Women who start using birth control pills as teens have a drastically higher risk of developing depression than those who have never used birth control.
A new four-year study found that women who started taking an oral contraceptive (OC) before turning 20 had a 130 percent higher rate of depression compared to never-users,
And individuals who started OC as an adult had a 92 percent lower risk of depression.
The likelihood of developing birth control pill-related depression was highest within the first two years of starting the contraceptive — but the rate at which women were diagnosed with depression fell the longer they took an OC.
The research team, led by health experts from Uppsala University in Sweden, said the link could be attributed to changes in hormone levels that are already wreaking havoc on a teen’s emotional well-being, which is magnified by the addition of hormonal birth control.
The report comes as countless women reveal adverse effects of the pill, such as blood clots, gallbladder disease and other mental health issues.
The type of oral contraceptives considered in the study contain progestin, a compound similar to the hormone progesterone, and estrogen
A history of ever using an oral contraceptive was associated with an overall higher rate of depression compared to those who had never used one.
However, the risk of depression was less pronounced after two years of continued use.
Therese Johansson, lead author of the study, said: ‘The strong influence of birth control pills on teenagers can be attributed to the hormonal changes that puberty brings.
“Because women in that age group have already undergone significant hormonal changes, they may be more receptive not only to hormonal changes but also to other life experiences.”
The study, one of the largest and most comprehensive to date, included nearly 265,000 women in the UK Biobank, a population-based cohort that recruited 500,000 participants in the UK aged 37 to 71 between 2006 and 2010.
Ms Johansson, a PhD candidate, adds: ‘It is important to emphasize that most women can tolerate external hormones without experiencing any negative effects on their mood, so combined contraceptive pills are an excellent option for many women.
“However, certain women may have an increased risk of depression after they start taking birth control pills.”
While depression in adult women dropped after taking an OC routinely for about two years, that similar incidence rate remained high in teens even after they stopped taking it.
Mood disturbance is a common complaint among women taking hormonal birth control pills considered in the study that contain estrogen and a synthetic version of the hormone progesterone called progestin.
Progestin prevents ovulation and thickens the cervical mucosa, preventing sperm from entering the uterus.
And estrogen thins the uterine lining, further hindering the implantation of a fertilized egg, preventing pregnancy about 99 percent of the time.
A study inside JAMA Psychiatry conducted by experts at the University of Copenhagen in 2016 reported that out of more than one million Danish women, those using hormonal contraceptives had a 0.9 to 1.9 times greater risk of a first diagnosis of depression.
Teenage girls had an even higher risk, ranging from 1.2 times to 3.2 times, but researchers acknowledged that this could be attributed to the age group being more prone to depression symptoms overall.
On the other hand, a wealth of evidence has accumulated over the years to show that birth control pills can actually improve mood and emotional health.
In a 2013 report in the American journal of epidemiologyUS physicians studied the effects of birth control in a sample of more than 6,600 sexually active nonpregnant women.
They found that users of hormonal contraceptives had lower average levels of depressive symptoms and were less likely to have attempted suicide in the previous year compared to women who used nonhormonal contraceptives and those who did not use anything at all.
And a Study from 2003 conducted by doctors at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, found that a fraction of 658 women taking oral contraceptives — just over 16 percent — saw their mood worsen from the pill.
But the vast majority of them, more than 71 percent, saw no changes in their mood at all.
The latest study from Sweden only considered hormonal birth control pills containing two types of female hormones and did not include other forms of birth control such as IUDs, vaginal rings or progestin-only mini-pills.
The study also included a generally healthy and predominantly white population in the UK, which the authors say could undermine the extent to which their findings apply to a broader context of contraceptive side effects.
Their findings were published in the journal Epidemiology and psychiatric sciences.
There are about 73 million American women of childbearing age from 15 to 49 years old, and the majority of them use at least one form of birth control, including hormonal oral contraceptives, condoms, and IUDs.
Estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that from 2015 to 2017, nearly 65 percent of women used birth control in some form.