Birth Control Pill Does Not Increase Risk Of Birth Defects

First Posted: Jan 07, 2016 05:27 PM EST

Oral contraceptives--or "the pill"--remains the most common form of birth control. Though there has been rather limited research on how taking the pill before pregnancy could affect the health outcome of a fetus, new research published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) shows that oral contraceptives used before or during pregnancy are not linked with a higher risk of birth defects.

Researchers from the United States and Denmark looked at Danish birth registers for live births delivered between January 1, 1997 and March 31, 2011. They found similar rates of birth defects in women who had never used birth control pills when compared to those who took them before pregnancy or who took them before realizing they were pregnant.

"Women who become pregnant either soon after stopping oral contraceptives, or even while taking them, should know that this exposure is unlikely to cause the fetus to develop a birth defect," said lead researcher Brittany Charlton, an instructor in the department of epidemiology at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, via Health Day."This should reassure women as well as their doctors."

Based on information from the registries--including 880,000 births--researchers found that 2.5 percent of the babies had a birth defect, such as a cleft palate or an arm or leg defect.

While the study results are encouraging for women who took birth control pills, researchers caution that the findings don't rule out that oral contraceptives could cause birth defects. Based on this information, however, there appears to be no link.

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