Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Wellness > Mental Health

Side Effects of Hormonal Contraception: The Mental Health Conversation No One Seems to be Having

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Aberdeen chapter.

The pill. It is the most commonly used hormonal contraceptive and one mainly advised to women when seeking to start using contraception. However, when this advice is given, one thing which does not get talked about often enough is the mental health effects which comes along with the pill, or any hormonal contraception for that matter.  

Girls as young as 15 are advised by doctors to go on hormonal contraception. During these consultations, young girls and women are told about the common side effects of weight gain and other physical changes, but never about how one’s mind can be impacted by the hormones they are pumping into their system. To me, this is a huge issue which is not addressed enough. Women often spiral into deep depression or anxiety and are unaware that it is due to the contraception they were advised to use by their own doctors. There is room to argue women are warned in the leaflets of the packaging of all the side effects from hormonal contraception. However, when girls as young as 15 are being advised to take hormonal contraception, it should be crucial to address mental health aspects as much as physical aspects.  

According to the United States Centre for Disease Control (CDC) around 15.9% of women aged between 15 – 44 are on the pill and 8% on contraceptive implants. Unfortunately, I was unable to find any global statistics because women’s health in science is not researched enough globally (shock). These statistics highlight a great number of women in society are on hormonal birth control and as a consequence will most likely experience some type of struggle in their mental health. Most women on birth control experience a change in their mood, often depression, irrational anger, or anxiety.  

Bringing it back to the UK, the NHS are still not conducting any studies into the number of women experiencing mental health side effects from contraception. This is largely concerning as women have found to completely lose themselves when on contraception. From realising it themselves to partners pointing out they are not how they used to be, this is clearly an issue which needs to be addressed. Often, when women are in these situations of struggling with their mental health, they are unaware the root cause of this is predominantly due to their contraception.  

One thing which does not sit right with me is how shocking the mental health services in the NHS already are, so why encourage women to put something into their bodies which will cause even more of a backlog in women seeking mental health services? Whilst I wholeheartedly agree hormonal contraception does an excellent job in birth control, it also is not right women should have to make a choice between their mental health and sex. Both are equally as important in keeping someone healthy, there’s not argument around that.  

So why has there been no further study in finding female birth control which doesn’t make women want to throw chairs out of windows? Some women find themselves on an endless journey, trying to find birth control which works for them and does not have mental health implications. From the pill, to the implant, to the injection, to the contraceptive patch, the cycle is endless. Yes, everybody is different and will have a different reaction to different types of contraception.  When the main outcome is always the majority of female contraception has an impact on one’s mental health, there is a discussion to be had which does not seem to be very present in the medical arena.  

As a result of the lack of attention to the link between hormonal contraception and mental health side effects, women are forced to abandon any female contraception option, putting them in a position of potential unwanted pregnancies. This once again will put a burden on the NHS due to women seeking abortions and once again having potential mental health side effects.  

Female contraception is a vicious cycle of eventually falling into some sort of depression or anxiety. Something needs to be done about this. Contraception is part of a foundation to a women’s freedom. We know men’s hormonal contraception is receiving a large amount of research to avoid mental health side effects, why can’t the same be done for women? 

Esmee Johnston

Aberdeen '22

4th year Politics and International Relations student