Can Birth Control Cause Depression? Experts Break Down the Correlation

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Caitlin Flynn

Many people who use birth control experience unpleasant side effects like nausea, breast tenderness, and changes in sex drive. But not all side effects are physical – doctors say birth control can also affect your mood, noting that studies have found a correlation between hormonal contraception and depression. So, could your birth control be to blame for your symptoms? Experts say that, while there’s a link, it’s a bit more complicated than that – and other factors certainly play a role.

Kim Langdon, MD, a board-certified ob-gyn in Ohio, told POPSUGAR that the hormones in birth control could worsen a mood disorder or unmask a latent depression or anxiety disorder. However, Dr. Langdon explained that it’s unlikely birth control is the sole cause of depression or anxiety because these conditions are caused by low neurotransmitters in the brain which are influenced by many factors, including genetics.

“There’s a complex interaction and balance of serotonin, dopamine, GABA, and norepinephrine, or the ‘happy hormones’ in the brain,” Dr. Langdon said. Low estrogen and testosterone play a role in depression and, as Dr. Langdon explained, even though birth control pills contain hormones, “[many] actually lower the overall production of hormones from the ovaries by stopping ovulation.” She added that, conversely, too little progesterone is linked to anxiety because progesterone has a sedating or calming effect.

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