Pick your poison: The serious side effects of The Pill we’re not talking about.

“Much of the research is cross-sectional because doing randomised experiments is difficult to do with the pill (for obvious ethical reasons). This leaves a window open for criticism, for people to say, ‘You can’t show causation for this research’, despite the fact that new statistical methods allow researchers to do a really thoughtful job of removing confounds from such research,” said Professor Hill.

“We are all motivated to believe that the pill doesn’t impact anything other than our ovaries, so we are quick to accept dismissive statements about this research. We have a blind spot with the pill. The idea that changing women’s hormones won’t impact their brains is nothing short of magical thinking.”

Professor Kulkarni said that contraception is seen as a choice, an option — not a necessity — so the development in research and alternatives is at a lower priority than life saving cancer drugs, for example. 

“I think there is still considerable coyness/prudery or even acknowledging that women have the right to enjoy sex without having to get pregnant. And then there are the traditional religious bans on contraception that are still with us today, which may exert subtle restrictions on further developments,” she said.

Should we seek alternatives to the pill?

Every woman is different, and while we don’t want to make recommendations surrounding whether the pill is right for you, it’s worth understanding the psychological trade-offs before deciding if you should use it.

“The contraceptive pill as a class of drug is safer than the early versions produced in the 1960s. BUT — there are still many unacceptable side effects. This includes life-threatening ones (blood clots), major depression in some women, and a more insidious subclinical depression in others, decreased libido, weight gain, dark skin patches on the face and for some women, increased thrush and migraines,” said Professor Kulkarni.