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What to know about the study linking birth control + breast cancer

The more you know, the better able you are to make the right choice for yourself.

What to know about the study linking birth control + breast cancer

Women who use any type of hormonal birth control experience a small but statistically significant increased risk for developing breast cancer, according to a large study published this week. The link between birth control and breast cancer is disappointing to hear for women who use the pill or other hormone-based options as their contraceptive methods of choice. The research does, however, set the stage for an important discussion.


“It’s important that women feel confident and comfortable with their contraceptive choice,” says Chris Zahn, M.D., vice-president for practice activities with the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “Women concerned about the preliminary findings of this study should speak with a trusted women’s health care provider who can help them to make informed decisions that weigh both the risks of pregnancy and the risks associated with hormonal contraception.”

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The study followed 1.8 million Danish women for more than a decade. According to the findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine, there is one additional case of breast cancer for every 7,690 women between the ages of 15 and 49 who use hormonal birth contraceptives for a year. On a larger scale, that’s 13 more breast cancer diagnoses for every 100,000 women.

Among the whole population, that amounted to a 20% increased risk for developing breast cancer among women who used hormonal contreception in comparison to women who never used it. Most at risk—with a 38% relative increase over non-users—were women who used hormonal birth control for 10 or more years.

Hormonal birth control options have long been tied to an increased risk for breast cancer, but there was hope that newer options with lower levels or hormones would solve the problem. This new study demonstrates that’s not so, says Dr. Marisa Weiss, an oncologist who founded the website breastcancer.org.

“What they’ve discovered over the decade is that you don’t need a super high dose of hormone in order to stop ovulation and prevent pregnancy, but it still overpowers your own system,” she tells Motherly. “That is not without dangers.”

How to respond to the news

Because the risk for developing breast cancer was shown to increase in correlation to the duration of time a woman used hormonal birth control, the research has different implications for different groups of people.

Specifically, for young women who don’t have other risk factors for breast cancer, it may still be advisable to use hormonal birth control for five years or less due to its role in deceasing the risk for developing other types of cancer. The convenience and efficacy of a pill, IUD, patch or implant is also a significant factor for many.

“These methods offer women critical control over their health, including if and when to become pregnant, reducing risk of cervical cancer, and in some cases aiding with management of chronic conditions like acne or painful periods,” says ACOG vice-president Zahn.

As women age and their family planning needs change, the new study suggests they should seriously consider non-hormonal birth control methods, says Weiss.

She says good non-hormonal options include the Paragard IUD, condoms and diaphragms, as well as more permanent solutions when you feel your family is complete. Younger women who take birth control for reasons such as acne management should also consider speaking with their dermatologists for alternatives.

For everyone, Weiss says a key takeaway is the importance of advocating for your own health. She suggests scheduling an appointment with your doctor and giving them a heads up about what you plan to discuss.

The good news is that there are plenty of birth control options—and the more you know, the better able you are to make the right choice for yourself.

I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.


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I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.


And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3

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Is this viral bedtime chart realistic for most parents?

Some of the recommendations feel impractical—especially for working parents.

In 2015 a teacher at an elementary school in Wisconsin posted a 'bedtimes by age' chart to Facebook, and parents are still commenting on this post nearly four years later.

The teacher who posted the chart, Stacy Karlsen, didn't create it, she just found it, she told Fox 6 back in 2015. She thought the parents of the 200 or so kids at Wilson Elementary would find the chart as helpful as she did, but the post's viral reach went far beyond her intended audience.

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