Good news for middle aged women who take contraceptive hormones now or did in the past. New research suggests that hormonal contraceptives improve certain cognitive abilities in midlife, even when women stopped taking them for years.
Researchers asked 261 cognitively normal women, aged 40 to 65, to complete questionnaires about their health history and to perform a number of neuropsychologic tests measuring cognitive abilities, such as working memory, verbal abilities, and speed. The women were categorized as “ever users” and “never users”.
The findings showed that “ever users” scored significantly better than “never users” in the domains of visuospatial ability (the capacity to visually perceive the spatial relationship between objects) and speed & flexibility. Performance increased the longer a woman used hormonal contraceptives. This trend was especially visible in women with 15 or more years of use.
“This study provides preliminary evidence that hormonal contraceptives may have a protective cognitive effect, even years after use is discontinued,” says Susan G. Kornstein, Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Women’s Health, in which the article has been published.
The findings implicate that the use of hormonal contraceptives prevent or delay cognitive decline, but further research is needed. Also the physiologic basis of this phenomenon is still unclear.
Egan, K., & Gleason, C. (2012). Longer Duration of Hormonal Contraceptive Use Predicts Better Cognitive Outcomes Later in Life Journal of Women’s Health DOI: 10.1089/jwh.2012.3522