If you’re sexually active, birth control can be your best friend. Having this system of protection can take a lot of stress and worry out of your daily life—but could taking birth control also mean experiencing a whole mess of other, not-so-welcome feelings? A new study by the journal JAMA Psychiatry suggests that hormonal birth control might be linked to more of a chance of depression, CNN reports.
It’s definitely alarming to hear news like this, but here’s what you need to know before freaking out and tossing away your BC.
1. The link is caused by hormones.
We all know how our moods change when our period arrives for its monthly visit, and while past studies suggest that there’s no way to prove that changes in mood could tie back to taking birth control, this new breakthrough says something else.
Dr. Øjvind Lidegaard, the study’s lead author told CNN, “We have known for decades that women’s sex hormones estrogen and progesterone have an influence on many women’s moood…it is not surprising that also external articifical hormones acting in the same way and on the same centers as the natural horomones might…be responsible for depression development.”
Basically, there are so many synthetic hormones in BC that they can cause a turn for the worse in our moods.
2. The type of birth control could affect the likelihood of depression.
The research shows notable differences in risk rates between those who took oral birth control and those who used non-oral forms. According to the research, women taking oral birth control pills were between 1.2 and 1.3 times more likely to end up taking antidepressants when compared with women not on birth control. Meanwhile, women using the transdermal patch were two times more likely, and women with the vaginal ring were 1.5 times more likely. Doctors believe these varying figures are just because of dosage differences, so no matter what your type of protection, you could still be at risk.
3. There are reasons to take this study with a grain of salt.
Healthline points out that even if women feel depressed while on birth control, this could be because of an “inconsistent use of the word depression.” People could form a connection between the two simply because of how many women coincidentally have depression. About 12 million women in the United States have clinical depression each year, and about one in every eight females are expected to develop it at some point in their lives. There have even been studies saying that taking birth control might improve your mood.
STAT also talked to several doctors who explained why this study doesn’t provide a complete picture of what’s going on with birth control and depression.
4. If your birth control is causing side effects, there are other options.
You don’t have to stick with your current birth control if it’s making you miserable! Depression is serious illness, and you shouldn’t have to keep taking anything that’s making it worse. The copper IUD is one long-lasting, set-it-and-forget-it method of birth control, and of course there’s also your trusty box of condoms. You also might get better effects just by switching to a different type of birth control pills.
If anything, this new study is just a reminder to take care of your physical and mental health and to go to a doctor if you feel that something’s wrong.