Some people who use hormonal birth control, such as the pill, the patch, or hormonal intrauterine device (IUD), report experiencing depression as a side effect.
Research on the topic has mixed results, so the precise link between depressive symptoms and birth control remains unclear.
A 2016 analysisTrusted Source suggested a link between the use of hormonal birth control and later antidepressants use. However, other studies contradict or undermine these findings.
In this article, learn more about the link between depression and birth control, as well as what to do about some possible side effects that can be dangerous.
Does birth control increase the risk of depression?
Birth control that uses synthetic hormones could influence a person’s mood, potentially triggering depression or other mental health symptoms.
Hormones are the body’s chemical messengers. They affect many processes in the body, including mood, health, and how a person thinks.
Message boards, blogs, and popular articles commonly feature stories of people who developed depression after taking birth control. However, depression is common, affecting 7.1% of all adults in the United States, including 8.7% of females.
A person who develops depression during or after using birth control may experience symptoms for reasons other than their birth control.
However, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence from people who say their depression went away after they stopped using birth control. While many individuals may be tempted to interpret this as birth control being responsible for depression, researchers studying the topic have achieved mixed results.
The analysis appearing in 2016Trusted Source provides some of the strongest evidence of birth control linking with depression. The study included data on more than 1 million females resident in Denmark. Those who used hormonal birth control, especially as teenagers, were more likely to take antidepressants later.
Major depressive disorder with peripartum onset, which doctors previously called postpartum depression (PPD), can occur during pregnancy or after childbirth. A 2018 retrospective studyTrusted Source that gathered data from patient databases suggests a potential link between certain types of birth control and this form of depression occurring after delivery.
Researchers found that those individuals who used birth control containing progesterone — including IUDs, implants, and birth control pills — in the postpartum period were more likely to develop PPD later.
A 2018 systematic review suggests the link between progesterone-based contraceptives and depression is less clear. The analysis included 26 studies of progesterone-based contraception methods. While one study did show an increased risk of depression with birth control, that study had a risk of bias.
Based on their analysis, the researchers conclude there is little evidence to support a claim that progesterone-based birth control causes depression.
A 2012 study outlines some of the problems researchers face with untangling a potential link between contraceptives and depression.
The authors of that study emphasize that definitions of depression vary and that there are many different types of hormonal birth control, each using different synthetic hormones. These factors make it difficult to establish clear correlations.
For now, the research suggests that depression is a relatively uncommon birth control side effect, though some studies have documented it as a very real phenomenon.