Article Review: Birth Control Pills Linked With Depression

In Pregnancy/Postpartum by Stephanie PrendergastLeave a Comment

By PHRC Admin 


Depression, a common and serious medical illness, affects how we feel, think, and handle daily activities. In recent years, there’s been growing concern over the potential link between hormonal birth control and depression. Join us for a review of an article linking Oral contraceptives (OCPs) to depression! We thank Fiona Riddle for writing on this topic; one many of us are all too familiar with.


Despite their benefits, OCPs have potential downsides such as affecting natural hormones, increasing cancer risk, and affecting brain function. Recent studies suggest a possible association between hormonal contraceptives and an increased risk of depression.


A 2023 study found that the first two years of OCP use were associated with higher rates of depression compared to non-users. Teenagers who were prescribed the pill had a greater risk of developing depression later in life. 


According to a report by Harvard Health, all forms of hormonal contraception were associated with an increased risk of developing depression. The risk seems to be higher in specific demographics, such as teenagers, and for certain types of contraception, like progestin-only pills.


The hormones in birth control can affect neurotransmitter systems which play a crucial role in regulating mood, emotion, and cognition. OCPs can also alter brain structures and functioning, potentially influencing experiences of mood disorders.


There’s strong evidence that estrogen has protective effects against anxiety and depression, suggesting that chronic activation of estrogen receptors in the brain through OCP use could potentially increase stress reactivity.


The synthetic progestin found in combination pills could reverse or inhibit the positive effects of estrogen on the brain. Despite this, the increased risk of depression is relatively small, and likely occurs in the presence of other factors.


It’s important for those taking an OCP (of all ages) to be informed of these potential consequences to monitor changes and make informed choices. Further research is needed to understand the specific mechanisms at play and the long-term effects of extended usage of OCPs.


Please note that while the article provides a comprehensive overview of the topic, it does not definitively conclude that birth control pills cause depression, but rather highlights the need for further research into the matter. While hormonal birth control has been a game-changer for women’s reproductive rights and health, potential mental health side effects cannot be ignored. As we continue to explore this link, consumers must be provided with comprehensive information about possible risks and benefits to make the best decisions for their health.



Birth Control Pills Are Linked With Increased Rates Of Depression

Harvard Health Blog: Can hormonal birth control trigger depression?

Psychiatry Online: Risk of Depression May Increase During First Two Years of Birth Control Use


  • Gaw, J. J., Guthrie, K. M., Vickers, S. M., & Sullivan, E. L. (2023). Oral contraceptive pill use and depression among women in the United States: An analysis of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005–2012. Journal of Affective Disorders, 326, 617-622.


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