Contraceptive pills, a common birth control method, are a popular prescription for the 62 percent of reproductive-age women in the US currently using contraception, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Despite their prevalence, however, new studies are increasingly linking hormone-based contraceptive treatment with dangerous mood swings, depression and even suicide.
A Danish study published in 2016 in the journal JAMA Psychiatry found that women who take birth control pills that combine estrogen and progesterone are 23-percent more likely to also take antidepressants, when compared to women who are not using hormonal contraception. Women who took the ‘mini pill,' which consists of only progesterone, had a 34-percent greater chance of taking antidepressants than those women not using birth control.
The study found that adolescent females using birth control were particularly more vulnerable to depression than women between the ages of 20-34. Although the study does not show that hormonal contraception directly caused depression, it does reveal that women using birth control are more likely to be prescribed antidepressants.
The study, which involved over 1 million women in Denmark between the ages of 15-34, "followed up from January 1, 2000, to December 2013, if [women] had no prior depression diagnosis, redeemed prescription for antidepressants, other major psychiatric diagnosis, cancer, venous thrombosis, or infertility treatment."
The data was collected from January 2, 1995 to December 31, 2013 and was analyzed in 2015 and 2016.
In 2018, the same group of researchers published another study in the American Journal of Psychiatry linking hormonal contraception to higher suicide rates. The study, which tracked the data of around half a million Danish women (with a mean age of 21) for an average of 8.5 years, found that women on hormone-based birth control were three times more likely to attempt or commit suicide than women not using the drugs.
Similarly, the study found that adolescent women using the hormone-based anti-contraceptive drugs were most likely to be at risk for a suicide attempt.
Debate and controversy continue to surround the use of hormone-based birth control, particularly as the human body reacts differently to the drug as the body's own hormone production levels change.
In a 2002 German study consisting of 3,500 participants, 94 percent of women were shown to be either satisfied or very satisfied with using hormone-based birth control pills.