It shouldn’t be news to most of us by now but hormonal contraceptives, aka birth control pills or “the pill” cause a myriad of side effects. Many doctors refuse to acknowledge this fact but hormonal contraceptives are inextricably linked to detrimental mood effects such as:
(Robinson et al., 2004; Kulkarni, 2007)
In fact, one Danish nationwide prospective cohort study gathered data from the National Prescription Register and Psychiatric Central Research Register on over 1 million women.
These researchers, publishing in JAMA, concluded that 23% of women that had no prior history of depression would later be prescribed antidepressant drugs after starting oral contraceptives (Skovlund, 2016).
Teens, in particular, are, as a population, the greatest risk, as they are 80% more likely to develop depression after starting combined oral contraceptives compared to control groups. (Skovlund, 2016).
On progestin-only contraceptives or (mini-pills), teens are 200% more likely to become depressed (Skovlund, 2016).
If you still aren’t convinced about those numbers or don’t think “depression” is that big of a deal, hormonal contraceptives significantly elevate the rates of suicide attempts and completed suicide. That’s right. The pill, which doctors routinely give to teens as young as 12 and keep them on for many years, could contribute to a higher rate of suicide.
In a large study that followed half a million women, which included 3.9 million person-years of follow-up, hormonal birth control was discovered to double the risk of suicide attempts and more increase the rates of completed suicide over 3-fold (Oinonen & Mazmanian, 2002).
So how does all this happen?
Studies have shown how hormonal contraceptives induce changes in the composition of our commensal flora, that microbial population that resides in our gut.
Yes, I said it. Your microbiome is compromised while on birth control and the gut is directly linked to factors such as neurotransmitter balance (hello serotonin!) and microflora imbalance can cause inflammation which can cause neurogenic inflammation… well, you get the picture
Research also demonstrates how hormonal contraceptives induce myriad micronutrient deficiencies, impairing the cellular machinery that drives metabolism and maintains proper redox balance (Palmery et al., 2013).
Micronutrients like vitamins balance
Lastly, shifts in the kynurenine pathway, a strong regulator of immune function, as a byproduct of hormonal contraceptive use, may lead to depression in susceptible populations (Meier et al., 2018).
Translation: If your immune system is dysregulated (another hint is if you have inflammation) you aren’t going to be terribly happy.
Looking for a viable alternative? I have a solution.
I recommend Flo Living’s My Flo Period Tracker for a non-hormonal alternative to birth control and tracking your cycle.
Until then, if you have any questions at all about hormones, birth control, anti-depressants or how to balance your hormones, don’t hesitate to reach out to schedule a free consultation.