A new study has provided compelling evidence that women who regularly use the most common type of contraceptive pills – those combining two hormones – are 23 percent more likely than non-users to need antidepressant drugs at the same time.
Multiple forms of female contraception were investigated by the University of Copenhagen, not just the most common type of pill. The progestogen-only pill, for example, appears to increase the risk of using antidepressants by 34 percent.
The contraceptive patch increases the risk by a staggering 100 percent, whereas the vaginal ring ups the risk by 60 percent. Use of an intrauterine system (IUS) increases the risk by 40 percent.
Adolescent girls were the highest risk group – those between the ages of 15 and 19 on the combined pill were 80 percent more likely to require antidepressants.
“We have to realize among all the benefits, external hormones (also) may have side effects. And the risk of depression is one of them,” study co-author Dr Ojvind Lidegaard, clinical professor in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Copenhagen, said in a statement.
Published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, the authors do make it very clear that the pill may not directly cause depression – there’s no clear evidence for that yet. They just point out that there is indeed a worrying correlation that should be investigated further.
The study was the largest of its kind, featuring more than 1 million Danish women between the ages of 15 and 34, whose health records were traced over a 13-year period. The physical side effects of the pill are fairly well known, but this research is the first of its kind to comprehensively find a link between the contraceptive method and potential mental health issues.
It also should be clearly noted that this study does not conclude that the pill is not a good form of contraception. It is over 99 percent effective if taken correctly, and it’s possible that other factors, including concerns over pregnancy for example, may be related to the uptick in antidepressants.
Depression isn't just sadness. It's a complex ailment just as serious as any other physical illness. Arkela/Shutterstock