NEW YORK (CBS 2) — Most women who take the birth control pill do it to prevent pregnancy, but it may do more than that.
New research finds the pill could also boost a woman’s brain power.
Khami Punch said recently she’s had no problems on the pill.
“I first started taking birth control at 23,” the 26-year-old told CBS 2′s Dr. Holly Phillips. “It was for cramps and it really helped.”
But one potential side effect of the contraceptive may be a brain booster — quite literally.
A new study published in the journal “Brain Research” compared the brains of women who were on the pill to those who were not.
“They had high resolution MRIs and it showed that certain areas of the brain were larger in women who were on the pill,” said Lenox Hill Hospital obstetrician Dr. Jennifer Wu.
In fact, the brains of women on the pill increased in size by 3 percent and were most large in areas related to memory, communication and verbal skills and researchers said those skills could possibly improve as a result, Phillips reports.
“Over a hundred million women in the world are on the pill and this is a possible good side effect of the pill,” Wu said.
But some women weren’t so sure about the study.
“I think I’m pretty smart on my own without drugs,” one woman said.
“I don’t know, I think coffee does it for me,” said another woman.
The study found regardless of the brand of pills taken or how long the women were on them, the results were the same.
Just how the pill could have this effect is unclear.
One theory is that the hormones used to prevent pregnancy could also strengthen links between nerve cells in the brain.
However, neurosurgeon Dr. Carolyn Brockington said when it comes to the size of the brain, bigger isn’t always better.
“It goes back to your education, it goes back to how you process information. So it’s not really if you get a bigger brain you get more intellect, it’s really how you use it so to speak,” Brockington said.
The findings could open doors to better understanding how the mind works, Phillips reports.
“I think we’re trying to figure out if the hormones and their link to the brain could have some protective effects for the future,” Wu said.
The contraceptive did not affect areas of the brain that are usually more dominant in men — such as interpreting distances between objects and map reading.