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Is your minipill making you depressed?

By Sarah Moses Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 07:30
Popping the progestin-only minipill could up your risk of depression, a large Australian study found. When it comes to side effects, not all birth control methods are equal. The type you choose could have important effects on your mood.


Women taking progestin-only birth control methods including the minipill have a three times greater risk of depression or other mood disorders, the study of 498 women aged 20 to 50 found.


Yet combined hormonal birth control methods – containing both estrogen and progestin – actually protected women in the study against these disorders. More than 80 percent of the women surveyed who were on the pill were taking this kind of combined pill.

Choosing the birth control method that’s best for you can be a tricky task. One of the main things to consider is possible side effects. Whether you run a greater risk of becoming depressed could be one worth thinking about.

Choosing a pill

So what options are out there? If you’re looking for birth control that’s not permanent, you have a choice between barrier methods, like the condom or diaphragm, intrauterine devices (IUDs), and different kinds of hormonal birth control.

If you’ve narrowed it down further to a hormonal method, there are lots of options available, including the pill, transdermal patch, vaginal ring, implant, and injection. All of these options contain either a combination of estrogen and progestin (a synthetic form of the hormone progesterone), or progestin alone.

Whether you opt for a combination or progestin-only method is a decision your doctor can help you make. For some women, like those who are breast feeding or those with health concerns like high blood pressure, migraines, or a high risk of heart attack or blood clots, progestin-only pills are a safe option.

Hormones and your brain

Estrogen and progesterone have all sorts of important roles in the body. The side effects that some people get with hormonal methods of birth control are related to these roles.

One of the major ones is their effect on mental health. Studies show that estrogen and progesterone can increase or decrease the levels of a kind of molecule in your brain called neurotransmitters.

These molecules can lift your spirits when you’re feeling great, and they’re to blame when you’re feeling blue. Estrogen can also enter the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that’s directly involved in controlling how you feel. So it’s no surprise that for some women, hormonal birth control can have important effects on mood.

*To protect the identity, names have been changed and the person/s in the picture is/are models.

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