The Impact Of Contraception On Mental Health

Since it became available in the early 1960s, the combination pill for women has become the most popular contraceptive on the market, but what is the impact of these synthetic hormones on our mental health?

There is of course a sense of freedom which comes from knowing that an unwanted pregnancy cannot occur, and this knowledge, alongside positive evidence from Cancer Research which shows that the contraceptive pill can help to reduce the risk of ovarian, womb and bowel cancers, can go a long way towards creating peace of mind in women, which can be the basis of good mental health.  But researchers are still studying the less than beneficial side effects of this type of hormone-based contraception, and though it is still early days, there are a few worrying links showing up between the hormones present in the pill and their effects on the mental health of the women taking it.


The Research

Researchers at Sweden’s ‘Stockholm School Of Economics’ studied a group of 340 women between the ages of 18 and 35.  They gave half the candidates the combined contraceptive pill and the other half a placebo.  Those taking the contraceptive pill, which contained ethinylestradiol and levonorgestrel, reported a “significantly lower” quality of life, with their well-being, vitality, moods, self control, and energy all being negatively impacted.


In spite of this evidence, the lead author of the study, Angelica Hirschberg, is keen to explain that the results should not put women off taking the oral contraceptive, but that if they have any worries about their mental health then they should consider speaking to a health professional, such as the experts at Click Pharmacy, before automatically assuming that the pill is their best option.


Reasons For Contraception

Aside from stopping unwanted pregnancies, women can be prescribed the pill for a wide variety of purposes, from relieving extreme period pains and reducing the development of ovarian cysts, to easing menstrual migraines and helping with the upsetting symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) which can include an excess of body hair, weight gain, acne and thinning hair on the head.


With such a confusing mix of information out there when it comes to the contraceptive pill, it can be hard to make sense of all we see and hear.  Women can find themselves feeling concerned with worries about whether it is safe for them to take it and whether the positive benefits will outweigh the potential long term issues, including changes to their mental state.  Unfortunately, since GP’s are unable to know how each woman’s mental health may be affected by a certain mix of hormones, the only way to test it is through a trial period on different pills until you find one which suits you best.


Concerns For Adolescents

Authors Claudio N. Soares and Brook Zitek discovered through their research that “oestrogen and progesterone have been shown to affect brain regions known to be involved in the modulation of mood and behaviour”, and a sixteen year study in Denmark of over one million women between the ages of fifteen and thirty four backed the results.  It also became clear that one disturbing outcome for adolescents taking the pill was that they had the highest rate of first time use of antidepressants, “suggesting depression as a potential adverse effect of hormonal contraceptive use”.


It would make sense, therefore, that introducing additional synthetic versions of these two hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, into the body could create further problems, especially in women who are already prone to mental health issues such as adolescents, those who have had children, those going through the perimenopause or the menopause.


Yet, despite the NHS listing “mood swings” as a symptom of taking the pill, there is certainly still an element of uncertainty when it comes to the true link between mental health and the contraceptive pill due to a lack of long-term study done in this area.  As such most health professionals will refuse the idea that there is a link between the two, and women continue to request prescriptions for their oral contraceptive if they do not feel they are suffering any adverse effects.   But the pill has become the most popular go-to option for contraception despite the many other options on the market today.  As such, women should educate themselves on the other types available to them if they do feel any concern about taking the pill or if they are already dealing with some kind of mental health issues, and certainly a trip to the GP is a good first step.


Tried and Tested

As with so many aspects of our health, what works for one person could have a very different effect on another and despite the many positive outcomes of taking this type of contraceptive for women suffering from heavy periods, ovarian cysts or PCOS amongst other health issues, there is always the risk that it could have an adverse effect within our own body.  The clinical consultant psychiatrist at the ‘National Female Hormone Clinic’, Dr Michael Craig backs up this idea that medication cannot be ‘one size fits all’ and that there is a “general shift to personalised medicine” on the horizon.


Luckily there are many different kinds of contraception available to us today, both hormone and non-hormone based. The implant, pill, injection and certain IUD’s use hormones to stop unwanted pregnancies, but there are other non-hormonal versions such as the copper IUD and condoms which may be preferable to women who are concerned about their mental health in relation to taking the pill


Before you make a decision with what option to go with, speak to an expert to get up to date support for your personal situation and to get clarity on your options.  If you want to speak to someone confidentially and from the privacy of your own home, then contact the professionals at Click Pharmacy who can arrange a Skype or email chat today and assist you with making the right contraceptive choices for both your body and your mental health.


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