Can Birth Control Cause Depression?


Birth control pills are a widely used contraceptive method by millions of women worldwide. They work by preventing ovulation, which makes a woman unable to conceive. However, a controversy exists regarding whether birth control pills can cause depression or not. This article delves into the research examining the relationship between birth control pills and depression.

What is Depression?

Depression is a mental health disorder characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest in activities that were once enjoyable. Symptoms include fatigue, insomnia, changes in appetite, decreased concentration, and suicidal ideation. Depression can range from mild to severe, and untreated depression can have negative effects on one’s social, academic, and occupational life.

How Birth Control Works?

Birth control pills prevent pregnancy by utilizing synthetic hormones – estrogen and progesterone – to prevent ovulation. By taking these hormones regularly, women can avoid getting pregnant, as the menstrual cycle stops.

Besides preventing pregnancy, birth control pills are also prescribed to ease menstrual cramps, regulate periods, treat acne, and symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

Can Birth Control Pills Cause Depression?

Research has shown that hormonal contraceptives, including birth control pills, can alter a woman’s mood. Estrogen and progesterone, the hormones present in birth control pills, can affect neurotransmitters in the brain that regulate mood.

Studies have examined the relationship between depression and birth control pills, and results have been mixed. Some studies have found a link between hormonal contraceptives and depression, while others have not observed such a link.

A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry (2016) found that women who used hormonal contraceptives, including the pill, were at a higher risk of developing depression than those who did not use them. This study also found that women who already had an existing history of depression were at the highest risk of developing the disorder.

Other studies have shown different results. A study published in JAMA Psychiatry (2018) found that there was no significant association between hormonal contraception use and depression. Similarly, a study published in Contraception (2019) found that the use of hormonal contraceptives did not increase the risk of depression.

Risk Factors for Depression while on Birth Control Pills

While some women may not experience depression while on birth control pills, others may develop it. The following factors increase the risk of depression while on birth control pills:

  • Personal or family history of depression
  • History of premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • Younger age
  • Stressful life events, such as a breakup or loss of a loved one
  • Lack of social support
  • Smoking or substance abuse

Symptoms of Depression While on Birth Control Pills

Women who develop depression while on birth control pills may experience the following symptoms:

  • Changes in mood, such as sadness, hopelessness, or irritability
  • Decreased libido
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling tired or fatigued

What Should You Do If You Think You Are Depressed While Taking Birth Control Pills?

If you suspect that you have developed depression while taking birth control pills, you should talk to your doctor. They can evaluate your symptoms and determine whether you have depression or not.

If you have depression, your doctor may recommend the following:

  • Changing to another brand or type of birth control pills
  • Switching to a non-hormonal form of contraception, such as a condom or copper IUD
  • Psychotherapy or counseling to support you through depression
  • Medication to ease symptoms of depression. Antidepressants can help balance the brain chemicals that affect mood. However, they require a prescription and should only be taken under the guidance of a doctor.


The relationship between birth control pills and depression is an ongoing debate. While some studies have found a link, others have not observed any association. However, it’s clear that hormonal contraceptives can affect a woman’s mood, and some women may develop depression while taking them.

It’s essential to speak to your doctor if you suspect that you have developed depression while taking birth control pills. Your doctor can advise you on potential treatments to help you through the disorder.


FAQs: Can Birth Control Cause Depression?

1. Is there a link between birth control and depression?

There is some evidence to suggest that certain types of hormonal birth control, such as the pill or the patch, can increase the risk of depression in some women. However, not all women will experience depression as a result of using birth control. It’s important to speak with your doctor about any concerns you may have about the potential side effects of birth control.

2. What are the symptoms of depression that may be linked to birth control?

Depression can present differently in each person, but common symptoms include feelings of sadness or hopelessness, loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, and difficulty concentrating. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms and you’re using hormonal birth control, talk to your doctor about your concerns.

3. Are there any alternatives to hormonal birth control that do not carry the same risk of depression?

Yes, there are a variety of non-hormonal birth control options available, such as condoms, diaphragms, or copper IUDs. It’s important to discuss your options with your doctor to find the method that is best for your individual needs and preferences.


1. Skovlund CW, Mørch LS, Kessing LV, Lidegaard Ø. Association of hormonal contraception with depression. JAMA psychiatry. 2016 Apr 1;73(4):389-96. Available from:

2. Robakis T, Williams KE, Nutkiewicz L, Rasgon N. Hormonal contraceptives and mood: a review of the literature. Frontiers in psychiatry. 2019 Feb 4;9:735. Available from:

3. Schaffir J, Worly BL, Gur TL. Combined Hormonal Contraceptives and Mood: A Critical Review. The European Journal of Contraception & Reproductive Health Care. 2019 Jun 1;24(3):198-208. Available from: