Hormonal Birth Control May Lead to Depression

by Patrick Yang

birth-control

Figure 1. The use of hormonal contraception may increase likelihood of depression by 23%.

 

Approximately 62% of women aged 14-44 in the U.S. are using a method of contraception, and 27% of those women are using hormonal contraception, according to a National Health Statistics report. The key to hormonal contraception’s mass appeal lies in its convenience and reversibility; it can be found in pill or patch form and does not have permanent effects. However, the estrogen or progestin in birth control pills can trigger an increase in endogenous sex hormones, leading to mood changes. The potential severity of these mood changes has led researchers to try to find a positive correlation between hormonal contraception and mood disturbances.

Last month, Charlotte Wessel Skovlund, MSc, and associate researchers at the University of Copenhagen assessed the relationship between the usage of hormonal contraception and depression. Skovlund and her team performed a nationwide study of over one million Danish women aged 15-34 years from January 1, 2000 to December 31, 2013. The research team observed the medical records of these women, specifically for hormonal contraceptive usage, possible subsequent prescription of antidepressants, and potential diagnosis of depression.

Evaluation of the three-year study revealed that those who used the combined pill of estrogen and progesterone were 23% more likely to be prescribed antidepressants than those who did not use hormonal contraceptives. This percentage increased to 34% for those using the progestin-only pill. Surprisingly, adolescents aged 15-19 were especially susceptible to symptoms of depression, with a likelihood of 80%. Although this study is purely statistical, there is a palpable correlation between the use of hormonal contraceptives and depression.   

References:

  1. CW Skovlund, et al., Association of hormonal contraception with depression. The Journal of the American Medical Association (2016). doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.2387.
  2. K. Daniels, et al., Current contraceptive use and variation by selected characteristics among women aged 15–44: United States, 2011–2013. National Health Statistics Report 86, 4 (2015).
  3. Image retrieved from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/thestarshine/3268160011/in/photostream/.
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