No Link Found Between Birth Control Pills and Birth Defects

By Daniela Alejandra Robles (Trabajo personal) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (htt

Getting pregnant while on the pill doesn’t seem to lead to an increase in birth defects, according to a new study. This can be good news for women who unintentionally become pregnant while taking the pill, read on to find out further information.

The Findings

Researchers found a similar rate of birth defects, around 25 infants out of 1,000-among women who never used oral contraceptives and those who took them before or around the time of conception.

Lead study researcher, Brittany Charlton said, “Women who become pregnant either soon after stopping oral contraceptives, or even while taking them, should know this exposure is unlikely to cause the fetus to develop a birth defect.”

Charlton states further, “This should reassure women, as well as their doctors.”

However, she cautioned the study can’t prove definitively that birth control pills do not cause birth defects, it only shows that there doesn’t appear to be a link.

Dr. Jennifer Wu, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Lennox Hill Hospital in NYC said the findings of the study are not that surprising. She said, “It’s something we have known for a while. Still, many women in the United States are on birth control pills, so it’s reassuring to know that they don’t cause any birth defects, and women don’t have to worry about it during pregnancy.”

Even though oral contraceptives are a highly reliable method of birth control, about 9 percent of women using these drugs will become pregnant during the first year of use. Usually when pregnancy happens, it is due to a woman missing a dose of her contraceptive or using other medications such as anti-seizure drugs, antibiotics, antidepressants and some HIV drugs, which can make them less effective.
In other situations, a woman might stop taking the pill when they wish to conceive, and she may be able to get pregnant within a couple of months.

Whether the hormones in oral contraceptives could affect fetal development when used around the time of conception hasn’t been well studied, the authors explained further in background notes.

For this study, the research team used national medical registries to gather information from Denmark from 1997 through 2011 on all live births, birth defects and maternal medical conditions.
Of the more than 880,000 births, 2.5 percent of the infants had a birth defect such as a cleft palate or defect of the arm or leg, the team discovered.
Dr. Charlton’s team found that for every 1,000 births, 25.1 infants born to women who had never used birth control pills had birth defects, as did 25 infants whose mother had used birth control pills more than three months prior to pregnancy. The rate for women who used birth control within three months of becoming pregnant was 24.9 percent and it was 24.8 among women who used the pill before ever knowing they were pregnant.

Conclusion to the Findings:

The likelihood of birth defects was consistent across each of the oral contraceptives groups, even when stillbirth and abortions were added.

Researchers accounted for different risk factors that might influence the odds of a birth defect such as maternal age, history of birth defects, household income, smoking during pregnancy, drug use and hospital admissions.


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