Do Birth Control Pills Cause Depression? - Dr. Axe

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Do Birth Control Pills Cause Depression?


birth control pills cause depression

When taking birth control pills, you may be unknowingly putting your body at risk. Why? There are a number of serious side effects from birth control pills, both mental and physical. Possible side effects include yeast infections, weight gain and increased risk of both breast cancer and cervical cancer — among others.

Oral contraceptives contain either both estrogen and progestin, synthetic progesterone or just progestin. Putting these hormones in your body artificially alters the body’s natural estrogen and progesterone levels, affecting the natural balance of the body’s hormones. With estrogen and progesterone levels in the body out of their natural equilibrium, the brain’s response system is consequently altered, leading to psychological side effects.

Birth control and depression have long been associated with one another. Women have expressed concern about low sex drive, lack of appetite, helplessness, disinterest and an overall sad disposition while ‘on the pill.’ The problem, however, is that little concrete research and evidence exist to safely claim that birth control pills are the root cause of depression in the women taking them.

The recently published study by the University of Copenhagen is a step in the right direction to at last prove the harmful effects of birth control pills and determine whether birth control pills cause depression. (1)

Birth Control and Depression: The Study

The study analyzed 1, 061 ,997 women in Denmark, ages 15-34, who had no previous diagnosis of depression or any other major psychiatric problems. To determine whether the women in the study were affected by the birth control medication after starting it, researchers monitored new prescriptions of antidepressants or diagnoses of depression from the Psychiatric Central Research Register.


In the end, the number of women using birth control who developed depression was compared to the number of women who developed depression that were not using birth control. The forms monitored included combination pills, progestin-only pills, levonorgestrel IUSs, transdermal patches and vaginal rings.

At the conclusion of the study, 55.5 percent of women were current or recent users of hormonal contraception. Researchers found that 133, 178 women received a prescription for antidepressants. They also found 23 ,077  first-time diagnoses of depression.

Frighteningly, adolescents, ages 15–19, had a higher ratio of diagnoses of depression and antidepressant prescriptions. Progestin-only pills and the transdermal patch and vaginal ring are also areas of high concern with a higher ratio of diagnoses and antidepressant prescriptions.

Aside from overt links to depression, it’s also interesting to note that 10 percent of women quit using birth control within the first year. It seems likely undesired effects caused the decision to stop using birth control. Other possible causes are financial reasons, change in relationship status and so on.

Natural Birth Control Alternatives

The good news is that whether or not you are finally convinced of the harmful side effects of oral contraceptives on the mind and body, there are natural birth control alternatives to eliminate any concern. Male condoms are 98 percent effective, and the lesser-used female condoms are 95 percent effective, making these natural alternatives competitive to the 99.7 percent effectiveness rate of oral birth control pills.

Although slightly less effective, cervical caps and diaphragms are alternative solutions as well. A cervical cap is a small cap, made of either latex or silicone, that covers the cervix. Cervical caps are 91 percent effective. Diaphragms are similar in concept but are much larger. Diaphragms are anywhere from 92–98 percent effective.

Gaining awareness of your body and ovulation can also eliminate the need for traditional forms of birth control. By taking your basal body temperature each morning to monitor for a rise in body temperature and tracking changes in vaginal discharge, watching for increased and clear discharge, in combination with calendar tracking, you can abstain from sex a few days before and after your ovulation day to avoid pregnancy. This combined method has an effectiveness rate up to 98 percent if performed correctly.

Final Thoughts on Whether Birth Control Pills Cause Depression

Based on the study conducted by the University of Copenhagen, there is an association between birth control and depression. Past research, however, both agrees and disagrees with these findings.

Similar to the University of Copenhagen, a 2007 study found a notable increase in depression rates among women taking birth control versus women not. (2)

A 2012 study in the Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics (AGO), on the other hand, found no correlation between birth control pills and depression; although, researchers stated difficulty with the study because of the use of the word “depression” and the wide variety of different contraceptives, raising a red flag on the validity of the study. (3)

So while more research is needed to confirm whether birth control pills cause depression, the risk of depression and other serious side effects outweigh the benefit of taking oral contraceptives — especially with the number of natural birth control alternatives available.

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