is COC use beneficial for the fetus? The study's answer: yes.

*Williams Obstetrics 21st ed. pp 918-21 (sorry, not on line)

**1016-17, 1529

N.B. Some progestins (synthetic progesterone), if taken at a particular time in fetal development can cause reversible masculinization of female fetus (e.g., clitoris enlarges, labia [vaginal lips] can fuse). Also COCs shouldn't be used by breastfeeding women because they decrease the breast milk => can impact newborn's growth (although this is more of an indirect effect on offspring).

At 9:22 PM, Blogger Maureen said...

With regards to DES, back in 1960--1960!-- doctors were noting that some baby girls whose mothers took it were experiencing virilized genitals, but the JAMA article writers were like, "yeah, just double-check the sex of the kid and she'll be able to reproduce normally." Canary in the coal mine, anyone?


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