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“Pillsplaining” Depression in Young Women

A new study shows evidence of a link between oral contraceptives and depression. Conducted over a 13 year period, using a sample of over one million women, Danish investigators in Copenhagen discovered a significant increase in depression diagnosis in women taking birth control pills. They also found that women with implants, patches and intrauterine devices (IUDs) were affected as well. Your birth control could be causing your depression.

Doctors and medical researchers, two professions largely populated by men who have never and will never personally take oral contraception, have tried to calm the fears of women following this study. Experts are used to “pillsplaining,” or blaming all negative birth control side effects on hormone pills, but this new study claims even non-pill alternatives pose a danger to women’s mental health.

Probably the most concerning discovery was that adolescent girls were 80% more likely to suffer from depression while on some form of birth control. Young girls seeking help with controlling irregular menstrual cycles, extreme acne or horomone imbalance might actually be risking more than previously thought in search of lighter periods, clear complexion and balanced estrogren levels. 

With the release of the study come the mini movements. On Twitter, a lot of young female users are talking about “Sweetening the Pill,” a book written by women’s health advocate Holly Grigg-Spall. The book explains the lack of knowledge most birth control users truly have about what they’re putting into their bodies. Grigg-Spall calls for greater healthcare transparency and a larger conversation on the negative effects of daily horomone therapy. From seldom-known side effects to lasting, long term organ damage, the truth about birth control is slowly making its way to the masses. 

Even in 2016, women’s reproductive health is still considered a taboo topic. We still sneak our friends tampons in class secretly so that no one, especially boys, will see. We still turn bright red in check out lines while purchasing maxi pads at Target. We still don’t feel completely comfortable talking openly about our monthly gift. We still have to endure the scrutiny and societal judgements of PMS mood swings and irritability. Now we’re adding in depression. Grigg-Spall even warns of other distressing effects like anxiety, paranoia, rage and panic attacks resulting from the pill. 

This doesn’t mean immediately flush your birth control pills. It means ask questions. Understand the science behind what’s going into your body. Ask your doctor questions and expect truthful answers from them. It’s your body, it’s your choice. 

University of Iowa sophomore majoring in Journalism and Engaged Social Innovation. Member of Alpha Chi Omega sorority. Hospitality newbie. Reader, writer, and wanderluster. At least that's what I want my business card to say.
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