According to a comprehensive study from Uppsala University, using combination contraceptive pills dramatically raises the risk of depression in women, especially in the first two years of usage and especially in young users.
The researchers demand that healthcare professionals be made more aware of possible concerns, and that patients be informed clearly about such risks.
According to the research, women who took combination contraceptive pills had a higher chance of getting depression than those who did not.
During the first couple of years, the risk for women who used contraceptive tablets increased by 73 percent.
From a worldwide standpoint, depression is the main factor causing sickness and impairment.
Over 264 million people get impacted, and at least 25% of women and 15% of men will have clinical depression at least at one point in their lives.
The potential that birth control drugs might harm mental health and perhaps cause depression has long been explored.
Although many women decide to quit using contraceptive pills due to how they affect their mood, the image that has emerged from studies so far has not been clear.
With more than a quarter of a million women from the UK Biobank being followed from birth to menopause, this research is one of the largest and most comprehensive to date.
The researchers gathered information on how often women used birth control pills, when they were first diagnosed with depression, and when they first noticed depressive symptoms without getting a diagnosis.
Progestogen—a substance that resembles the hormone progesterone and estrogen—and estrogen-containing combination contraceptive tablets were the technique of contraception tested.
While estrogen thins the uterine lining in order to inhibit the implantation of a fertilized egg, progestogen suppresses ovulation and thickens cervical mucus as to prevent sperm cells from entering the uterus.
One of the study’s lead researchers, Therese Johansson, says that “Although contraception has many advantages for women, both medical practitioners and patients should be informed about the side-effects identified in this and previous research.”
The study found that women who started using birth control pills in their teenage years had a 130 percent greater frequency of depressive symptoms than adult users, who saw a 92 percent rise.
Johansson also stated that “The powerful influence of contraceptive pills on teenagers can be ascribed to the hormonal changes caused by 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.”
The higher incidence of depression decreased, the researchers observed, as long as the women continued to use contraceptive tablets after the first two years.
Contrary to what was shown in adult pill users, teenage pill users continued to have an elevated incidence of depression even after discontinuing the medication.
“It is important to emphasize that most women tolerate external hormones well, without experiencing negative effects on their mood, so combined contraceptive pills are an excellent option for many women. Contraceptive pills enable women to avoid unplanned pregnancies and they can also prevent illnesses that affect women, including ovarian cancer and uterine cancer. However, certain women may have an increased risk of depression after starting to use contraceptive pills.”
The study’s findings suggest that healthcare providers should be more aware of potential connections between various bodily systems, such as those between depression and the usage of birth control pills.
More precisely, the researchers draw the conclusion that it is crucial for healthcare professionals to warn women who are thinking about using contraceptive pills about the possibility of developing depression as a side effect of the medication so they can make well informed decisions for their own health.
Johansson shared that “Since we only investigated combined contraceptive pills in this study, we cannot draw conclusions about other contraceptive options, such as mini-pills, contraceptive patches, hormonal spirals, vaginal rings, or contraceptive rods. 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 take well-informed decisions about their contraceptive options.”