A new study from Denmark, which followed women on hormonal birth control for 13 years, has found a link to the drug and depression.
Danish researchers proved the link by following over 1 million women ages 15 to 34 for over a decade, spanning from the years 2000 to 2013.
In order to participate, the women had to have no previous diagnosis of depression.
Scientists used a national database that allowed them to access prescriptions for hormonal birth control and antidepressants, diagnoses of depression in the country and whether or not prescriptions were filled.
All of this information is available to researchers through the equivalent of social security numbers in Denmark.
According to the report, those who took hormonal birth control at any point during the study were 23% more likely to be prescribed antidepressants than those who did not.
The study also found that women using IUDs, progestin-only patches and pills and the vaginal ring were also more likely to develop depression than women who did not use birth control.
The study also concluded that women who used a vaginal ring had a 1.6 higher risk for developing depression, while women who used hormonal IUDs had a 1.4 times higher risk of a depression diagnosis.
It was found that the link was strongest in young women, particularly teenagers.
Catherine Monk, an associate professor in psychiatry, obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center, explained why this could be:
“The possibility that this link between love, sex (contraception), and feeling depressed is strengthened by the fact that the contraception-depression link was strongest in adolescents, those who are at the developmental stage where trying to find a romantic partner is paramount.”
However, the study also found that in the long term, women who used birth control for several years were less likely to develop depression than those who did not use it.
It was also found that the older the woman was when she began taking the hormonal birth control, the less likely she was to develop depression.
The study did not account for women who had previously been diagnosed with depression or who were undiagnosed.
Doctors also emphasize that many women take birth control in order to regulate their moods, and preventing an unwanted pregnancy likely outweighs any mental health risks that women may face.
Health professionals conclude that women should monitor their feelings when taking birth control and not dismiss it as something they are imagining.
It may take several tries for a woman to find a birth control option that works for her, as everyone’s needs are incredibly different.
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