Contraceptive pills have negative impact on mental health

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A recent extensive study, incorporating data from over a quarter of a million women from the UK Biobank, has brought to light significant findings regarding the use of contraceptive pills and their potential impact on mental health, particularly depression.

This study, one of the largest of its kind, tracks women from birth to menopause, providing a broad and in-depth perspective on this issue.

The focus of the study was on combined contraceptive pills, which contain progestogen and oestrogen.

Progestogen acts to prevent ovulation and thicken cervical mucus, thereby blocking sperm entry, while oestrogen works to thin the uterine lining, hindering the implantation of a fertilized egg.

Led by Therese Johansson from the Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology at Uppsala University, the researchers found a notably higher incidence of depression symptoms in women who began using contraceptive pills in their teenage years — a 130% increase.

For adult users, the increase was 92%. Johansson attributes this significant impact in teenagers to the hormonal changes of puberty, making them more susceptible to hormonal shifts and life experiences.

Interestingly, the study observed that the increased risk of depression lessened if women continued using contraceptive pills beyond the initial two years.

However, teenage users of contraceptive pills still showed a higher incidence of depression even after ceasing to use the pill, a pattern not seen in adult users.

Johansson stresses that while many women tolerate external hormones well, healthcare providers need to be more cognizant of the potential mental health side-effects.

She emphasizes that combined contraceptive pills remain a beneficial option for many, preventing unplanned pregnancies and reducing the risk of ovarian and uterine cancers.

The study highlights the necessity for healthcare professionals to inform women considering contraceptive pills about the potential risk of depression as a side-effect.

It also underscores the importance of understanding the interconnections between different bodily systems, like mental health and hormonal contraception.

Looking ahead, Johansson and her team plan to investigate various formulations and methods of contraception, including mini pills, patches, hormonal spirals, vaginal rings, and contraceptive rods, to provide women with comprehensive information for making informed decisions about their contraceptive choices.

If you care about depression, please read studies about how dairy foods may influence depression risk, and B vitamins could help prevent depression and anxiety.

For more information about mental health, please see recent studies that ultra-processed foods may make you feel depressed, and extra-virgin olive oil could reduce depression symptoms.

The research findings can be found in Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences.

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