There are so many things that impact our mood externally, such as diet and environment. However, our brain chemicals and hormones play a massive role as well. So, for women, anything that affects our reproductive hormones, like the menstrual cycle and contraception are very significant.
If you think your pill is messing with your emotions, you are not alone. There is a lot of women online who question whether certain forms of birth control worsens or triggers depression. Methods like the the pill, IUD, patches and rings also involve hormonal changes, so there’s a high possibility of them interfering with your mood. In fact, almost half of women give up on the pill within the first year because of the unwanted side effects on their mental health.
In this article, we will see how hormonal birth control could affect depression and how strong the evidence is.
How Birth Control Works
In our normal menstrual cycle, there are two female hormones at work-progestin and estrogen. They alternatively rise and fall, which triggers the process of ovulation and menstruation. Birth control also contains these two hormones (though they’re made in a lab). It combines with our own hormonal changes to stop the process of ovulation.
In a normal 28-day menstrual cycle, estrogen levels reach their highest around the half-way mark. This is when most women feel the best emotionally. Hormonal contraceptives tries to flatten out this curve for the first three weeks, and then progestin and estrogen levels both take a nose dive in the final week.
Links Between Birth Control And Depression
It is true that women on birth control do report worsened anxiety and depression than those who are not taking hormonal birth control. While there is plenty of anecdotal evidence linking birth control to worsening depression, the research on this is still limited and doctors can not officially make a definitive conclusion. However, there have been some research studies carried out that hints a possible link.
One study in Denmark followed healthy young women (who had no history of mental illness) in the 15-34 age group to see whether there is a link between being on birth control and antidepressant prescriptions. The duration of the study spanned 14 years.
The results found that women who went on birth control had a 50% higher chance of being diagnosed within the first 6 months than those who weren’t on birth control. They also found that the risk is greater for teenagers (15-19) whose brains were still forming, and for non-oral methods of hormonal birth control (IUD, ring, patch).
In a more recent version of the study, they also looked at any links between hormonal birth control and attempted suicides. They found that women on birth control were twice as likely to attempt suicide than those who aren’t taking it. It sounds pretty grim, so why haven’t doctors made a definitive conclusion?
Truth is that there are too many variables affecting our mental health and it’s impossible to account for all. Like most scientific studies, it is stressed that just because there is a link between birth control and depression, it doesn’t mean that birth control is the cause of depression. Correlation does not equal causation.
So, should you worry about taking birth control if you are depressed? The only way to know for sure is to talk to your doctor because they may have a deeper understanding of the issue. There may be variables specific to you, that weren’t included in these research studies, and can affect your reaction to hormonal birth control. On the flip side, some women have even reported birth control improving their mood by tackling PMS symptoms.