Some women say hormonal birth control makes them feel depressed, irritable or just plain weird. But these effects don’t always show up in scientific studies, making it hard to tell if what’s bugging you is your pill or something else entirely.
Picture: Sarah C
Of the four major recent studies on birth control and mood, Casey Gueren writes at BuzzFeed Life, two were inconclusive and two found that women on hormonal birth control were more likely to have positive mood changes. It’s a tricky subject:
One major limitation is that it’s hard to prove that any self-reported changes in mood or mental health (which are so individual and hard to pin down in the first place) are actually a result of taking hormonal birth control and not a result of a million other factors going on in each person’s life, says [obstetrician-gynecologist Alyssa] Dweck. Not to mention that many people already have a preconceived notion that hormonal medications may alter your mood, so that could lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy or just cause you to attribute your strange symptoms to the pill rather than something else (like that you’re severely stressed, overtired, sick, whatever).
It’s also possible that the pill only affects mood in a handful of people. A 2013 study in Psychoneuroendocrinology only tested women who had previous mood issues while on the pill. Those who took a cycle of birth control pills had more symptoms of depression and mood swings than those taking an inactive pill. (One caveat about those results: Participants on the pill also reported physical symptoms such as bloating and breast tenderness, so we can’t totally rule out a placebo effect; they may have known which pill they were taking.)
So what can you do if you think your mood is suffering because of your birth control prescription? Talk to your doctor, and keep an open mind if they suggest checking out other aspects of your life for an explanation — maybe stress from work is affecting your mood, or maybe you’re developing depression or another mood disorder and it’s not related to birth control. Your doc can also help you explore other options, such as a non-hormonal IUD or a different version of the pill. Visit the link below to read more about what we know about birth control and mood.