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Does The Pill Cause Gallbladder Disease?

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Does The Pill Cause Gallbladder Disease?

For those of you who have chosen whether and when to have a family by taking birth control pills, I wanted to share with you my thoughts about a recent study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal that concluded that certain birth control pills may increase your risk of gallbladder disease.

So what does that mean if you’re one of the millions of women taking birth control pills? Do you have to choose between simple, highly effective contraception and gallstones? Must you resort to less effective condoms or a diaphragm if you want to avoid gallbladder surgery?

Take a deep breath, Pill fans. The Girlfriend MD is here to reassure you.

What This Study Really Means

When you dig into the nitty gritty statistics of this study, you’ll find that the relative risk of gallbladder disease is just barely increased in the study group of women who were taking certain types of birth control pills (those that contain desogestrel, drosperinone, and norethindrone). Women taking other birth control pills (such as those containing ethynodiol diacetate, norgestrel and norgestimate) showed no increase in risk.

The authors of the study concluded that “the small effect compounded with the possibility of residual biases in this observational study make it unlikely that these differences are clinically significant.” Which means that even the researchers think this study doesn’t mean very much. And frankly, I agree. The increase in risk in those taking certain types of birth control pills was so miniscule that it could very well be related to errors within the study. With a study this large, you would expect to see a more dramatic increase in risk if the risk was considerable.

Should You Stay On The Pill?

So what advice would I give women who are taking birth control pills? Well, start by reading the label of your birth control pill. If your pill contains desogestrel, drosperinone, or norethindrone, if you’re happy with your birth control pill, if you don’t get freaked out by studies like this, and if you have no personal or family history of gallbladder disease, I’d say keep on keeping on. If there is a risk, it’s exceedingly small, and switching birth control pills can cause problems for some women. Plus, life is filled with risk. Every time you get in a car, you incur the risk that you might be in a car accident, and yet, you do it because it increases your quality of life.

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Lissa Rankin

Lissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician, founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and other health care providers, and the New York Times bestselling author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself.  She is on a grassroots mission to heal health care, while empowering you to heal yourself.  Lissa blogs at and also created two online communities - and She is also the author of two other books, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, and an avid hiker. Lissa lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and daughter.


+ add your own
1:18AM PST on Nov 13, 2012

Interesting. Thank you for posting it.

7:00PM PST on Nov 8, 2012


11:12PM PDT on Aug 22, 2012

Noone I know (including myself) has ever had any side effects an/or diseases caused by taking the pill.

11:08PM PDT on Aug 22, 2012

We are always hearing about side effects from birth control pills. I took them for 11 yrs. and never had any problems. Of course this was 1983-1994 but still... I never had any problems.

7:48PM PDT on Aug 9, 2012

Who paid for these studies?? Was it "big pharma"?

8:18PM PDT on Aug 8, 2012

Thank you for article.

8:18PM PDT on Aug 8, 2012

Thank you for article.

8:17PM PDT on Aug 8, 2012

Thank you for article.

8:16PM PDT on Aug 8, 2012

Thank you for article.

3:54AM PST on Jan 12, 2012

Is there any connection between gallbladder problems and HRT?

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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