As if it wasn’t bad enough that women have been taking the pill wrong for 60 years because of the Pope, now it turns out that our own genes might be messing with these crucial meds.
Yep: all those medical warnings and patronising stats about “imperfect use” leading to unplanned pregnancies might just have been dragged to hell.
A new study has found that an estimated 5% of women – that’s one in 20, for my fellow mathletes out there – have a DNA mutation that breaks down the hormones used in birth control.
The gene studied here makes your body produce higher levels of an enzyme that basically dismantles the hormones suppressing ovulation, meaning there’s a higher chance of accidental pregnancy – even if you’re taking the pill on time, every day, and skip the sugar pills.
Thanks, Mr DNA!
The study followed 350 women with a contraceptive implant and sequences their DNA, and it’s one of the first research projects to look at how an individual’s genetic makeup can affect the effectiveness of their birth control.
The failure rate of oral contraceptives is around 7-9%, which is high for a hormonal birth control method.
If 5% of women have this gene mutation, that means one in twenty women who are taking the pill have it.
This suggests more than half of that failure rate could potentially be due to factors beyond their control, and not just being “imperfect”.
“When a woman says she got pregnant while on birth control the assumption was always that it was somehow her fault,” said Dr Aaron Lazorwitz, the study’s lead author.
“These findings show that we should listen to our patients and consider if there is something in their genes that caused this.”
More research is needed, but Lazorwitz is on it – and this finding points to a future where finding the right birth control isn’t just a lifelong process of trial, error, and being super mad at your body most of the time.