Birth control pills linked to depression in women, massive study confirms

UPPSALA, Sweden — It’s been a topic of discussion for years — can birth control pills cause depression in some women? Prior studies have yielded mixed results, but recent research, tracking over a quarter of a million women from birth to menopause, sheds new light on the subject.

The study, conducted by researchers at Uppsala University, analyzed data from the UK Biobank, focusing on women’s use of combined contraceptive pills containing progestogen and estrogen. Progestogen prevents ovulation and thickens cervical mucus, while estrogen thins the uterine lining. The researchers found that women who started using contraceptive pills during their teenage years had a 130% higher incidence of depression symptoms. Among adult users, the increase was 92%.

Therese Johansson, one of the study’s lead researchers, cites the hormonal changes during puberty as a potential reason for the stronger impact on teenagers. The study also reveals that the increased incidence of depression declined among women who continued using contraceptive pills after the first two years. However, teenage users still had an elevated risk of depression even after discontinuing pill use, unlike adult users.

teen depression
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It is important to note that most women tolerate contraceptive pills well without experiencing negative mood effects. These pills offer numerous benefits, including preventing unplanned pregnancies and reducing the risk of ovarian and uterine cancers. However, the study finds healthcare professionals should be aware of the potential link between contraceptive pills and depression.

“It is important for care providers to inform women who are considering using contraceptive pills of the potential risk of depression as a side effect of the medicine,” Johansson stresses in a media release.

“Our ambition in comparing different contraceptive methods is to give women even more information to help them make well-informed decisions about their contraceptive options,” Johnson adds.

The study’s findings emphasize the importance of understanding the interconnectedness of different bodily systems, such as depression and the use of contraceptive pills. Future research will explore the impact of various contraceptive methods to provide women with more comprehensive information for making informed choices.

The study is published in the journal Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences.