Birth Control Pills May Explain PTSD Syndrome Differences between the Sexes

Emax Health

Submitted by Timothy Boyer on 2011-09-11

Women who use contraceptives that suppress sex hormones such as estrogen and progesterone remember things differently than women who are not on the pill, states researchers at the University of California, Irvine. These differences may explain a sexual dimorphism with post traumatic stress syndrome disorder (PTSD) where women experience PTSD more frequently than men.

A recent paper published in the September issue of the journal Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, by scientists at the University of California, Irvine reveals their latest finding that hormonal contraception via the birth control pill can alter a woman’s memory: Women on the pill have an increased ability to remember the gist of an emotional event, whereas women not on the pill are better at remembering specific details.

Previous research has shown that the hormones estrogen and progesterone are linked to the left-brain area memory centers in women. In men, typically it is more of a right-brain area function where memories are encoded and stored.

In the study, women were divided into groups who were either on the pill or not on the pill or any other hormonal birth control therapies. Both groups of women were shown photos of a woman, a child and a car accident. Some women from each group were told that the car had merely hit a curb, whereas other women from both groups were told that the car had hit the boy and critically injured him.

One week later, women from both groups were tested for their recall of the photos and the narratives they were given. What the results showed was that women who were on the pill remembered more clearly the events that took place in which a boy was hit by a car and had to have his feet surgically reattached at the hospital. Women who were not on the pill, however, were more able to recall specific details such as a fire hydrant next to the car.


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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.