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 antidepressant sin 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.
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.
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, “Most women who use them will not get depressed“.
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. 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 reading have some kind of story or opinion to share about all of this so let me know in the comments below.