Study Finds No Increased Risk of Birth Defects With Birth Control Pill Exposure

Brittany M. Charlton, ScD Instructor Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School Researcher, Harvard Chan School Department of Epidemiology Boston, MA 02115

Dr. Charlton

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Brittany M. Charlton, ScD
Instructor
Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School
Researcher, Harvard Chan School Department of Epidemiology
Boston, MA 02115

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Charlton: Even though oral contraceptives can be over 99% effective with perfect use, almost 10% of women become pregnant within their first year of use. Many more women will stop using oral contraceptives when planning a pregnancy and conceive within just a few months. In both of those examples, a woman may inadvertently expose her offspring during pregnancy to exogenous sex hormones. We conducted a nationwide cohort study in Denmark in order to investigate whether oral contraceptive use shortly before or during pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of major birth defects in the offspring. Our main finding was that there was no increased risk of having a birth defect associated with oral contraceptive exposure. These results were also consistent when we broke down the birth defects into different subgroups, like limb defects.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Charlton: Women who do become pregnant either soon after stopping oral contraceptives, or even while taking them, should know that this exposure is unlikely to cause her fetus to develop a birth defect. This should reassure women as well as their health care providers.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Charlton: The rarity of birth defects, even among nearly a million infants in our study, made it difficult to examine more specific birth defects. Future research with more statistical power might be able to disaggregate different birth defects with more precision.

Citation:

Charlton Brittany M, Mølgaard-Nielsen Ditte,Svanström Henrik, Wohlfahrt Jan, Pasternak Björn,Melbye Mads et al. Maternal use of oral contraceptives and risk of birth defects in Denmark: prospective, nationwide cohort study

Brittany M. Charlton, ScD (2015). No Increased Risk of Birth Defects With Birth Control Pill Exposure