Millions of women pop birth control pills every day, for a variety of reasons beyond preventing pregnancy. The pill regulates your periods and can make them lighter and less painful, can improve your skin, eases endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome and can even reduce your risk for ovarian cancer. And while it can be a pain to get a prescription for each month and remember to take it at the same time every day, technology and new laws are starting to make access way easier.
If you’re thinking about going on the pill for the first time — or getting back on it — now there’s another health incentive to do it. According to a recent study, hormonal contraceptives may also help you when it comes to getting the D. No, not… that D. Vitamin D!
Researchers looked at data from 1,662 African-American women in Detroit, ages 23-34. They had participated in a previous, unrelated study from 2010-2012, where the women were asked to give a blood sample and ask basic health and demographic questions. The survey included questions about birth control and nutritional supplement use, so the researchers were able to analyze that data together, and they found a correlation between taking estrogen-containing birth control pills and slightly higher vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is linked to healthy bones, as well as a lower risk for diabetes and certain cancers.
It wasn’t entirely clear that the pills were actively providing the D boost, but the fact that only current hormonal contraceptive users showed the increase, and not women who had been on it in the past, definitely suggests they play a role. More research will be necessary to determine whether the added estrogen helps more vitamin D get produced when your skin responds to sunlight, or if the pill increases/decreases how long it stays in your system once it’s absorbed and processed.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you should turn to birth control for all of your vitamin D needs, especially if you know you’re deficient (which is pretty common). Supplements were still more effective at amping up vitamin D levels (by 50-70 percent margin), and if you’re preparing to get pregnant and your levels are already low, going off the pill could mean a big drop that would be dangerous for you and your baby. But, you can certainly think of these new findings as a bonus when you’re weighing your contraceptive options.
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