Study: Birth Control Pills Linked to Depression; Adolescents Most Vulnerable

Penny Starr | October 6, 2016 | 11:15am EDT
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( – A study of more than one million Danish women aged 15 to 34 showed a link between depression and oral contraceptives. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Sept. 28.

“Use of hormonal contraception, especially among adolescents, was associated with subsequent use of antidepressants and a first diagnosis of depression, suggesting depression as a potential adverse effect of hormonal contraceptive use,” the study concluded.

The study in JAMA also stated why studying the link between birth control pills and depression was important.

“Millions of women worldwide use hormonal contraception. Despite the clinical evidence of an influence of hormonal contraception on some women’s mood, associations between the use of hormonal contraception and mood disturbances remain inadequately addressed,” the study summary stated.

The methodology used for the study was as follows: “All women and adolescents aged 15 to 34 years who were living in Denmark were followed up from January 1, 2000, to December 2013, if they had no prior depression diagnosis, redeemed prescription for antidepressants, other major psychiatric diagnosis, cancer, venous thrombosis, or infertility treatment. Data were collected from January 1, 1995, to December 31, 2013, and analyzed from January 1, 2015, through April 1, 2016.” reported that the lead author of the study said more studies are needed.

“Further studies are needed to examine depression as a potential side effect of birth-control use,” lead author and clinical professor Øjvind Lidegaard, said. But it’s not too early for doctors and concerned patients (or parents) to put these findings to use,” reported.

“Women who develop depression after starting on oral contraceptives should consider this use as a contributing factor,” Lidegaard said. “Doctors should include these aspects together with other risks and benefits with use of hormonal contraceptives, when they advise women to which type of contraception is the most suitable for that specific woman.”

“This is especially important for teenage girls who seem to be most vulnerable to this association, and to the risk factors for depression overall,” the article said.

“Doctors should ensure that women, especially young women, are not already depressed or have a history of depression,” Lidegaard said. “And they should inform women about this potential risk.” 

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