Study Shows Oral Birth Control Is Linked To Depression

A new international study of more than a quarter million women has revealed that oral contraceptives, or birth control pills, raise a woman’s risk of depression.

The study, which surveyed more than 264,000 women, provides conclusive results to a significant amount of research that links oral birth control with depression-related diagnoses, symptoms and medication.

According to the survey, teenagers had the highest risk of depression — reporting a 130% higher risk of depression in women who began taking birth control as adolescents. Women who started taking birth control as an adult had a 92% higher risk of depression.

After stopping birth control, adult women saw a decrease to a more normal risk of depression — while teenage users still had an increased risk after stopping. Adult woman also reported a decrease to a more normal risk of depression after being on birth control for more than two years.

Therese Johansson — a leading researcher on the study who works in the Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology at Uppsala University — discussed the potential causes behind the extended risk to teenage girls, arguing that it could have something to do with their recent experiences in puberty.

“As women in that age group have already experienced substantial hormonal changes, they can be more receptive not only to hormonal changes but also to other life experiences,” she said.

While this particular study only investigated the effects of birth control pills, the researchers plan to expand their research into other contraceptive options in another study.

“In a future study, we plan to examine different formulations and methods of administration. Our ambition in comparing different contraceptive methods is to give women even more information to help them [m]ake well-informed decisions about their contraceptive options,” Johansson explained.

According to a press release from Uppsala University, the study shows “a need for healthcare professionals to be more aware of possible links between different systems in the body, such as depression and the use of contraceptive pills.”

Other studies have also linked the use of birth control to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, blood clots, breast cancer and cervical cancer.

While the evidence shows a significant risk for women taking birth control pills, researchers still argue that the benefits outweigh the risks — claiming that it is still safe to use birth control. Johansson claimed that birth control pills are safe because women will not likely experience “negative effects on their mood” and will be able to avoid “unplanned pregnancies.”

Meanwhile, conservatives have long been advocating against the use of birth control, warning women about the harmful side effects of the drugs.