Oral Contraceptives Increase Risk of Depression in Adolescence

Adolescent girls are at high risk for reporting more depressive symptoms when taking oral contraceptives because puberty is a phase where teens have lots of challenging emotional issues to deal with. It is especially important to monitor how they are doing while on contraception. The rate of psychiatric diagnosis and visits to mental health professionals is increasing in young women.

Gender disparity in psychological health starts at the onset of puberty, rendering female sex hormones. Some mechanisms have been suggested to explain the mood-altering effect of hormones. Estrogen regulates serotonin levels which are a known factor in depression. Progesterone most likely influences mood through the action of its neuroactive metabolites, to which not all women respond in the same way despite similar levels.

In few studies, the researchers found teenage birth control pill users were 1.7 times to three times more likely to be clinically depressed in adulthood as compared to women who started taking birth control pills as adults, and to women who had never taken birth control pills.

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Puberty – A Sensitive Period

Puberty is a critical stage of life with rapid growth and changes in the body and brain. In animals, sex hormones such as estrogen and progesterone are well known to affect how the brain develops during puberty.

In the same way, synthetic estrogen and progesterone which are the core ingredients in most of the formulations of the oral contraceptive pills could affect development in ways that have long-lasting consequences on mental health during puberty.

According to the latest research, women who are using these pills or other hormonal contraceptives are at an increased risk for depression and also showed that this relationship was strongest in teenaged women.

Depression: A Major Problem in Adolescence

Adolescence depression is a mental and emotional disorder and is no different medically from adult depression. However, the symptoms in adolescence are different than in adults in many ways due to the different social and developmental challenges that teens are facing. These include such as:

  • Peer pressure
  • Sports
  • Changing hormone levels
  • The developing bodies

Signs and Symptoms of Adolescent Depression

The signs and symptoms of adolescent depressions include such as:

  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • A decreased interest in activities
  • A decrease in energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Major changes in sleeping habits
  • Regular complaints of boredom
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Withdrawal from friends or after-school activities
  • Worsening school performance
  • Appearing sad and tearful

Relationship Between Hormonal Contraception and Depression

Oral contraception (birth control pills) is a highly efficient method for preventing unwanted pregnancies. Women who are not sexually active use it for other reasons, including reducing menstrual pain or treating acne. However, it was originally developed as a me dication for adults, and much remains unknown about the potential side effects for younger users.

Hormonal contraceptives lead to an increased risk of developing depression. This risk was higher in adolescent girls of 15 to 19 years of age and especially for non-oral forms of birth control such as the ring, patch and, IUD. Birth control with synthetic hormone influences a person’s mood, potentially triggering depression and other mental health symptoms.

Due to the risks or side effects of estrogen, many women choose a hormonal contraceptive that is formulated only with progestin. Even with limited progestin exposure, concerns exist about side effects including weight gain, acne, mood changes and depression. Depression side effects of progestin contraception have been stressed in the lay press and are common patient concerns.

Most women start oral contraceptive pills in their teenage. Teenagers have lots of challenging and emotional issues to deal with. It's therefore important to monitor how they are doing.

A survey was conducted which included questions about depressive symptoms, such as crying, eating, sleeping, suicidal ideation, self-harm, feelings of worthlessness and guilt, energy, sadness, and lack of pleasure. The response was then used to generate a depressive symptom severity score.

The data showed that, on average, 16-year-old participants who were using oral contraceptives had depressive symptom severity scores that were 21 percent higher than those who were not taking oral contraceptives.