Can Birth Control Cause Depression?

Julie Kirk
woman hugging her knees

There may be a legitimate concern about the possible connection between using hormonal birth control and depression. If you notice severe mood changes or depression while on hormonal birth control, you should talk with your doctor immediately.

The Link Between Hormonal Birth Control and Depression

While the risk appears to be small, there does appear to be an increased chance of depression with the various types of hormonal birth control which include the various types of pills, the patch and the ring, for example. With the progesterone-only birth control, which includes the hormonal IUD, the minipill, the birth control implant and the birth control shot, the risk of developing depression may be even higher.

Previous Depression Diagnosis

If you have previously been diagnosed with depression and find that you're feeling worse when using hormonal birth control, you will need to discuss this with your doctor who will probably advise you to stop taking the medication. However, if you're concerned about using hormonal birth control while taking antidepressants, it is typically a safe combination and there should be no decrease in contraceptive effectiveness.

Study Findings on Hormonal Birth Control and Depression

While it appears that older studies have shown no correlation between hormonal birth control and depression, more current studies have found evidence that there is a connection. There have been many contradictory results related to these studies, however, one of the more recent, larger studies has proven to be the most conclusive.

  • An earlier study found that there was no association between mental health and the use of hormonal birth control. In fact, the hormonal contraception was credited with improved moods in this study.
  • Another study found that it was difficult to determine conclusively if combined hormonal birth control causes depression or other adverse mood effects. However, the study also notes that it only happened to a small percentage of women and it should not hinder the doctors from prescribing hormonal birth control.
  • A Danish study published in 2016 had over one million participants with data collected for well over 10 years. This large study determined that depression was an adverse effect caused by the use of hormonal birth control.
  • A 2018 study did demonstrate that women may have a possible increased risk of depression if progesterone-only contraception is used compared to combination hormone contraception.

Inform Doctor of Mood Changes on Birth Control

If the sides effects you experience when taking birth control happen to be changes in mood or depression, you should let your doctor know right away. However, if you have previously been diagnosed with depression and are on antidepressants, it is necessary that you relay that information to your doctor as well. It is important to be forthright and have an open line of communication with your doctor.

Alternatives to Hormonal Birth Control

There are a number of non-hormonal birth control options if you decide that hormonal birth control is not right for you:

Copper IUD (Paraguard)

This IUD is made of copper and contains no hormones. It is inserted in the endometrial cavity by your doctor and prevents fertilization of an egg. The copper itself repels the sperm which prevents the sperm from reaching the egg.

Diaphragm, the Sponge and the Cervical Cap

These are barrier methods of birth control typically used in conjunction with a spermicide. They are inserted vaginally near the cervix.

Condoms (Female and Male)

Condoms are another barrier form of birth control. The male condom is placed over the penis. The female condom is inserted vaginally. The smaller ring is placed at the cervix and the condom will extend down the vaginal canal. Condoms not only help prevent pregnancy but also help prevent sexually transmitted diseases. The male and female condoms should never be used simultaneously.

Weigh the Risks and Benefits

With any medication there are risks and benefits, this includes hormonal birth control. Your doctor should thoroughly review the potential side effects with you and if you have any further questions, you shouldn't hesitate to ask.

Can Birth Control Cause Depression?