Common oral contraceptive pill has negative effect on general well-being

A large trial has found that the most common contraceptive pills can cause a decrease in wellbeing in healthy women.

Woman holding a blister pack of the contraceptive pill

An estimated 100 million women use the contraceptive pill, but surprisingly little is known about its effect on overall health.

A randomised controlled trial published in Fertility and Sterility
(online, 18 April 2017), however, has found that the most common combined oral contraceptive pills have a negative impact on general well-being.

In the trial, 332 healthy women aged 18 to 35 years received either a combined oral contraceptive (150μg levonorgestrel and 30μg ethinylestradiol) or placebo for three months. As measured by the Psychological General Well-being Index (PGWBI), the researchers found that those who received oral contraceptives experienced a significant reduction in their general well-being compared with those taking placebo (-4.12, 95% confidence interval, -7.18 to -1.06, p=0.009). The effect of the contraceptive on depressed mood was not significant.

The researchers say that even a modest reduction in general well-being should be of clinical importance and may help explain the high discontinuation rate of this contraceptive method.


[1] Zethraeus N, Dreber A, Ranehill E et al. A first-choice combined oral contraceptive influences general well-being in healthy women: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Fertil Steril 2017. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2017.02.120

Last updated
Clinical Pharmacist, CP, June 2017, Vol 9, No 6;9(6):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2017.20202706

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