Can hormonal contraception affect mood?
It's well known that hormonal contraception can affect mood - sometimes it makes mood worse, but sometimes can help.
- Some people feel tearful or moody on hormonal contraception, or go off sex
- Most users of the pill, patch, ring, hormonal coil or injection don't notice a difference in their moods
- Some find that hormonal contraception improves mood since it can help with premenstrual symptoms like feeling angry, tearful and hungry.
Does hormonal contraception cause depression?
There has been concern in the media about a posssible link between hormonal contraception and depression.
A study from Denmark in 2016 looked at the medical records of more than one million people aged 15 to 34 with no previous depression
Researchers found that people who used hormonal contraception were more likely to be started on anti-depressants or to be diagnosed with depression in a hospital. The link was stronger for teenagers.
This study has caused worry about hormonal contraception.
How worrying is this?
There are important things to know about this study
- Firstly, the difference is very small - 1 extra person received antidepressants out of 200 people using hormonal methods for a year
- Secondly, a link doesn't necessarily mean that contraception causes depression. For example, it could be that there's another explanation, say that young people who are on hormones are also more likely to have relationship breakups, more heartbreak and therefore more depression.
- Some studies from other countries found the same link, some show the opposite (i.e. that hormonal contraception was linked with better mental health), and other studies found no link between depression and hormonal contraception.
What can you do?
If a method of contraception seems to be linked with feeling moody, depressed, tearful, or angry, it's often worth swapping to a different method.
There are lots of different brands of pilll, and one brand can cause problems while another might be much better.
The IUD (copper coil) is increasingly popular since it does not contain hormones. The IUD is very reliable, and can be used at any age, even if you have not been pregnant before.
Should you stop hormonal contraception?
Doctors are worried that people will stop their contraception suddenly, before they have chosen a good alternative method of contraception.
The last time there was a big media scare about the pill, this led to an estimated 12,400 extra births and 13,600 abortions.
BBC News: More or Less podcast.
Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare response.