The Pill Was Revolutionary but Its Possible Link to Depression Is Too Serious to Ignore

birth control pills The birth control pill has long been hailed as one of the best things to happen to women in centuries -- perhaps even all time. But while ingesting those little tablets daily might spell sexual freedom for some, it can cause a host of negative side effects in others. A recent study shows an alarming link between taking hormonal contraceptives (ones containing estrogen and progestin) and experiencing depression, and the data is too scary to ignore -- especially when it comes to teens. 

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While women have publicly extolled the virtues of oral contraception, it may be time to remove the pill from the pedestal we placed it on decades ago. Because even though it can prevent pregnancy if used correctly, that luxury may be coming at the price of our health. The feminist movement can thank the pill for a lot, but for many women, it may not be the best option anymore.

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Women who take the pill often bemoan weight gain, irritability, achy breasts, and even bad skin, but the toll on mental health often goes undiscussed -- until now.

After studying one million women between the ages of 15 and 34 for about six years each, Danish researchers found that women on the combined pill were 23 percent more likely to be prescribed an antidepressant than non-users -- and most within the first six months of going on the pill. 

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Psychiatry, also found that those taking pills containing a synthetic form of the hormone progesterone were 34 percent more likely to take antidepressants or receive a first diagnosis of depression when compared with their non-pill-taking counterparts. Researchers link the alteration in mood to a rise in progesterone levels. 

But the most scary stats apply to young girls: Adolescents taking the hormonal contraceptive were 80 percent more likely to take antidepressants while those taking the progestin-only pills were more than twice as likely.

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Women who smoke, have high blood pressure, or have a history of breast cancer have been warned that taking the pill may increase their risk for health complications, but these new links to depression will probably make even more women rethink their form of birth control.  

Especially if you're prone to depression or anxiety, finding an alternative to the popular pill might be a healthy and smart choice. Fortunately, it's not that difficult -- condoms, though a mood-buster, prevent pregnancies while guarding against STDs. The diaphragm and cervical cap, which may take a bit of time to adjust to, are other nonhormonal options. The IUD, beloved by some, is a longer-term commitment. 

Unfortunately, other than abstinence -- and that's got its own downsides, LOL -- no method of birth control is without its drawbacks. But if you've recently starting taking the pill and find that you're just not feeling like yourself, it's probably not just your imagination. 

 

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