Is Your Birth Control Making You Depressed?
From a lack of vitamin D to a shift in chemicals in the brain, depression can be caused by a variety of sources. But could another sneaky culprit – your birth control – be responsible for your mood changes?
Women who used a combined birth control pill of the hormones estrogen and progestin were 23 percent more likely to be prescribed anti-depressants than nonusers, and increased to 34 percent for women who use progestin-only contraceptives. This rate doubled for women using the patch, while vaginal rings showed a 60 percent increase. IUD users saw a 40 percent increase in anti-depressant use.
But don’t call it quits with your contraceptive just yet, says Brent Davidson, M.D., a specialist in obstetrics and gynecology at Henry Ford Health System.
“It’s hard to predict how any medication will affect an individual,” he says. “There are certain components to contraceptives that link to depression, and those may interact with someone’s own body chemicals in different ways than others.”
The study also found those ages 15 to 19 saw the greatest risk of depression and anti-depressant use at 80 percent.
This increase in risk for adolescents could in part be contributed to the stage of life this age group is in, explains Dr. Davidson.
“Teens may be in a bit more vulnerable spot in their lives – they may not have as strong of a support system, be involved in less secure relationships and are just going through the transition from adolescence to adulthood,” he says.
Dr. Davidson believes this study is helpful for makers of contraceptives to continue to improve their product – but he also said more testing and research needs to be done to determine if there is a true link between birth control and depression, as the study wasn’t able to definitively prove birth control was the cause of the depression.
For women who think their contraceptive might be altering their mood, this study provides an opportunity to establish a discussion with their provider to explore available options, he says.
“We want to make sure people are aware we offer the whole spectrum of contraceptives – hormonal and non-hormonal,” he says. “There are numerous options available if one type of birth control isn’t working for you.”
Dr. Brent Davidson is an OB/GYN specialist and Director for Women’s Health Services at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital.