Is Taking “The Pill” Bringing You Down?

Oral contraception has been widely available for decades. The side effects of nausea and headaches are nothing new to users, but now a new Danish study published in JAMA has found that the pills increase risk of depression. Pills that had a combination of progesterone and estrogen increased the rate of women taking antidepressants by 23%. Among teens, the rate nearly doubled.

In this study, more than a million women, ages 15 to 34 years old, were tracked over 10 years. The oral options were progestin-only and a combination (progestin with estrogen). Both work equally at stopping ovulation. In Denmark, more than 40% of women ages 15 to 44 take some form of hormonal contraception. About 27% of American women do, with 16% taking the Pill.

Most women have no issues with mental health effects. Patients use contraceptives to help regulate their moods and regulate their menstrual cycles with precision. There may be certain risks with the drugs, but the benefits outweigh the risks of the alternative. An unintended or unwanted pregnancy could trump nausea or depression.

Teenagers age 15-19 had a much worse time with depression as a side effect. Those taking combination pills were diagnosed with depression 70% more than non-users. Use of the patch, vaginal ring, and IUDs tripled the rate of depression. This could be connected to the unstable hormone levels caused by puberty.

The study found that the rate of depression dropped dramatically after continued use of the contraceptives. The rate of developing depression fell below that of non-users after four to seven years of taking birth control. Women who start taking birth control at an older age also had much fewer cases of depression.

Health providers need to be aware of connections between different systems in the body, like depression and the use of contraceptives. Being informed lets women choose their contraceptive options based on their holistic health, not just one system.
Rodriguez, Carmen Heredia. “Large Danish Study Links Contraceptive Use To Risk Of Depression.” News. Kaiser Health News, 28 Sept 2016. Web. 29 Sep 2016.

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