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.