Millions of women across the world use hormonal contraception and are aware of the impact of these hormones on emotions and mood imbalances. However, this study demonstrates a positive association between the impact of birth control and depression.

A study recently published by JAMA Psychiatry linked the use of hormonal contraceptives to mood disorders in women. One of the most common mood disorders in women is depression. Research investigators sought to understand the connection between the use of hormonal birth control pills in women to the use of antidepressants and diagnosis of depression in women and young girls.


For most women, the association is obvious. Anyone that has taken birth control pills knows the emotional rollercoaster that can occur as hormones fluctuate throughout the month.  In fact, it almost seems like common sense that women and girls on birth control were more likely receive a diagnosis of depression, and are also more likely to be prescribed antidepressant medication.


The outcomes of this study seem to add the science behind the sense. Effectively, science has validated the stories of women that demonstrated how the use of birth control pills has influenced the way they experience reality. 


Participants of the study included women and girls aged 15-34 living in Denmark with no prior history of depression, use of antidepressants or other forms of psychiatric or major health concerns. Data on different types of hormonal contraception, first use of antidepressants and first diagnosis of depression were collected from the Danish National Prescription Register and the Psychiatric Central Research Registry between January 1, 1995 and April 1, 2016.


Results of the study indicated that young women who used hormonal contraceptives such as the patch (norgestrolmin) and vaginal rings (etonogestrel) were more likely to be prescribed antidepressants. The relative risk for depression diagnosis was somewhat lower with the use of combined oral contraceptives, and progestin only pills. Researchers also found that adolescents aged 15-19 were more susceptible to be diagnosed with depression and prescribed antidepressants. However, the relative risk for use of antidepressants and diagnosis of depression increased with age.


The adverse effects of certain birth control pills can influence the emotional mood swings of young girls and women which may cause them to be misperceived and misunderstood – and thus improperly diagnosed. Clearly, more studies that demonstrate the linkage between hormonal contraception and emotional disturbances and mood disorders such as depression are order to address the underlying nature of mental health concerns. 



Source: Skovlund CW, Mørch LS, Kessing LV, Lidegaard

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