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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.

For women who experience negative side effects from birth control pills that contain hormones, there are other contraceptive alternatives, such as the intrauterine device (IUD), which can be found with or without hormones.

Trubow considers the IUD to be a highly effective method. Other options include diaphragms, condoms and tubal ligation. For women who do decide on contraceptives with hormones, there are ways to eliminate other potential negative side effects.

“It is very important to optimize the function of her liver and intestines by avoiding processed foods, detoxifying the diet and taking supplements that improve the liver's function,” Trubow said.

Dr. Ingrid Rodi, an associate clinical professor of OBGYN at the Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, said in an email that birth control pills have some beneficial effects for women.

“Women are very anxious not to have an unplanned/unwanted pregnancy,” Rodi said. “Contraceptives allow women control over their reproductive lives.”

There are also more intense symptoms that birth control can help with.

“Some women have PMS -- anxiety/depression/irritability just prior to the menstrual period,” Rodi said. “Hormonal contraceptives, particularly when taken continuously, can reduce the severity of the symptoms.”

Additionally, more control over their own bodies is always beneficial for women.

“Affordability of contraception will have a positive [effect] on mental health because more women will have more control over when they get pregnant,” Rodi said.

“Particularly women with mental health issues need to carefully plan pregnancies to optimize the outcome for them and the babies. Access to contraception will help that.”

Researchers at Harvard Medical School conducted a study to determine if oral contraceptives impact mood.

They found that for most women there are no mood changes after going on the pill. However, a smaller percentage of women (16.3 percent) out of the overall sample of 658 participants, experienced a worsening of their moods.

In addition, there are women with personal accounts of negative experiences with birth control. Lauren Vork shared on Yahoo! Voices that she suffered from depression and anxiety after she started taking hormonal birth control. After she stopped taking the pill, her life returned to normal.

Jill Foster shared her struggle with the birth control pill Microgynon on the Daily Mail online. She had “mood swings and uncharacteristic tearful outbursts.” Her relationship almost ended because of this along with her lack of sexual desire.

In her article, she included stories of other women who have emotionally suffered from taking the pill as well.

If you take contraceptives, has your mental health worsened, improved or stayed the same? Share your stories below.


Trubow, Wendie. Email interview. August 21, 2012. http://www.visionshealthcare.com/test-post

Rodi, Ingrid. Email interview. August 20, 2012.

Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Women’s Mental Health. Harvard Medical School. Do Oral Contraceptives Cause Mood Changes? August 23, 2012. Web.

Vork, Lauren. Birth Control and Depression: What You Might Not Know. Web. August 23, 2012.

Foster, Jill. How the Pill messes with women’s minds. Web. August 23, 2012.

Reviewed August 24, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment26 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I'm just about to stop taking my hormonal BC for all of these reasons. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety when I was 14 and used just therapy until I was 21 and suicidal, where I turned to SSRIs - and mine works wonders I love it. But I went on BC for the first time about 8 months ago and my anxiety and depression sometimes feels worse than before I got on my anti-depressants and I have ZERO sex drive - or its very very rare I'm interested. It's causing a huge strain on my relationship with myself and my SO. I'm glad more people are talking about it because not everyone is the same. Yes, my "periods" are short and light with minor cramps when I used to have heavier flows. But I'll take heavier bleeding if it comes with my love of life returning!!

April 24, 2017 - 9:35am
EmpowHER Guest

I took the pill for about two months.this was in 2015,in 2010 I had been diagnosed with depression and refused the medication and treatment. For months after getting off the pill I had been more depressed and easily annoyed by stupid and weird thing that had not annoyed me before and used to be very positive about things.then in 2016 took the day after pill and was overwhelmed by the way my mood flip flopped and I had and increase of depression and anxiety along with my focus begining to decrease . I also started to forget things and feel lost. I currently still have the depression , anxiety,and mood swings.seeking help to grasp some control and get treatment now because it has cost me my relationship and myself control over who I am.

February 11, 2017 - 3:54pm
EmpowHER Guest

Hopefully I can help some girl out there with my experience. Well I have been taking quasense for the last 6 years now, and in the time I have been become someone Im not proud of.. Well, where to start. The only pro I would say that there is with this is the fact I don't get my period for 3 months. Funny enough I have been SEVERELY AND CLINICALLY DEPRESSED for 6 years. I never thought of my birth control as a contributing factor to this. I have had a very very low sex drive within this time as well and it has causes me significant shame in my relationships. I have struggled with my weight for 6 years, staying at a steady 145-150 being 4'11. The only time I have ever been at a Healthy weight is when I starve myself. I have had the urge to kill myself consistently because of the worthlessness I feel in life and have over these past 6 years. I had started self harming in the last 6 years because of my depression. My mom wanted me to move out because she said she was afraid of me, no matter how hard I've tried nothing I do is fun, and it's been like this for the last 6 years. I was just diagnosed with hypersomnia because of my severe tiredness and that causes the biggest lack of motivation. I avoid everybody, and am not that social girl I once was. I don't look at side effects because I get paranoid, so I never did. So if you are thinking about taking birth control please try the non hormonal, it's not worth it unless you are already incredibly stable..

October 24, 2016 - 5:53pm
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
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