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Birth Control and Depression: What You Need to Know

A new study suggests a link between hormonal contraceptives and depression.  Which methods were more likely to cause these mood changes? And what do you need to know before you make any decisions about your contraceptive health?

By
Sanaz Majd, MD,
October 13, 2016
Episode #224

Page 1 of 3

Depression is the most common mental health disorder in the United States. According to the National Institutes of Health, over 16 million adults in the U.S. experienced at least one episode of clinical depression in the year 2015. And it is likely underestimated given that many with this medical condition sadly never seek help. Studies show that only about 50% of those with depression actually seek help from their doctor.  

Contraceptives, on the other hand, have been used by nearly all women living in the United States at some point during their reproductive years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 2011 and 2013, almost 62% of women between the ages of 15 and 44 were using some type of contraception. Hormonal contraceptives are still the most popular method of contraception, with the pill still remaining as the most widely used type.

Is there a link between depression and contraception? For many years, women have been reporting changes in mood swings with certain hormonal contraceptives. But to this date, there have been few studies that show good evidence to support it. 

Now, a recent study that was just published in the Journal of American Medical Association Psychiatry  has gained attention by suggesting a potential link between hormonal contraceptives and depression.  The purpose of the study was to discover the risk of first time antidepressant use in women who used various types of hormonal contraceptives.

If you are prone towards depression, the results of the study may be useful the next time you discuss your contraceptive options with your doctor. Let’s learn about this study that has been in the forefront of media coverage lately—plus, how to interpret and apply it to your own health.

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