Mind the gap: Hormonal contraceptives and the brain

Hormonal contraceptives (HC) are used by 850 million girls, women and people with uteri — all reflected in the term women+ — , and 16 percent of people (5-49Y) in Canada. In addition to being contraceptives, HCs are prescribed off-label to treat many other conditions. Few studies have examined effects of these hormones on the brain; however, recent work suggests they can increase risk for mood disorders during adolescence and alter brain activation patterns. Yet, how HC use may influence long-term brain health is not known. Understanding brain health, especially through an equity lens, is critical. Women+ experience different brain health symptoms as a result of their unique experience of stress, which is impacted by age, gender, and race/ethnicity. Stress outcomes affect disease risk, which is also influenced by HCs. Collaborations between academics and research users are vital to understanding the unique ways that women+’s lives impact their brain health. This conference will explore how HCs influence women+’s brain health by bringing together researchers, clinicians, community partners, trainees, and policymakers to exchange knowledge and identify new research priorities that fill knowledge gaps and address patient experiences.

Team members: Katherine Moore (Women’s Health Research Cluster); Jesse Lacasse (Concordia University); Bonnie Lee (UBC); Jennifer Williams (McMaster University); Maureen MacDonald (McMaster University); Nafissa Ismail (University of Ottawa); Elizabeth Hampson (University of Western Ontario); Gillian Einstein (University of Toronto); Frances Chen (UBC); Sofia Ahmed (University of Calgary).