Oral contraceptives raise the risk of depression, according to a new international study that surveyed more than 264,000 women. Teenagers were at the highest risk, with a 130 percent higher risk of depression in women who started using birth control as adolescents, compared to a 92 percent higher risk among those who started as adults.
While adult users saw a decrease to more normal risk after using “the pill” for more than two years or getting off the pill, teenage users were still at increased risk even after stopping usage.
Therese Johansson of the Department of Immunology, Genetics, and Pathology at Uppsala University, a leading researcher on the study, explained that the extended risk to teenagers could be explained by their recent experiences in puberty.
“As women in that age group have already experienced substantial hormonal changes, they can be more receptive not only to hormonal changes but also to other life experiences,” Johansson said.
This study only examined combination birth control pills, but researchers plan to study other contraceptive options.
“In a future study, we plan to examine different formulations and methods of administration. Our ambition in comparing different contraceptive methods is to give women even more information to help them [m]ake well-informed decisions about their contraceptive options,” Johansson said.
A news release from Uppsala University also noted the study shows “a need for healthcare professionals to be more aware of possible links between different systems in the body, such as depression and the use of contraceptive pills.”
In other studies, birth control methods have also been linked to increased risk of heart attack and stroke, blood clots, breast cancer, and cervical cancer.
Despite significant evidence of risk, researchers still insist that birth control is safe to use, with even Johansson maintaining that birth control is safe because women will not likely experience “negative effects on their mood” and can avoid “unplanned pregnancies.”