Many women may be experiencing depression and mood swings while taking birth control. But does that mean that your birth control pills are the root cause of your depression? Most newer research suggests that this is not the case. However we cannot accurately say that birth control causing depression is a total myth – there is conflicting evidence. Some studies suggest that contraceptives can induce depressive states.
Many times with cases of depression it is important to determine whether you experienced depression and/or mood swings before taking your birth control or after. If the depression goes away when you stop taking your birth control, it should be pretty obvious that it was having an effect on your mood.
Can birth control pills cause depression and mood swings?
Not according to most scientific research. The majority of newer scientific evidence claims that birth control causing depression is a total myth. In fact one study found that women using hormonal contraception actually had lower levels of depression than non-users. This study involved over 6,000 sexually active, non-pregnant women ages 25 to 34 from the span of 1994 to 2008.
Researchers found that hormonal contraceptive users actually had lower depressive symptoms than non-users and were less likely to attempt suicide. This study went as far as to suggest that hormonal contraception may reduce rates of depression in young women and recommended further exploration into hormonal therapy as a psychiatric treatment.
Despite the fact that scientific evidence would suggest otherwise, if you talk to women about their experiences, most will tell you that birth control can affect their mood. Some doctors even have gone as far as to prescribe antidepressants with birth control to help people cope with some of the birth control side effects. Personally I don’t think that extreme of measures are necessary.
Common birth control side effects
Any birth control that tampers with hormonal levels can result in side effects. Pretending that not everyone experiences side effects is avoiding the reality of the situation. It is also important to understand that what may result in side effects in one woman may not have drastic effects in another. Everyone is different and the experiences that you will have as a result of taking birth control are subject to variation.
- Decreased libido: Certain women actually respond to taking birth control with a decrease in sex drive.
- Dizziness: Slight feelings of dizziness are somewhat common.
- Headaches: This is a common side effect of certain types of birth control.
- Irritability: Taking birth control makes some people more irritable and crabby.
- Mood swings: It is common for women to experience mood swings when on hormonal contraception.
- Nausea: Taking birth control may make some people feel nauseated.
Hormonal birth control and depression? An unlikely cause.
The bottom line is that if you look at the big studies involving birth control and mental health, most suggest that birth control is not linked to abnormal mood swings or depression. In the past, some studies found that birth control could have adverse effects on mood, but the researchers only considered short-term effects. Other various smaller studies have somewhat conflicting results in terms of whether birth control could have a detrimental effect on mood.
Although it was found that The Pill was linked to less depression, taking it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the reason for improved mood. It is hypothesized that many birth control users are already less likely to suffer from depressive symptoms and/or that people already stop taking The Pill if they have mood swings or feel depression as a side effect. Researchers were able to control for these factors and found that there was no causation between this birth control and depression over a large sample size.
What about people who feel like The Pill is making them go insane? Individuals that become irritable or experience minor mood swings are not typically experiencing full blown depression and/or attempting suicide. These effects have been documented but are not usually serious enough to be considered full blown “depression.” In most cases as the person gets used to The Pill, the side effects subside. Although there is more research that needs to be conducted, the scientific evidence seems to be against any form of birth control causing depression.
A couple of things to keep in mind…
- Depression is common – Many people experience depression and the fact that they are taking birth control may merely be a coincidence. Taking birth control is not necessarily going to make you feel down in the dumps. About 20% of the United States population experiences serious depression at some point in their lives. Additionally, women are more likely to experience depression than men.
- Birth control doesn’t typically cause depression – It is very unlikely that birth control is the actual cause of your depression. It may cause temporary subtle mood swings and/or minor irritability, but the research suggests that the reason you are feeling depressed may be for other reasons.
Birth control: Depression side effect?
Although there is no scientific research demonstrating that birth control can cause depression, the fact is that it does affect certain individuals differently. Certainly if you noticed that your depression started after your birth control, you may want to stop it for awhile and determine whether your mood improves. If your mood improves, you can pretty much assume that it was in fact your birth control that caused you to feel depressed.
Have you experienced depression from your birth control?
It’s helpful to hear from people first hand that have experienced depression as a direct result of their birth control. Although science suggests that there is merely a correlation between taking birth control and feeling depression symptoms, professional data suggests that there is no causation.
In other words, it shows that taking birth control has not been proven to cause depression in women. However, it may be beneficial to others to share your personal experiences in the comments section. Have you noticed that your mood changed while on birth control? How did it affect you? Were you able to improve your mood by switching birth control or stopping it temporarily?