Factors Affecting Pubertal Timing and Perceptions of Birth Control

Ashley Gomm, Dr. Sharon Ramos-Goyette, and Dr. Merideth Krevosky, Department of Psychology and Department of Biology, Bridgewater State University, 131 Summer Street Bridgewater MA 02324

The purpose of this study is two-fold. Firstly, to determine factors affecting the earlier onset of menarche in young girls. Menarche is the occurrence of a first menstrual period in the female adolescent (Lacroix, 2019). The age of menarche has been decreasing over the past 150 years. While some factors have been identified, like increased body mass index (BMI), such factors alone cannot account for the overall decrease in age. For example, young girls with BMIs within the low-average range still experience menarche on average 5 years younger than their great-grandmothers. 

Secondly, to better define socio-cultural norms affecting the use of “birth control pills” otherwise known as “the pill.” Oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) combine estrogens and progestins in a pill form that is taken orally for 21 days, followed by a placebo pill taken for seven days, mimicking the idealized 28-day menstrual cycle. OCPs require a prescription and are 99.7% effective at preventing pregnancy, when taken as directed. Mechanistically, most hormonal interventions prevent the positive-feedback loop between estrogen and luteinizing hormone necessary for ovulation. In addition, some also impact the endometrium and cervical mucus, making both less suitable for implantation and fertilization. Due to the decreased age of menarche and as additional uses for OCPs have been identified, it is becoming clear that females no longer use “birth control” or “oral contraceptives” primarily to prevent pregnancy, but instead for a myriad other reasons including “menstrual suppression.”  Menstrual suppression is the use of hormonal methods to diminish undesirable effects of cyclicity such as changes in mood, painful cramps, and unpredictability. Thus, young women begin using OCPs from a young age and switch their prescriptions throughout their reproductive years, yet very little research exists on these modern modifications to OCP use. One goal of this study is to better define and clarify these additional new uses of the birth control pill. 

Alongside, this study aims to document and organize an inventory of women’s OCP brands, cycle characteristics, symptoms and/or side effects, and several other factors while using or discontinuing use of OCPs. A second goal of this study is to develop a more accurate understanding of current rationale underlying benefits to OCP use that reside outside of contraceptive-use only. 

Additional Abstract Information

Presenter: Ashley Gomm

Institution: Bridgewater State University

Type: Poster

Subject: Interdisciplinary Studies

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Poster 8
Date/Time: Tue 5:00pm-6:00pm
Session Number: 5513