A new study suggests that women who take birth control pills have a higher risk of experiencing depression when compared with those who don’t take contraceptive medication. The study was published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry and the findings give support to something that a lot of women on such pills had suspected for a long time.
According to a 2013 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 30% of U.S. women ended up quitting using the pill because they felt dissatisfied due to the side effects they experienced.
The lead supervisor of the current study and a professor at the University of Copenhagen (Denmark), Dr. Øjvind Lidegaard, said that the medical world has known for a very long time that the mood of women is affected by the two sex hormones called progesterone and estrogen. That is why it didn’t come as a surprise that taking artificial hormones ended up affecting their mood and could cause depression.
For the purpose of the current study, more than 1 million Danish women over 14 years of age but between the ages of 15-34 were tracked by the researchers. They used the data from Denmark’s National Prescription Register and the Psychiatric Central Research Register. In order to make sure that depression had a link to the use of birth control pills the women who had reported the psychological ailment before they turned 15, or before the start of when the data was collected, were not part of study. The mean age of using birth control pills was 24.
The analysis of the data showed that using contraceptive pills had a link to the development of depression and also with the use of antidepressants. An increase of 40% in the risk of depression was observed in women after six months of using contraceptive pills when compared to the women who didn’t use such medication.
Comparing the data of women who didn’t take such contraceptives to women who did, females who took combined oral contraceptive pills experienced a 1.2 times higher chance of taking antidepressants. A 1.3 times higher chance was observed in women who consumed progestin-only contraceptive pills. A two-fold increase in risk was seen in women who used transdermal patches while those using a vaginal ring showed a 1.5 times higher risk. Women being diagnosed for depression also showed a similar pattern of risk.
The researchers noted that the difference seen in the rate of risk between women taking oral and non-oral forms of birth control might be because of a difference in the dose instead of the administration of the contraceptives. They also added that other factors might come into play to cause depression in women instead of taking contraceptive pills being the only reason. More research is needed to further understand this link. The results also showed that adolescents were more vulnerable to depression when compared to women who were aged between 20 to 34 years old.
The results from the current study could apply to the women in the U.S. as well. Contraceptive methods are used by approximately 62% of women in the country between the ages of 15 to 44. About 16% of such women use the pill, while 15.5% of the women go for sterilization, and about 7.2% use reversible contraception such as an implant or IUD.
While the current study has showed a link between contraceptive pills and depression, using such pills also comes with some benefits. Along with preventing unwanted pregnancies in women, these pills also aid in the regulation of the menstrual cycles, help to treat the pelvic pain due to endometriosis, prevent breakouts of acne, help to control fibroid symptoms, and even reduce the risk of developing cancer in reproductive organs.