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  • Dr. DeMers

New study correlates hormonal contraceptives to the development of depression and use of antidepress

What did the study look like?

A 13-year prospective cohort study (long term observational study) at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark looked at the correlation between taking birth control and future diagnosis of depression and use of antidepressants. 1,061,997 women ages 15-34 were followed from January 2000 to December 2013.

Outcomes measured:

1. Number of participants that received an antidepressant prescription

2. Number of participants diagnosed with depression by a psychiatric department in Denmark

The results:

Type of contraceptive - Increased risk of antidepressant use compared to control groups

Oral contraceptive - 23%

Progestin-only pill - 34%

Patch - 100%

Vaginal ring - 60%

IUD with hormones - 40%

My thoughts and considerations:

Two areas are important to consider when evaluating this study. First, the highest risk of depression and antidepressant use was found to be girls 15-19 years old, generally considered a group prone to side effects of many medications. Second, the risk of side effects is considered the highest within the first 3 months of treatment with hormonal contraceptives. Thus it is important to pay attention to changes after starting or changing medications, especially in the adolescent population.

In addition, this study emphasizes the importance of educating our sisters, daughters, cousins and friends on ways to avoid unintended pregnancy without hormonal interventions. For those who are prescribed birth control to treat conditions such as PCOS, endometriosis, heavy menstrual bleeding, painful periods and many others, there are natural and effective ways to heal your body that don’t involve exogenous hormones.

It is important to note that this study does not show cause and effect, it merely shows a correlation that healthcare providers and the scientific community need to evaluate further.

Skovlund CW, Mørch LS, Kessing LV, et al. Association of Hormonal Contraception With Depression. JAMA Psychiatry. Published online September 28 2016

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