Your oral contraceptive pill may be making you miserable, warns a new study from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden that suggests a potential link between contraceptives and women’s overall wellness.
The researchers tied the use of combined oral contraceptive pills to a significantly lower quality of life, including mood, energy, and self-control. They, however, did not find an increase in depressive symptoms.
The Lowdown On Contraceptive Pill Effects
“Despite the fact that an estimated 100 million women around the world use contraceptive pills we know surprisingly little today about the pill’s effect on women’s health,” said lead author and professor Angelica Linden Hirschberg in a statement, adding that the scientific body remains “very limited” when it comes to these pills’ impact on quality of life and depression.
The team studied 340 healthy women from 18 to 35 years old randomly treated over a three-month period with contraceptive pills containing ethinylestradiol and levonorgestrel (Sweden’s most common combined contraceptive pill) or with a placebo.
Those who received the first treatment were estimated to have a significantly lower quality of life compared to those given placebos, but no substantial rise in depressive symptoms was seen in them.
Since the changes proved relatively small, the results should be taken with caution, according to the researchers. However, the adverse effects on quality of life may be clinically important since it could be a contributor to low compliance as well as irregular contraceptive use, warned author Niklas Zethraeus.
And while the team does not recommend stopping the use of oral contraceptives because of their findings, there could be alternatives as well.
“[I]f a woman is worried about negative influence on mood and life quality she should discuss this with a doctor," Hirschberg told The Independent.
The findings were discussed in the journal Fertility and Sterility.
Hormonal Contraceptives And Depression
Previous studies have made an association between contraceptives and depression.
University of Copenhagen researchers, for instance, noted that women taking combined oral contraceptives were 23 percent more likely to be found having depression, while those on progestin-only products had a 34 percent chance.
Teens had the highest depression risk or an 80 percent climb when using the combined pill.
Some experts, however, are skeptical, arguing that both depression and birth control are fairly common and could naturally be considered occurring together. The link may be unclear in that regard.
Potential Protective Benefits
Oral contraceptives are deemed a lifesaver not only in preventing unplanned pregnancies in women but also in other areas of health. A study out of the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, for instance, saw that they can also offer protection against some cancer types for as long as three decades.
The team pored over data on more than 46,000 women to see long-term oral contraception’s effects. They followed the subjects for up to 44 years, making their research the world’s longest-running to probe birth control pills’ impact.
The researchers discovered that those who took the pill in their reproductive years had no signs of new cancer risk manifesting later in life, just when more cancers tend to surface. Those on contraceptive pills also had a lower incidence of colorectal, ovarian, and endometrial cancers versus women who were never on the pill.