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Your Contraceptives Can Affect Your Mental Health

By HERWriter
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Best Birth control for anxiety and the best birth control for depression? via pexels

With the affordability of contraceptives for many women under the Affordable Care Act, it might be tempting to rush in to the doctor to get a prescription.

But first it’s important to know how different contraceptives can affect not only your overall physical health, but also your mental health.

Contraceptives come in many forms, such as the birth control pill and IUD, so each type could potentially have varying side effects depending on the individual. Experts provide some benefits and downfalls of contraceptives in regard to mental health.

Dr. Wendie Trubow, a board certified gynecologist and quality director at Visions HealthCare, said in an email that birth control pills especially can have the ability to affect mental health.

“Any contraceptive that contains hormones has the potential to [impact] a woman's mental health due to the effect synthetic hormones can have on a woman's body,” Trubow said. “For any woman who is prone to depression, anxiety, sadness, or [mood] swings, the hormone-containing contraceptives can magnify those responses.”

“The mechanism is complicated, and involves the woman's innate state of health, her overall toxic burden, and the way her liver processes and her gut excretes the hormones she has taken,” she added.

“Additionally, oral contraceptives inhibit ovulation, which can blunt a woman's sexual drive. This can be distressing for many women and their partners, who don't understand why their sex drive is suddenly diminished.”

For women who are already experiencing mental health problems before taking contraceptives, it can be a gamble to starting taking pills with hormones.

“Any woman who has a history of depression, anxiety, panic disorders, mood swings or seasonal affective disorder should consider how well she manages her mental health prior to beginning a hormone-containing contraceptive, because for a subset of women, taking this type of contraceptive can worsen an underlying mental health issue,” Trubow said.

Add a Comment24 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I got diagnosed with an anxiety disorder last year and have been on birth control for a few years now. I found that after a few months of being on Seaonale, I felt myself going crazy so then I got switched to Yazmin and then Alesse, which is what I am currently on. My doctor also put me on antidepressants. I must say, I am always on edge and emotional. I cannot fight back tears for the life of me anymore and I find myself panicking over everything. This has caused a lot of drama in my life with my boyfriend and family as I just tend to snap all the time, and be super irritable. I am thinking of getting off of both medications to see if anything improves.

March 18, 2016 - 11:43am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Hi there, I am going through a similar situation with myself and my relationship. It seems the longer I'm on birth control, the worse it gets. Because of this, I stopped taking birth control 4 days ago. I know it will take longer for my hormones to gain balance again but I'm hoping being off the pill allows me to improve. It's gotten to the point where I too have to consider anxiety/depression medications. I wanted to know, were you stable before going on the pill?

August 8, 2016 - 8:51am
(reply to Anonymous)

Hi! I completely understand your situation, as I was there too. I got put on Vestura (a generic form of Yaz) and it completely calmed me down. I was crying if I even saw a dog I thought was cute. All I did was cry until I got put on the generic BC, cut out most caffeine, and started taking supplements to help my gut health. In all honesty, your gut health can make you feel like you're going crazy if it is not doing well. You may not even know anything is wrong with it. I strongly suggest taking oil of oregano capsules and olive leaf capsules for two weeks on, two weeks off along with two probiotics everyday with meals. That did wonders for me! I hope the very best for you!

July 15, 2016 - 10:48am
EmpowHER Guest

I am so happy to have found this article. I'm 42 and I suffer from depression and anxiety. I'm also childfree by choice, so I've been on birth control since I was 19. In addition to birth control, it has helped me with awful periods -- heavy bleeding and insane cramps. Although I've taken breaks from the pill, I've always used other hormone-based birth control like Nuvaring and the Mirena IUD. That means I've been putting hormones in my system nonstop for 23 years. Depression does run in my family, and I had spurts growing up, but nothing like now. I fear for myself and my marriage. My depression and anxiety has gotten so bad in the past year, I finally decided to look into the possibility of hormones affecting it (and find mixed reviews). Because most women stop BC for at least short periods of time to have children, doctors really have no one to compare me to. I will be having a tubal ligation and endometrial ablation next month. Hormone-free at last. The doctors can't make any promises as some people have the opposite reaction, but I think it is worth a try to clear my system. I know I'll still have my depression, but I pray that it's better controlled.

December 29, 2015 - 4:52pm
EmpowHER Guest

I have been taking Ovcon-35 and its various generics for about 11 years. The only time I wasn't on them was when I was pregnant and for a period of time after. I have never had any problems. This last year has been a different story. The same generic I have been taking for the last 2 years had started causing some irregularities in my cycle and causing migraines, so I made an appointment with my OBGYN to discuss other options. When I picked up my new pills last week I noticed that they were a different generic for Ovcon-35 than what I have been taking these last couple of years. Today is day 7 on these pills and over the last week I have felt anxious and today is the worst. I feel like I am going to crawl out of my skin. My heart is pounding, my body feels weak and shaky all over. I feel I am on the verge of a full blown panic attack. The only thing I have been doing differently is taking this new pill. I exercise 4-6 days a week, I eat right and am taking the same supplements I have been taking forever. I have a call into my doctor's office and I am waiting to hear back from the nurse. I am so tempted to not take my pill tonight or for the next few days and see if that helps and just use a backup method if needed. I know I am driving my poor bf crazy. We rarely ever fight, but this week I can't seem to let things go and I feel like I have no control over my emotions. I never knew birth control could have this effect. Again, 11 years and I have never had an issue. Maybe my body is different now that I am in my 30's.

November 5, 2015 - 11:11am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Me too! In the last several months I have been on an emotional roller coaster. I never knew this was a side effect, especially since it seemed to help me when I first started the pill 16 years ago. I have decided to go off the pill and use back up methods instead. I can actually feel my self being crazy and I feel so bad for my boyfriend. He does not deserve all this.

November 16, 2015 - 12:15pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Listen to your body, don't take it. I have a comment below explaining my story. I haven't been right for over a year now.

November 5, 2015 - 11:30am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

The nurse from my doctor's office called back and said my birth control could definitely be the culprit. She said when it comes to generics they only have to be 25% equivalent the the original brand to qualify. That is just crazy to me. She called me in a new prescription with the instructions not to give me the generic. I skipped my pill last night and now it has been almost 48 hours after my last pill and I already feel so much better. I am hesitant to even take the new prescription, but I have been on that one for so long and never had any problems. I have my appointment next month for my Paragard. I am ready for something that is hormone free. Thanks for sharing your story, because I really thought I was finally cracking from the stress of job, even though I have been through so much worse and never had panic attacks.

November 6, 2015 - 2:05pm
EmpowHER Guest

Of course they can...it says so all over the package insert!

Just because one brand affects your mood negatively doesn't mean they all will. Seasonique made me a psycho headcase while Gildess actually helps my moods. There are many brands and formulations, all containing different ingredients and doses. The only way to know how they'll affect YOU is to try them.

Do your homework by researching the ingredients individually before starting a new med. High doses of levonorgestrel are generally bad for people with depression and mood disorders, but this isn't always the case. Norethindrone (LoEstrin) and Drospirenone (Yaz) are better choices for girls with PMS, PMDD or other mood problems.

August 3, 2015 - 11:45pm
EmpowHER Guest

Birth control has the opposite effect on me. I have suffered from anxiety disorders and panic attacks due to my emitophobia since around the age of 10-12. My anxiety was so unmanageable and spurred on by my phobia that I suffered from anorexia for over three years because of my intense fear of vomiting. I started using nuvaring at 18 and withing a month felt like my anxiety was completely manageable. I got off of birth control about a year ago (for no reason other than I just haven't scheduled a gyno visit and 2mo turned into 6mo turned into a year) and my anxiety has slowly started coming back to where I had gone from not having a panic attack in over three years to having 3 within the last year (and those are just the I-have-to-stop-everything-and-shake-in-my-bathroom-for-three-hours-until-i-can-breath-again-and-then-pass-out-from-exhaustion attacks, not the daily on the verge of a panic attack feeling.). I am going to get back on BC to regulate my hormones because it makes me more comfortable to be on BC than to use antianxiety medications. Everyone's different, but if being on birth control makes you feel the way I feel without it definitely get off of BC because severe anxiety is crippling and terrible and I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.

July 26, 2015 - 3:09pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.