Can Birth Control Cause Depression?

Does Birth Control Cause Depression Women's Health
November 10, 2022
6 minutes Read
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While birth control often eases minds because of its pregnancy prevention, it can leave some with uncomfortable side effects. 

Birth control and depression, for instance, have been linked anecdotally and in some research.

A study published in Contraception, a reproductive health journal, notes that nearly 50% of its participants stopped taking the pill because they experienced negative mood changes while on it. 

But can birth control cause depression?

Birth Control Basics

Contraception comes in various forms and can be broadly divided into two categories: hormonal and non-hormonal. 

Each type of birth control has a specific method to prevent pregnancy; some may overlap. 

For instance, the pill generally works by:

  • Decreasing ovulation (when the ovary releases a mature egg)
  • Thickening the cervix’s mucus and stopping sperm from penetrating the uterus.
  • Thinning the lining of the uterus so a fertilized egg can’t easily attach. 

Examples of hormonal contraception methods include the following:

  • Combination pill (contains estrogen and progestin)
  • Mini pill (contains the hormone progestin, not estrogen)
  • The ring
  • The patch
  • The shot
  • Some IUDs
  • Implants

Examples of non-hormonal contraception methods include the following:

  • Abstinence
  • Condoms
  • Cervical caps
  • Copper IUD
  • Diaphram 
  • The rhythm method 
  • Vasectomy
  • Tubal ligation (also known as tube tying)

Birth control and depression aren’t conclusively shown to be connected. But contraception can have side effects (depending on the kind used).

Generally, mild side effects of birth control can show up as nausea, headaches, and tender breasts. Some individuals may also experience changes in their menstrual cycle.

If you notice a concerning physical and emotional shift after starting birth control, speak to a medical professional immediately. A doctor can help you understand symptoms or guide you to an alternative. 

Also, irritating changes, like water retention, usually disappear once your body adjusts to the hormones.

Can birth control cause depression?

The answer to the question, “Does birth control cause depression?” is complicated. 

Firstly, mood swings and depression are typically reported side effects of people on birth control. Nevertheless, experts have not conclusively verified or debunked a link as the research often conflicts.

What does that mean? 

Everyone is unique, and their reaction to contraception will be specific to them. Some birth control is believed to affect emotions because of their hormones.  

Also, better research needs to be done for a definitive explanation, as various factors are likely involved. 

Does birth control cause depression? Let’s have a look at the science. 

A recent study in the AGO (Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics) concluded that depression isn’t a typical reaction to birth control pills. 

This study revealed that the relationship between the two is murky.

On the other hand, a medically-written article for Harvard Health Publishing explains another outcome.

An analysis of over one million Danish women used hard data, such as prescription records and diagnosis codes, to understand mental health and birth control. 

This unique study concluded that all types of hormonal birth control were associated with increased chances of developing depression. A higher risk was connected to the progesterone-only contraception methods, like the mini pill.

Even though the evidence from each study doesn’t see eye-to-eye, many pharmaceutical manufacturers list depression as a potential side effect of the pill.

Ortho-Cyclen and Ortho Tri-Cyclen have depression as a possible side effect of these birth controls. 

What Is Depression?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, depression (or major depressive disorder) is a serious behavioral health condition. 

Symptoms include extreme fatigue, loss of interest, and overuse of substances (and many more). 

Feeling down can naturally happen sometimes.

But if you’ve been experiencing feelings of intense despair, you might be facing an episode of depression.

While highly challenging, this behavioral health condition is commonly experienced globally. The NSDUH conducted a study and uncovered that 21 million American adults encountered depression once or more during 2020.  

When depression persists and impacts your quality of life, it’s time to seek help if you haven’t yet. 

Signs of depression

What should you look out for if you are suffering from depression?

Depression can usually be characterized by symptoms lasting for two weeks or more and a noticeable shift in your level of functioning. 

You might notice a decline in your energy to complete work assignments, nurture relationships, or complete household chores. 

Some common signs of depression include the following:

  • Feeling fatigued
  • Loss of interest in activities 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Feeling hopeless or pessimistic 
  • Thoughts of self-harm 
  • Participating in risky behaviors
  • Forcing external happiness

If you or someone you know are struggling with self-harm, seek emergency care as soon as possible. 

Some resources for support include the following:

Final thoughts

Birth control is a vital tool for pregnancy prevention. Not only is it generally convenient, but it’s usually highly effective if taken properly. 

If you’re worried about depression, speak to your physician about non-hormonal options. Having a child when you’re not prepared or without the resources can bring a lot of other kinds of emotional stressors, so ensure you weigh out the pros and cons and find the best solution for you. 

Want birth control but don’t know where to start?

Please reach out to one of our vetted, licensed, and caring Ravkoo Health doctors

If your online appointment results in a birth control prescription, receive your medication delivered to your doorstep via Ravkoo RX

Download the Ravkoo Health app to get started!

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