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Concept: Hormonal contraception


Background Texas is one of several states that have barred Planned Parenthood affiliates from providing health care services with the use of public funds. After the federal government refused to allow (and courts blocked) the exclusion of Planned Parenthood affiliates from the Texas Medicaid fee-for-service family-planning program, Texas excluded them from a state-funded replacement program, effective January 1, 2013. We assessed rates of contraceptive-method provision, method continuation through the program, and childbirth covered by Medicaid before and after the Planned Parenthood exclusion. Methods We used all program claims from 2011 through 2014 to examine changes in the number of claims for contraceptives according to method for 2 years before and 2 years after the exclusion. Among women using injectable contraceptives at baseline, we observed rates of contraceptive continuation through the program and of childbirth covered by Medicaid. We used the difference-in-differences method to compare outcomes in counties with Planned Parenthood affiliates with outcomes in those without such affiliates. Results After the Planned Parenthood exclusion, there were estimated reductions in the number of claims from 1042 to 672 (relative reduction, 35.5%) for long-acting, reversible contraceptives and from 6832 to 4708 (relative reduction, 31.1%) for injectable contraceptives (P<0.001 for both comparisons). There was no significant change in the number of claims for short-acting hormonal contraceptive methods during this period. Among women using injectable contraceptives, the percentage of women who returned for a subsequent on-time contraceptive injection decreased from 56.9% among those whose subsequent injections were due before the exclusion to 37.7% among those whose subsequent injections were due after the exclusion in the counties with Planned Parenthood affiliates but increased from 54.9% to 58.5% in the counties without such affiliates (estimated difference in differences in counties with affiliates as compared with those without affiliates, -22.9 percentage points; P<0.001). During this period in counties with Planned Parenthood affiliates, the rate of childbirth covered by Medicaid increased by 1.9 percentage points (a relative increase of 27.1% from baseline) within 18 months after the claim (P=0.01). Conclusions The exclusion of Planned Parenthood affiliates from a state-funded replacement for a Medicaid fee-for-service program in Texas was associated with adverse changes in the provision of contraception. For women using injectable contraceptives, there was a reduction in the rate of contraceptive continuation and an increase in the rate of childbirth covered by Medicaid. (Funded by the Susan T. Buffett Foundation.).

Concepts: Pregnancy, Birth control, Emergency contraception, Hormonal contraception, Combined oral contraceptive pill, Menstrual cycle, Sex education, Combined injectable contraceptive


In recent years there has been an explosion in the development of medical apps, with more than 40,000 apps now available. Nearly 100 apps allow women to track their fertility and menstrual cycles and can be used to avoid or achieve pregnancy. Apps offer a convenient way to track fertility biomarkers. However, only some use evidence-based fertility awareness-based methods (FABMs), which with ideal use have rates of effectiveness similar to those of commonly used forms of hormonal birth control. Since having a baby or preventing a pregnancy are important responsibilities, it is critical that women and couples have access to reliable, evidence-based apps that allow them to accurately track their fertility.

Concepts: Pregnancy, Birth control, Hormonal contraception, Combined oral contraceptive pill, Menstrual cycle, Progesterone, Implanon, Fertility awareness


Primodos was a hormone pregnancy test used between 1958-1978 that has been implicated with causing a range of birth defects ever since. Though Primodos is no longer used, it’s components, Norethisterone acetate and Ethinyl estradiol, are used in other medications today including treatments for endometriosis and contraceptives. However, whether Primodos caused birth defects or not remains controversial, and has been little investigated. Here we used the developing zebrafish embryo, a human cell-line and mouse retinal explants to investigate the actions of the components of Primodos upon embryonic and tissue development. We show that Norethisterone acetate and Ethinyl estradiol cause embryonic damage in a dose and time responsive manner. The damage occurs rapidly after drug exposure, affecting multiple organ systems. Moreover, we found that the Norethisterone acetate and Ethinyl estradiol mixture can affect nerve outgrowth and blood vessel patterning directly and accumulates in the forming embryo for at least 24 hrs. These data demonstrate that Norethisterone acetate and Ethinyl estradiol are potentially teratogenic, depending on dose and embryonic stage of development in the zebrafish. Further work in mammalian model species are now required to build on these findings and determine if placental embryos also are affected by synthetic sex hormones and their mechanisms of action.

Concepts: Pregnancy, Causality, Embryo, Developmental biology, Hormonal contraception, Affect, Mammal, Menstrual cycle


OBJECTIVE: To compare the effects of continuous use of oral (OC), transdermal, and vaginal combined contraceptives on the pituitary-ovarian axis and inhibition of follicular development. DESIGN: Spin-off study of a prospective, randomized trial. SETTING: University clinic. PATIENT(S): Forty-two of 54 healthy women completed the study. INTERVENTION(S): Treatment with combined OCs (ethinyl E(2) [EE] and desogestrel), transdermal patches (EE and norelgestromin), or vaginal rings (EE and etonogestrel) for 9 weeks continuously. Blood sampling was performed before and at 5 and 9 weeks of treatment. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE(S): Changes in serum hormone levels induced by combined contraceptives. RESULT(S): Serum antimüllerian hormone (AMH), FSH, inhibin B, LH, and E(2) levels had decreased significantly in all study groups after 9 weeks of treatment. Significant declines were already detected after 5 weeks' use of combined contraceptives with regard to all hormone levels apart from those of serum AMH, where the decrease between baseline and 5 weeks was only moderate. Between groups, serum levels of AMH, inhibin B, LH, and E(2) were comparable at baseline and after 5 and 9 weeks of treatment. CONCLUSION(S): The decrease of serum AMH levels during the use of all combined contraceptives indicates that folliculogenesis is arrested independently of administration route. CLINICAL TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: NCT01087879.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Sexual intercourse, Hormonal contraception, Transdermal patch, Contraceptive patch, Menstrual cycle, Route of administration, Follicular phase


Previous studies have demonstrated variable influences of sexual hormonal states on female brain activation and the necessity to control for these in neuroimaging studies. However, systematic investigations of these influences, particularly those of hormonal contraceptives as compared to the physiological menstrual cycle are scarce. In the present study, we investigated the hormonal modulation of neural correlates of erotic processing in a group of females under hormonal contraceptives (C group; N = 12), and a different group of females (nC group; N = 12) not taking contraceptives during their mid-follicular and mid-luteal phases of the cycle. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure hemodynamic responses as an estimate of brain activation during three different experimental conditions of visual erotic stimulation: dynamic videos, static erotic pictures, and expectation of erotic pictures. Plasma estrogen and progesterone levels were assessed in all subjects. No strong hormonally modulating effect was detected upon more direct and explicit stimulation (viewing of videos or pictures) with significant activations in cortical and subcortical brain regions previously linked to erotic stimulation consistent across hormonal levels and stimulation type. Upon less direct and less explicit stimulation (expectation), activation patterns varied between the different hormonal conditions with various, predominantly frontal brain regions showing significant within- or between-group differences. Activation in the precentral gyrus during the follicular phase in the nC group was found elevated compared to the C group and positively correlated with estrogen levels. From the results we conclude that effects of hormonal influences on brain activation during erotic stimulation are weak if stimulation is direct and explicit but that female sexual hormones may modulate more subtle aspects of sexual arousal and behaviour as involved in sexual expectation. Results may provide a basis for future imaging studies on sexual processing in females, especially in the context of less explicit erotic stimulation.

Concepts: Hormonal contraception, Combined oral contraceptive pill, Magnetic resonance imaging, Cerebral cortex, Menstrual cycle, Endometrium, Progesterone, Ovulation


Some studies suggest that specific hormonal contraceptive (HC) methods (particularly depot medroxyprogesterone acetate [DMPA]) may increase women’s HIV acquisition risk. We updated a systematic review to incorporate recent epidemiological data.

Concepts: Birth control, Epidemiology, Randomized controlled trial, Hormonal contraception, Meta-analysis, Chemical castration, Depo-Provera, Progestogen only pill



Several theories about the origins of music have emphasized its biological and social functions, including in courtship. Music may act as a courtship display due to its capacity to vary in complexity and emotional content. Support for music’s reproductive function comes from the recent finding that only women in the fertile phase of the reproductive cycle prefer composers of complex melodies to composers of simple ones as short-term sexual partners, which is also in line with the ovulatory shift hypothesis. However, the precise mechanisms by which music may influence sexual attraction are unknown, specifically how music may interact with visual attractiveness cues and affect perception and behaviour in both genders. Using a crossmodal priming paradigm, we examined whether listening to music influences ratings of facial attractiveness and dating desirability of opposite-sex faces. We also tested whether misattribution of arousal or pleasantness underlies these effects, and explored whether sex differences and menstrual cycle phase may be moderators. Our sample comprised 64 women in the fertile or infertile phase (no hormonal contraception use) and 32 men, carefully matched for mood, relationship status, and musical preferences. Musical primes (25 s) varied in arousal and pleasantness, and targets were photos of faces with neutral expressions (2 s). Group-wise analyses indicated that women, but not men, gave significantly higher ratings of facial attractiveness and dating desirability after having listened to music than in the silent control condition. High-arousing, complex music yielded the largest effects, suggesting that music may affect human courtship behaviour through induced arousal, which calls for further studies on the mechanisms by which music affects sexual attraction in real-life social contexts.

Concepts: Birth control, Hormonal contraception, Combined oral contraceptive pill, Affect, Fertility, Menstrual cycle, Ovulation, Physical attractiveness


Background Little is known about whether contemporary hormonal contraception is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. Methods We assessed associations between the use of hormonal contraception and the risk of invasive breast cancer in a nationwide prospective cohort study involving all women in Denmark between 15 and 49 years of age who had not had cancer or venous thromboembolism and who had not received treatment for infertility. Nationwide registries provided individually updated information about the use of hormonal contraception, breast-cancer diagnoses, and potential confounders. Results Among 1.8 million women who were followed on average for 10.9 years (a total of 19.6 million person-years), 11,517 cases of breast cancer occurred. As compared with women who had never used hormonal contraception, the relative risk of breast cancer among all current and recent users of hormonal contraception was 1.20 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.14 to 1.26). This risk increased from 1.09 (95% CI, 0.96 to 1.23) with less than 1 year of use to 1.38 (95% CI, 1.26 to 1.51) with more than 10 years of use (P=0.002). After discontinuation of hormonal contraception, the risk of breast cancer was still higher among the women who had used hormonal contraceptives for 5 years or more than among women who had not used hormonal contraceptives. Risk estimates associated with current or recent use of various oral combination (estrogen-progestin) contraceptives varied between 1.0 and 1.6. Women who currently or recently used the progestin-only intrauterine system also had a higher risk of breast cancer than women who had never used hormonal contraceptives (relative risk, 1.21; 95% CI, 1.11 to 1.33). The overall absolute increase in breast cancers diagnosed among current and recent users of any hormonal contraceptive was 13 (95% CI, 10 to 16) per 100,000 person-years, or approximately 1 extra breast cancer for every 7690 women using hormonal contraception for 1 year. Conclusions The risk of breast cancer was higher among women who currently or recently used contemporary hormonal contraceptives than among women who had never used hormonal contraceptives, and this risk increased with longer durations of use; however, absolute increases in risk were small. (Funded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation.).

Concepts: Birth control, Emergency contraception, Breast cancer, Hormonal contraception, Combined oral contraceptive pill


Oral contraceptives have been used by hundreds of millions of women around the world. Important questions remain regarding the very long-term cancer risks associated with oral contraception. Despite previous research important questions remain about the safety of these contraceptives: i) how long do endometrial, ovarian and colorectal cancer benefits persist for? ii) does combined oral contraceptive use during the reproductive years produce new cancer risks later in life? and iii) what is the overall balance of cancer among past users as they enter the later stages of their lives?

Concepts: Pregnancy, Birth control, Emergency contraception, Sexual intercourse, Hormonal contraception, Combined oral contraceptive pill, Colorectal cancer, Menstrual cycle