Women with asthma may experience fewer severe symptom attacks if they take birth control pills, a large new study suggests.
The study of more than 83,000 women with asthma found that those who used oral contraceptives for at least three years tended to have fewer severe relapses.
The difference between pill users and non-users was small, and the results did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship, the researchers pointed out.
However, there is reason to believe that birth control pills could affect asthma symptoms, according to study author Bright Nwaru.
On the one hand, we know that some women with asthma see their symptoms flare up at certain times of the menstrual cycle. It is suspected that fluctuations in hormone levels are the reason, explained Nwaru, from Gothenburg University in Sweden.
“Anecdotal evidence suggests that some women with menstrual-related asthma appear to get relief by taking hormonal contraceptives,” he said.
Read more: Natural Ways to Ease Asthma Symptoms
But, Nwaru added, studies on the issue have yielded conflicting results.
The latter study, published online November 23 in the journal Thorax, is the “most robust” yet, according to Nwaru. He followed a large group of women over the age of 17 and discovered what might be a “small” protective effect of birth control pills, he said.
No one, however, is suggesting that women try the pill for managing asthma.
“It’s only a link – so it’s not enough [evidence] to use the pill as a treatment, ”said Dr Purvi Parikh, national spokesperson for the Allergy and Asthma Network.
According to Parikh, there is various evidence that the body’s sex hormones (like estrogen) affect asthma: Before puberty, boys are more likely to develop asthma than girls, but after puberty the reverse is true. is right. Boys also pass asthma more often, making asthma more common in women than in men.
Pregnancy also plays a role. One-third of pregnant women with asthma see their symptoms improve, while many have to worsen, said Parikh, who is also a clinical assistant professor at NYU Grossman School of Medicine in New York City.
By Amy Norton – HealthDay reporter