Does Birth Control Make You Depressed?


A new Danish study is attracting a lot of
attention for confirming something that we’ve known for a while: hormonal birth control
is linked to an elevated risk of depression. After following more than a million women,
for research purposes, not to just be stalking creeps, the researchers found that for women
who weren’t taking any hormonal birth control, 1.7 out of 100 began taking antidepressants
in a given year, compared to 2.2 out of 100 for those who were taking some kind of hormonal
birth control. That might not sound like that big of a gap,
but once we zero in on the specific risks associated with different types of hormonal
birth control, ehh, the percentages start to get a little scarier. [Evil laughter, lightening strike]. Study participants taking a combined birth
control of estrogen and progestin had a 23% elevated risk of depression compared to those
on progestin only birth controls who showed a 34% increased risk and finally those on
hormonal IUDs like yours truly had a 40% elevated risk. Which makes me go uh oh. Far and away the most startling stat was the
80% increased risk of depression that they found for women 15 to 19 years old taking
that combined birth control of estrogen and progestin. So does this then mean that the time is approximately
panic o’clock? No. Lead study author whose Danish name contains
more consonants than I can accurately pronounce told the Washington Post that while yeah this
increased risk was not trivial, quote, ‘Most women who use them will not get depressed.’ Whew. Nor is this the first time that we’re learning
about these kinds of relationships between our reproductive health and our mental health. A recent Harvard study examining relationships
between our moods and menstrual cycles found that of women on hormonal birth control, 16%
indeed experienced worse moods after getting on the pill, compared to 12% of women who
were like hey this is actually making me feel better. While the remaining 71% were like birth control
is like taking a chill pill: no change here. Cause I’m cool as a cucumber. [Synth music plays]. Which leads me to three important caveats
when hearing about these understandably scary stats. First, as some researchers have stressed in
response to this Danish study, sex, romance and relationships that are usually associated
with why we’re taking birth control can also lead to depression. Like the old saying goes, first comes love
then comes Ortho Tri-Cyclen. Secondly, for some people hormonal birth control
can actually help stabilize certain mood disorders like PMDD. And third and finally before we go flushing
all our birth control down the toilet consider how unintended pregnancies are also linked
with postpartum and maternal depression. In other words everybody’s body is different,
so when studies like these come out it’s important yes to pay attention to them but
look at more than the headlines and decontextualized statistics and also look at other studies. Investigate all the different types of birth
control that you’ve heard about and that you might be interested in taking and be aware
of your own physical and mental health and how their potential side effects might interact
with our own unique chemistries. And if you choose to use one, be choosy. Even if a doctor is just trying to push a
convenient brand your way. Because folks, one of the healthiest things
that you can do for yourself is to be your own knowledgeable health advocate. Let’s keep this conversation going. I’m sure that a lot of you watching have
some kind of story or opinion to share about all of this so let me know in the comments

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