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Can The Pill Affect Your Mental Health?

The easiest and most popular form of birth control is for women to take an oral contraceptive. There are believed to be around 3.5 million women using this method in the UK alone; and over 100 million worldwide. Since its invention, oral contraception for women has played a major role in helping them to plan the timing of pregnancies. It has also enabled women to have a more relaxed attitude to their sexuality.
This is often referred to as women being “on the Pill”. Though in fact, there are various types and formulas of oral contraceptives. This provides the option to adjust hormonal dosages, according to each woman’s own preferences and reactions. More on this later. In recent times, one of the most hotly debated topics connected to the Pill is the negative effect it can have on the mental health of some patients. This article will look at this issue and the solutions.

Revolutionising Birth Control

Birth control has been a human concern since the Ancient Egyptians. For centuries, it was primarily a male responsibility. Various contraptions have been used over the years which have evolved into the modern condom.
Ironically, an American Roman Catholic woman - Margaret Sanger – is attributed with taking the first steps in changing this. Sanger’s own mother had died after multiple pregnancies and births. As a nurse, she had also seen the terrible toll of botched abortions. In 1950 Sanger opened America’s first birth control clinic and ten years later the US Food and Drug Administration licensed the first version of the Pill. By 1964 it was used in the UK, though initially only for married women!

Fans and Critics of Women’s Oral Contraception

The pill is widely considered a massive medical milestone. It was deemed a relatively harmless and controllable way to prevent unwanted pregnancies. There are alternative ways that women can take responsibility for birth control including the diaphragm and the coil. However, these have been shown to have a substantial margin of error. They are also considered to be “intrusive” and unpleasant by many women.
The Pill, on the other hand, is quick and easy to administer. It also enjoys a 99% success rate; the main reason it so popular. Though female oral birth control has clear benefits, it was not without its critics. When it was first launched there were fears that taking the Pill would promote promiscuity in women. More recently, critics have been more focused on the connection between oral contraception and mental health.

Does the Pill Cause Depression?

Most medications have the potential to create adverse or unwelcome reactions in some users, depending on many factors including your own personal metabolism and body type.
It has become evident that the side effects of oral contraceptive formulas can include behavioural and emotional changes. The Pill works by altering a woman’s hormonal balance, preventing normal fertility cycles from happening. There is now evidence to suggest that in some women, this can affect their mental health; ranging from a noticeable drop in mood, to severe depression, anxiety and anger management problems. This was confirmed by a major study by the University of Copenhagen, which monitored one million Danish women (aged from 15 to 34) over a 13 year period. The incident of depression in women taking the Pill was substantially higher than those not using oral contraceptives. Though this statistic varied according to the type of Pill used . For example, women on a progestin-only pills were 34% more likely to suffer from depression.

What are the Solutions?

Much of the success in tackling this link between mental health and the Pill comes from appreciating that it is possible and being alert to any changes. Then, it is possible to switch your type of oral contraception to alleviate the side effects. This is the main reason that pharmaceutical companies have developed different formulas for oral contraceptives.

Different Medications for Different Women

The options include the combination pill, which is the one many doctors prescribe. It contains oestrogen and progesterone, the two hormones that regular ovulation and egg implantation in the uterus.
Most combined pills have the same type - and similar quantities - of oestrogen. However, the type of progesterone included - and in what amount - varies widely between brands.
There is also a progesterone only pill available. This is sometimes referred to as the “mini pill”. 
Women can also opt for injected contraceptives or skin implants (commonly referred to as “the rod”) to control their hormones.

Choice and Research to Gain Control

Having a choice of types of oral contraceptive enables women to find the right formula for them. This can assist in eradicating any mental health side effects. It particularly opens up the possibility of finding a type and dosage of progesterone that avoids mood imbalance.
There is also more good news. It is not a problem that affects all women! You may find you have no adverse reaction at all. Also, research is underway to tackle the issue. Pharmaceutical companies are seeking improvements to birth control medication, including finding formulas that further reduce the possibility of mental health side effects.