Women on hormonal contraception are more likely to be treated for depression
Recent research has shown that women taking hormonal contraception are more likely to be treated for depression. And we already know that those with pre-existing depression may have their symptoms worsened by the pill.
Tell us something we don’t know.
I’ve avoided hormonal contraception completely since a devastating experience in my teens. Mood changes are the top reason why people discontinue using the pill.
But some of the responses to this research have made me pretty angry. I’ve been trying to make sense of why for the last couple of days. Maybe this is really obvious stuff. But maybe it needs to be said again and again until people start to listen.
Unwanted pregnancy far outweighs ALL side effects?
The worst comment I‘ve seen is “avoiding an unwanted pregnancy far outweighs all the other side effects that could occur from a contraceptive”. That’s the sort of thing someone who hasn’t experienced depression might say. I wonder if an equally debilitating (and potentially life threatening) physical health problem would be treated so casually.
I was prescribed the combined pill in my teens with no guidance, no discussion of side effects and without being offered alternative options (I wrote about it in an old blog post here).
The causes of mental health problems are complex and under-researched – but I’ve always felt that the six months of desperation, confusion and trauma I suffered before realising the pill was to blame was the start of long term problems with depression and anxiety. I still occasionally have nightmares where I’m trapped in that time and those feelings.
I had an abortion in my twenties. Unwanted pregnancy can be awful (and can be associated with an increased risk of mental health problems too). But the mental health consequences of getting medication like hormonal contraception wrong can also be devastating – and can last a very long time.
When I posted these thoughts online, others immediately agreed – “Yes, yes, yes! I’ve had both an unwanted pregnancy and a termination and long-term mental health problems aggravated/caused by the pill. And it wasn’t the first one that was more traumatic and terrifying”.
I feel the need to clarify that I’m not suggesting people have terminations instead of taking the pill – but that I need to do this at all just shows how reductive the discourse on this topic tends to be.