The pill, the ring, the patch, NFP, IUD, ETC. Reproductive health and contraception has been a hotly discussed and often debated topic since it gained prominence in the early 20th century. But birth control in one way or another has been around forever. Well, not exactly forever — the earliest documented information about birth control was the Ancient Egyptian Kahun Papyrus that recommend that honey, acacia leaves, and lint be used in women as a goalie to keep out sperm. Crocodile dung, acacia gum, elephant dung, silkworm guts, and many plants were used until the 20th century development of modern birth control.
Thankfully, today, lint and gum are where they belong, namely bellybuttons and bottoms of shoes, and women have the option of choosing from a plethora of different methods of birth control. But changes to hormones, due to birth control or otherwise, can often effect the mood of both women and men. Recently, public health researchers found that there is a positive correlation between hormonal contraception and diagnosed depression.
The authors from the University of Copenhagen observed medical records of 1,061,997 women aged 15 to 34 living in Denmark anywhere during 1995 to 2013. The data showed that a small, but statistically significant portion of the women were prescribed anti-depression medication or hospitalized for depression after starting birth control. These results seemed to affect adolescents more than older women and women who took the pill had slightly fewer cases of depression than those who use the ring, patch, or shot.
Does this mean that the 64 percent of women worldwide currently using birth control should do away with conventional contraceptives? Definitely not. The study failed to address the effect that non-hormonal contraception has on depression. Additionally, women who may be feeling depressed, might not seek help from a mental health professional and not be counted. The results may even be a case of “correlation does not equal causation” as well.
Depression definitely is not something to be taken lightly, but birth control also provides benefits to those taking it like decreased menstrual cramps, reducing the risk of some cancers, clearing up acne, and helping treat endometriosis pelvic pain. Moral of the story? Women who are beginning birth control should understand that changes in hormones will impact their mood and might contribute to depression. Hopefully, with more energy and resources, birth control methods can be improved, potentially even giving men the ability to take a hormonal contraceptives. For now, we can all be content that we no longer need crocodile dung to prevent pregnancy.
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