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Can Birth Control Pills Cause Depression And Mood Swings?

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.

Source: http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2013/09/15/aje.kwt188.abstract
Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17688380

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…

  1. 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.
  2. 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?

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{ 20 comments… add one }
  • Chelsea May 21, 2014, 9:26 am

    I have been on bcontrol since about age 15. The first pill form was a generic of ortho tryclein(spelling?) everything seemed fine, I actually felt like it made me nicer and calmer less irritable..I did however gain 40ibs. I later then was switched to a different generic of ortho..this generic gave me absolute hell! Off bcontrol I do not have cramps, pains or even bleed a lot, however, this generic made my cycle very similar to what I’d imagine hell to be like. I later then switched pills again, this time trying the name brand, straight up ortho tricyclein(again spelling?) this name brand has made me absolutely psycho!! I feel as if my boyfriend,who is wonderful&does nothing to deserve mistreatment, I began treating him like a pure dog, I didn’t want his touch, but then I got upset when he wouldn’t touch me, I made it up and believed it in my head that he didn’t love me, I would get so depressed a few hours after taking it,which is about at 8pm before bed every night due to the way it made me sooooooo tired, I would become so depressed, what for? I have no idea, my life is filled with love and happiness. I AM HAPPY WITH MY LIFE!!..however it would make me so low feeling like I have not one person in the world who cares about me or puts me before themselves. Random hollering and lashing out became a nightly thing, over the most petty stuff that I honestly don’t care about. I kept convincing myself I wasn’t happy in my life or relationship with my boyfriend, that he didn’t love me, that no one cared about me but me. I finally did research on the name brand pill I was on..every review from females on the site telling their stories, aside for a few, described to a T the same issues I was enduring. Sadness, meaness, crazy thoughts, and when I say depressed..I mean absolutely so depressed, I have no word to describe how low and depressed it made me. I am currently trying to stop taking this pill, without being able to get an appointment to change bcontrol types till next month& not wanting to get pregnant yet in my life, I am still taking it and dealing with the issues as best as I can, along with the understanding of my boyfriend, who has been by my side during all my crazzzzzyyyy episodes..I hope this helps anyone who reads it. And I also hope that I find a bc source that will agree with me and not make me cray cray :(

    • Kaylie August 6, 2014, 3:42 am

      @Chelsea

      Are you still experiencing this? I’ve been on the pill for about 3 years. At first everything was fine but for a good year or so i’ve been having horrible freak outs and mood swings exactly as you described. I was on Ortho Tricyclen, but told my doctor the issues I’m having, I have a different one with no better results. I’m recently engaged and can’t stand the thought of putting my fiance through hell like this. I’m thinking of coming off the pill completely to see if i get better. But getting acne again is worth not having nightly fights over the dumbest things… What have you tried?

    • Michael Massey February 17, 2016, 9:44 pm

      @chelsie. This helped me a lot after lots wondering what’s going on. im the understanding boyfriend in this scenario trying to figure out why I’m all the sudden feeling ignored and unwanted. So far nothing has come up about splitting up, just needing some time alone. She seems down about herself and no matter what I do to reassure her she is beautiful and great person.

      I don’t see my efforts helping. And maybe it won’t because it’s her deal not mine. I’m trying to think less of myself and my insecure feelings from this and more in her and what she’s feeling and how I can help or just be there for her when she wants. The pill was switched to a new brand recently and I’m trying to connect the dots.

      She did admit that she realized she was not wanting sex, irritable and gaining weight so she is going off as of 4 days ago. Too soon to tell if that was it but just from reading your experience, I’m hopeful that’s it. Thank you for sharing.

      • WK July 7, 2016, 10:39 pm

        Hello, I am also having issues with my birth control. Birth controls has ruined me emotionally and physically. I have tried three different brands and none of them seem to keep me calm. I get angry at the smallest things and become a ragging bull. I have been on the pill for maybe a year and half now.

        My boyfriend is almost fed up with me and my temper. Being that he is not on the pill, it difficult for him to understand why it’s hard for me to keep it together. After an episode I would feel so bad that it would just replay over in my head. Tonight is my last night taking the pills. I am worried about the effects coming off the pill. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Disgruntled Peon October 27, 2014, 2:31 pm

    The pill was absolute hell for me. I refuse to ever try one again without having an anti-depressant. Physically, my periods were heavier, went for a full 8 days, fairly heavy, with crippling back and stomach pain and migraines. Mentally, I felt nothing but complete despair/hopelessness or rage – I wanted to break things, even when things I had wanted for a long time finally came through. I knew logically I should be happy but couldn’t actually feel that way. This has happened on more than one type of pill. These symptoms went away with the pill.

  • Catherine November 14, 2014, 3:56 pm

    I am in my 50’s now and when I started taking the pill I became suicidal within days of taking them. I was an off again on again pill taker–it was hard to get without a parental release form back then and I was rarely “active” so didn’t have an ongoing need to be on them. I never connected the depressions I would fall into with the pill until I was 21 and was in a new relationship.

    I started taking them and within 2 days I was so depressed I could hardly move. I couldn’t understand the depression because I was/am normally a happy person and I was in the beginning of a new fun relationship. I ended up in the hospital after swallowing a bunch of pain pills, they pumped my stomach although I don’t remember that and they admitted me. While in the hospital I did not take the pill and within two days I was my normal happy self again. (I still didn’t connect the pill to the depression).

    A psychiatrist saw me and I kept saying I was fine, happy and wasn’t depressed. I assume now that he must have thought I was just masking my depression but I really felt fine and couldn’t explain my attempt to either myself or him. I didn’t go back on the pill for some reason and about two years later when I was in college, I got another prescription and again within days I was suicidal. It was then that I connected the dots. I went off the pill and the depression lifted.

    When I was 29 I married and decided to talk to my doctor about the problem I had with the pill and he suggested a very low dose form of the pill would work. Unfortunately, it didn’t and when I showed up at his office within two days depressed and suicidal he wanted to put me in the hospital but I said, all I have to do is stop taking the pill and the depression would go away and it did. I never took the pill again and I never had another suicidal thought– until recently.

    I am in menopause and am having a hard time of it. I am afraid of HRT. The hot flashes are annoying but the mood swings are crazy making. I am irritable and I am a boss, not a good combination. I don’t want my staff to have to put up with me and my out of the blue mood swings but I don’t know how to stop the swings. Will HRT affect me like the pill did?

  • juanna December 17, 2014, 10:00 am

    I’ve been on the pill for 2 months and at first I thought I was awesome, no acne and the lack of periods. But after my period lacked I started to cry A LOT. and its hurt my throat because I’m crying so much. Nausea is also a problem im having me feel like I’m pregnant but I’m know I’m not. Ugh I think this will be my last pill.

  • Kase January 21, 2015, 6:15 am

    Saying that hormonal birth control doesn’t cause emotional changes in women is bunk. I have personally known two women whose moods changed radically while taking hormonal birth control. One of those women is my wife. Birth control literally makes her crazy. Not irritable. Not depressed. Crazy. Really crazy. Barking at the moon and throwing things around the house in the middle of the night crazy. And it’s demonstrable. Without hormonal birth control, she’s the sweetest, most stable woman I know. But give her two days of the stuff and she goes off the rails. She’s not alone, either.

    Drug companies and the doctors they pay will tell you that emotional changes with birth control are either rare, don’t exist at all or are simply preexisting conditions that women blame on birth control. Women and couples will tell you something completely different. Don’t trust drug companies. These people aren’t there to help you. They are not your friends. They are there to make money. And if that means blaming you for emotional changes you experience while taking their product, they’ll damned sure do it.

    • Kathryn Rippley April 12, 2016, 11:51 am

      Exactly. I am crazy on that stuff also, was screaming in the room last night for no reason, and my anxiety had been off the chain. Pharmaceutical companies are liars.

  • Melinda February 2, 2015, 5:04 am

    I can’t say that birth control causes outright depression, but anyone who says that it doesn’t cause severe mood swings in a lot of women is crazy or in denial. I was 18 when I went on the pill the first time. I had cysts on my ovaries and they caused my ovaries to be swollen to more than double their normal size so I was prescribed birth control to help with that, which worked. However, I was absolutely psychotic for 3 months.

    I was mad at the world and had no clue why and I was ALWAYS crying. Crying because I was mad and mad because I was crying. It was awful. I can remember sitting in my bed at my parents house doing homework, not around anybody or talking to anyone, and getting so angry I could have exploded for NO reason at all. The only thing I could do was go to sleep and hope to wake up in a better mood. I can even remember a couple of time that I was contemplating driving off the road into a tree or light pole.

    I ended up switching pills several times to find one with minimal side effects but even then I never felt like myself. It’s a complete miracle that my husband didn’t divorce me less than 6 months into our marriage because I was completely off my rocker. I would be so mad at him for no reason at all. The poor thing couldn’t do anything right and had no clue what he was doing to make me so mad. He just wanted to fix it. I had convinced myself he was cheating and that he didn’t love or care about me.

    If he even looked at me I thought he was thinking about how fat I was or judging my flaws. I did nothing but push him away and then would just cry and cry because I wanted him to hold me “like he meant it” after I’d been on his case and yelling at him, constantly picking fights for a week straight over absolutely nothing. We were both miserable. Once we figured out what the problem was, though, I was a whole different person. I thank God my husband is a patient man because if I had been him, I’d have left my crazy butt.

    He’s the most laid back, patient, sweetest person I know and he never did anything to deserve my wrath. We went from never having a cross word to World War III almost overnight. And you don’t even want to get me started on the issues I had with the Depo shot! Never again! Bottom line: I don’t know how any study could even remotely conclude that birth control doesn’t have a direct correlation with severe mood swings in a lot of otherwise mentally healthy women.

    • Tiffany January 17, 2016, 8:59 am

      In regards to your comment what birth control do you currently use?

  • University Student February 7, 2015, 5:36 pm

    This article was so misleading, downplaying all the hormonal risks and detrimental – life ruining events associated with the pill, the vomiting, sever mood swings, and depression. I lost my damn job and almost got kicked out of school. I couldn’t sleep, was vomiting all the time, and didn’t get out of bed for 3 days I was so crazy depressed.

    This despair might have gone to end in something horrible had I just read the articles online, obviously written up by people on big pharamas payroll, and looked to the comments of these other women. Shame on the people who spread misleading information and bury facts, you put women’s lives at risk by burying truth and citing scientific study’s paid for by the companies producing these drugs. Talk about a conflict of interest.

  • Betty February 21, 2015, 11:19 pm

    Of course birth control can cause mood swings and depression, maybe not in every female, but every female has a different biochemistry and different tolerance for hormones. Progesterone and Estrogen affect so much more than women’s reproduction system.

  • M May 8, 2015, 3:54 pm

    I can’t say I’ve had severe depression with BC, but I’ve certainly had a constant looming sadness. No suicidal thoughts, etc. I was on BC from 15-22 and I just always though that’s just how I was. I went off it for 1 year and realized that I was a bit of a different person. I wasn’t crying uncontrollably for NO reason. I recently went back on it to give it a second shot, but even though it’s a low dose of hormones, it still has the same negative effects.

    I was fine for a period of time, then suddenly crying and telling my boyfriend that he isn’t really kissing me, not being affectionate, etc. I’ve decided to go off of it again and am assuming my mood swings will subside. It’ll just be more proof to myself that BC, as wonderful as not getting pregnant is, it’s not the best way for me to have safe (from pregnancy) sex.

    • Tiffany January 17, 2016, 9:00 am

      What birth control do you now use?

  • Cat March 15, 2016, 5:52 am

    I think it is totally silly to say that the pill does not cause depression. I agree with Betty. I have Bipolar II disorder and am heading into menopause soon. The two times in the last year that I have tried Microgestin, I have become severely depressed whereas my depresison was not as bad before. So maybe it at least aggravates it greatly in some who are already prone to depression. So, it can take someone in remission and put them in a full-on depression via my own experience. Estrogen supplementation supposedly causes women with Bipolar II disorder some extra problems.

  • Gabi March 16, 2016, 6:17 am

    I’m 18 years old. I’ve been feeling like a I’m psycho for months. I’ve been on the ortho (something like that, can’t spell it) for 3 months and in these 3 months I’ve been sooooo emotional. One minute I’m happy then I’m so sad and I think that no body wants me and then I’m angry. I went from being exhausted and sleeping constantly to not being able to fall asleep! I cry over nothing.

    I’m perfectly content with my life. But yet I don’t feel like being around people then I cry because I feel lonely. I liked this guy but I think I scared him away because of these constant mood swings. I keep picking fights with everyone. I normally rarely argue with anyone. I just wanted my cramps and acne to go away. Don’t even get me started on the cramps that I’ve been having. They are way worse than they were before.

  • MusicTime May 4, 2016, 11:57 pm

    I’ve been on ortho tri cyclen for a little over a month now, and man, my depression is non-ceasing. I got on it to help with my hormonal acne, and what sucks is nothing clears my skin like this stuff, but if I can’t enjoy it, what’s the point? Can’t enjoy ANYTHING on this stuff.

    I already struggle with depression and was already on an anti-depressant, but before the birth control, I could do something proactive about feeling depressed like going out and socializing and 9 times out of 10 my depression would lift and I’d get a burst of energy. I’ve been exercising and meditating and still, rather than feeling depressed for a few hours or days at a time, I just feel dead and disconnected all the time. No matter where I am or what I’m doing.

    Sucks! I think as soon as my period starts again, I’m just gonna quit taking these things. I feel like the walking dead.

  • Mandy July 13, 2016, 1:44 pm

    I’m so glad I found women online who have shared their experience. I started taking Microgestin again a little over a month ago (after being off for two years.) My depression/anxiety/irritability grew slowly throughout the month, until the last few days when I sunk into absolute despair. I am constantly crying, anxious, and/or feeling outside of myself, like I’m not a part of the world.

    I have preexisting mild depression, but have handled it well for 10 years now. This last month has been horrible! 6 Days ago I remembered a close friend of mine had a similar experience on the same pill. I stopped that day and I’m still leveling out, but definitely feeling much better as time goes on.

    Reading comments online finally reassured me that I’m not having a nervous breakdown. We should really be made more aware of the side effects of these hormones!!!

  • Izzie July 26, 2016, 8:44 pm

    I’m 21 with a history of depression, anxiety and diagnosed cyclothymia (mild bipolar), and I started taking the pill (Gedarel) around two weeks ago. I understand that at this point your body is still only just adjusting to the hormones and most side effects should be temporary but due to the magnitude of my emotional reaction about a week into taking them, my doctor recommended today that I stop them completely.

    In the last 5-6 days I’ve experienced awful panic attacks, severe depression, anger, bouts of tearfulness (I don’t usually cry much), and feelings I generally associate with a major mental breakdown. I’ll add that on top of my existing disorders, I’ve been dealing with some stressful life changes (entering your first serious relationship after being aggressively independent most of your life is a challenge in itself) but I can’t deny that the pill has exacerbated this beyond my usual response.

    I know every woman is different, but I’d honestly recommend that anyone with a history of these problems prepare themselves for sh*t, if not to take them at all.

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