New Study Finds Hormonal Birth Control Triples Women’s Risk Of Suicide

New Study Finds Hormonal Birth Control Triples Women’s Risk Of Suicide

The pill was introduced nearly 60 years ago. Why are we only now beginning to document some of hormonal birth control’s serious side-effects?
Kelsey Harkness
By

When today’s feminists say “reproductive rights,” they’re usually referring to the “right” to taxpayer-funded abortion and contraceptives. But many feminists conveniently ignore a far more basic “reproductive right”: the right of a woman to know whether the prescriptions she takes may increase her chances of committing suicide. According to a new study, some do.

“In a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, researchers in Denmark report that women taking hormonal contraceptives — like birth control pills, the patch, the ring and hormonal IUDs — have up to tripled the risk of suicide as women who never took hormonal birth control,” Time reports, adding:

Among women who used hormonal contraceptives currently or recently, the risk of attempting suicide was nearly double that of women who had never used contraceptives. The risk was triple for suicide. The patch was linked to the highest risk of suicide attempts, followed by IUD, the vaginal ring and then pills.

The study, published on November 17, followed nearly half a million women for an average of more than eight years. Notably, the risk for suicide and attempted suicide is still low. Of the women researchers tracked, 6,999 made a first suicide attempt and 71 committed suicide. Across the United States, overall suicide rates have risen from 11 per 100,000 individuals in 2006 to 13.26 in 2015. Women are more likely than men to attempt suicide, but men are more likely to succeed.

When compared with women who never used hormonal contraceptives, the suicide uptick among hormonal contraception users was alarming enough for researchers to conclude that “use of hormonal contraception was positively associated with subsequent suicide attempt and suicide.”

The study, which can be accessed here, has still not been picked up by mainstream news outlets such as The Washington Post and New York Times. Planned Parenthood, which was founded on “the revolutionary idea that women should have the information and care they need to live strong, healthy lives,” has also been silent, instead focusing on advocating for “birth control for all.”

Links Between Birth Control and Depression

The study, titled “Association of Hormonal Contraception With Suicide Attempts and Suicides,” follows a November 2016 study by the same researchers that discovered an alarming link between hormonal birth control and depression. Published in JAMA Psychiatry, that study found that women who used hormonal birth control had a 40 percent increased risk of depression after six months of use, compared to women who didn’t. Some types of hormonal contraceptives carried an even greater risk, and younger women were at even greater risk when using hormonal contraception.

Of the findings, the authors noted, “Health care professionals should be aware of this relatively hitherto unnoticed adverse effect of hormonal contraception.”

The 2016 study was more widely reported by the mainstream media, but a look back at Planned Parenthood’s press releases from that time period shows the nation’s largest abortion provider, which claims to be “an informed educator” for women’s reproductive health, once again said nothing.

Why Are We Just Finding This Out Now?

Hormonal contraception has been around since 1960. According to the National Institutes of Health, hormonal contraceptives have been used by at least 500 million women alive today. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than half (53 percent) of girls aged 15-19 are on the pill.

With so many women and young girls using contraceptives, how did this seemingly obvious link between hormonal birth control, depression, and now suicide go “unnoticed”? Certainly, it’s an open secret among women who’ve experienced more than a few emotional mood swings. Moreover, what side effects do we still not know about for hormonal birth control? Could the pill also be causing anxiety, or other mental illnesses? What about physical side-effects?

There’s no shortage of money to study these questions. In 2015 alone, the contraceptive industry brought in $19.8 billion. The federal government has devoted huge resources to examining the pill, but rather than focus on side effects such as depression and suicide, it has devoted much more time to studying a woman’s ability to access birth control, essentially putting the cart before the horse.

Let’s Get Back to the Basics

Hormonal birth control was so liberating for modern women that, in the heat of it, we failed to demand the most basic knowledge that every patient has a “right” to know—information about the risks and potential side effects.

Instead of battling over who should pay for contraceptives, it would be wise for feminists and their allies at Planned Parenthood to take a step back and examine what we still don’t know about hormonal birth control and why. But don’t expect that to happen anytime soon. Planned Parenthood profits from prescribing “birth control,” making this research a potential financial problem for their goals.

Ultimately, it’s a woman’s choice whether contraceptives are right for her. But for those who really care about empowering women, a good place to start is by equipping them with the “right” to make an informed decision about their reproductive health. According to this latest research, their lives may depend on it.

Kelsey Harkness is the 2017 Tony Blankley Chair at The Steamboat Institute, a senior news producer and reporter for The Daily Signal in Washington DC, and the Wednesday editor of BRIGHT, a weekly newsletter for women. She previously worked at Fox News and attended Lafayette College in Easton, Pa. Her views do not represent The Heritage Foundation, her employer.

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