Article Graphic made on Canva for Birth Control

You vs. Birth Control

As we enter 2020, birth control is more accepted now than it ever was -- about 60% of women aged 15-44 years old are on a form of contraceptive. While over 100 million women are using contraceptives, very little is known about their effects on emotion and cognitive behavior.

However, it is a fact that the hormones in birth control pills can alter your brain structure -- specifically speaking, your lateral orbitofrontal cortex and the posterior cingulate cortex. These cortexes are related to decision making and emotion processing.   

When you are taking the pill you are adding hormones into your body -- which is a huge adjustment. Everyone’s body is different, therefore will react differently to this change. Because birth control is not “one size fits all," finding the right pill for you may take time and patience. As you’re taking the pill you may experience a plethora of symptoms, both physically and mentally. 

Plan B

Many women are unaware of all the different emotional side effects birth control may cause. It is worth mentioning that it can be hard to differentiate between knowing if these emotions are your natural mood or if they are symptoms of the pill. However, if you haven’t been feeling like yourself ever since you started taking the pill, it may be worth considering that your birth control may not be the right birth control for you.

If you’re lucky, the first birth control you try will be perfect for you and your body. Unfortunately, this is not the case for every woman, and more often than not it takes trial and error to find the pill best suited for you.

Look out for these mental and emotional side effects:

1.) Depression and/or Anxiety 

There have been many women (including myself) who have claimed that their birth control made them feel depressed -- and this issue has been heavily researched. In a study with over one million women, researchers found that those taking hormonal contraceptives had an increased risk for depression. Another study found that when women were given high dosages of estrogen, they were more likely to experience fear and/or anxiety. Because hormones have an effect on the balance of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, it is not impossible for birth control to evoke anxiety or depression. If you have a history with either, it is recommended by gynecologists to use a birth control with fewer hormones. 

2.) Mood Swings

A study has shown that progestin hormones can cause irritability. Because birth control contains progestin and estrogen, mood swings may occur. On top of your natural hormones fluctuating, these added hormones may cause you to feel irritable, sad or angry. 

Annoyed Gif

3.) Changes in Sex Drive

Hormonal birth control can potentially cause a change of your sex drive, affect your mental state during sex and even make it harder to reach orgasm. Testosterone is one of the hormones responsible for regulating your sex drive. Because the combination of progestin and estrogen in birth control can actually lower your testosterone levels, you may notice a change in your libido. 

If you have noticed that you don’t feel like yourself since starting the pill, consider changing your birth control. While it can be frustrating to start all over with a new pill and go through the adjustment period all over again, staying on a pill that is hurting you more than helping you is not worth it -- especially when there are plenty of different types on the market.

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Edited by Geena Anderson