Does birth control make you moody, anxious or depressed?
Reviewed by our clinical team
This article will look at the link between mental health and contraception. It’s a huge topic: the pill is the most common contraception used in the UK, and, each year, approximately one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem. Depression and anxiety are the most common.
Depression and anxiety symptoms
Clinical depression is a mental health problem that millions of people experience. Depression has many symptoms. It ranges from mild to severe. People with depression are likely to:
- Have low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness
- Feel hopeless
- Lack motivation
- Have a low sex-drive
Some physical symptoms include:
- Chest pain
- Slow movement
- Tiredness and fatigue, usually without a cause
- Sleeping too much, or finding it hard to get to sleep
Anxiety is a feeling of unease, worry or fear. It also ranges from mild to severe. Symptoms include:
- Difficulty controlling feelings of worry
- Difficulty concentrating
- Muscle aches
If you need help for anxiety or depression, talk to a GP. You should also seek support from a family member or close friend if you are able to. Don’t suffer alone.
Is birth control linked to depression and anxiety?
The two types of contraception pills are:
- The combined pill – this contains synthetic versions of two hormones, oestrogen and progesterone
- The progestogen-only pill – this contains a synthetic version of progesterone
Pregnancy is prevented through the management of these hormones.
Anecdotally, there is evidence to suggest that some women taking a form of hormonal contraception have felt depressed or anxious because of it. Because many women have reported feeling mentally unwell when taking the pill, there has been lots of research carried out to try and properly understand if there’s a link.
A large study in Sweden using UK Biobank data published results showing that the first two years of oral contraception (the pill) use is linked with a 71% increased risk of developing depression. This study also reported that women using a contraceptive pill as teenagers had an even greater risk of feeling depressed – this could be because of the hormonal changes already happening during puberty. Some people may also report changes to their mental health when using contraception, but because mental health problems are so common, they may not be linked.
Another study used Swedish data from women aged 15 – 25, and found that those “on combined oral contraceptives and oral progesterone only products had lower or no increased risk of depression.”
Overall, more research is needed to conclude a link between the pill and mental health.
Some contraceptives also mention mood swings and depression as a common side effect – for example, Rigevidon. However, some women also use contraception to help with PMS related mood symptoms. Ultimately, a conversation with your GP is needed to talk through pros and cons.
Does coming off the pill improve mental health?
The hormones inside the pill are quite powerful. You might find that they impact your mood in a negative way. It’s not guaranteed but coming off the pill may improve your mood. However, if you stop taking it and continue to have sex without using another form of contraception, you could get pregnant.
If you’re taking a hormonal contraception and struggling with your mental health, you should talk to your GP. It’s a good idea to discuss your options and find a contraception that works for you.
Our contraception advice
LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor has plenty of advice on contraception, from the pill and acne, to getting pregnant after the pill.