Is brain fog a side effect of birth control? According to the 2017 statistics from the Philippines Department of Health (DOH), there are over 6.8 million current users of modern contraception. With these many women using hormonal birth control, certainly it is important to discuss the benefits and side effects. There are many articles available that discuss these in detail, however, brain fog is an often overlooked symptom.
What is brain fog?
Brain fog is a fairly new term used to describe symptoms or feelings of forgetfulness, slow thinking, or difficulty concentrating. While brain fog is not really a diagnosis or illness, it can be inconvenient and may point to another underlying cause.
Some possible symptoms of brain fog include:
- Trouble remembering someone’s name
- Words caught on the tip of your tongue
- Feeling like your thoughts are “loading”
- Spending more time doing your routine tasks
- Not feeling like your usual self
Possible causes of brain fog are:
- Changes in diet (e.g. keto diet, intermittent fasting, low-carb diets)
- Insomnia or lack of sleep
- Certain medications
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Anxiety, depression, or other mental conditions
- Pregnancy (also known as “pregnancy brain”)
Types of birth control
Nowadays, there are many types of birth control available. Each has their advantages, disadvantages, and effectiveness rates. Contrary to popular belief, birth control is not limited to women as men also have contraception options.
Broadly speaking, birth control can be divided into hormonal and nonhormonal options. Nonhormonal forms of birth control include natural family planning, condoms, and surgery. Hormonal forms of birth control include pills, patches, injections, and IUDs.
Hormone-containing contraceptives work by supplementing female sex hormones like progesterone and estrogen. These hormones are naturally occurring in the body, however, most contraceptives contain synthetic versions of these hormones. By increasing the levels of progesterone and/or estrogen, eggs from the ovaries are not released and fertilization is nearly impossible.
Why is brain fog a side effect of birth control?
Because of lack of research, it is not entirely clear as to why some women experience brain fog and other symptoms while on hormonal birth control. Women who get pregnant also can experience similar symptoms, known as “pregnancy brain” or “baby brain.”
Some experts suggest that it is the fluctuation and elevation of hormones that influence brain function. Few studies have shown that use of hormonal birth control can actually alter the brain’s structure. The hypothalamus is responsible for regulating mood, sleep, memory, and body temperature. As a result, a smaller hypothalamus volume is also associated with anger and depression.
Scientists need to do more extensive studies on the use of hormonal contraceptives and brain function to better understand its effects.
How to get rid of brain fog
If you are currently taking birth control and feel like you are experiencing brain fog, it may not be ideal to suddenly stop taking it. Oftentimes, side effects like brain fog can come and go. Over time, your body may become more accustomed to the hormones in your contraception.
Regardless of hormonal birth control use, brain fog can still occur because of other conditions or medications. Dealing with the other factors may improve your mental clarity. Other ways to “un-fog” your brain include:
Firstly, regular exercise has many benefits aside from clearing up brain fog. You don’t need to join a gym or run a marathon to exercise. Standing, stretching, and taking a brisk walk are effective enough.
Moving around improves your blood flow throughout your body. This is especially important if you spend most of your day sitting at a desk or stuck at home.
Proper, well-balanced diet
Second to regular exercise, a balanced diet can greatly improve your overall health. A healthy diet includes moderate servings from each food group. Aside from including all the macronutrients such as protein, carbohydrates, and fat, a healthy diet should include vitamins and minerals.
A lack of B vitamins can affect blood cell health and brain function. B vitamins can naturally be found in food like eggs, meat, green vegetables, and rice. If you are on a restrictive diet, you may need to take vitamin supplements to reach your daily requirements.
Unfortunately, more sleep may be hard for many people to do with all the demands from work, school, and family life. Exercise and diet can improve the quality of your sleep. Better sleep greatly improves brain function. Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, though many adults often fall short or skip sleep at night.
Studies show that power naps can improve alertness, perception, mood, and memory. Interestingly, an afternoon nap can be just as effective or even more effective than a cup of coffee. So, if you find yourself feeling foggy, taking a nap for 30 minutes to an hour may help.
For many modern women, birth control offers a way to prevent or plan having a family. Timing when (or if) you have children makes it easier to plan your career, education, and finances. Despite its benefits, brain fog is sometimes a side effect of birth control. If you are concerned with brain fog, talk to your doctor about other birth control options.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.