Anyone who's struggled with mood swings while on hormonal birth control may not be surprised to hear that a new study suggests using such birth control could increase the risk of depression. Researchers from the University of Copenhagen looked at more than a million women ages 15 to 34, about 55% of whom were using hormonal contraception or had been on it during the past six months. (Often, people who quit birth control due to depressive symptoms aren't included in such studies, and the scientists wanted to make sure that wasn't the case for this one, Health.com reports.) The scientists theorize that progesterone, as well as the synthetic version of the hormone, progestin, has something to do with the development of depression. They found that women on a progestin-only pill were 34% more likely to have been prescribed an antidepressant than women who weren't on hormonal contraception, and women who were on a pill containing both progestin and estrogen were 23% more likely.
In addition, women who were using a progestin-only IUD were 40% more likely, women using a vaginal ring containing hormones were 60% more likely, and women using a patch containing hormones were 100% more likely, the researchers report in their paper, published in JAMA Psychiatry. The numbers are even more striking when teens are isolated: Teenage girls who were on progestin-only pills were 120% more likely to be prescribed an antidepressant than non-users, or 80% more likely if they were on a combined pill; for those on non-oral hormonal contraception, the risk was multiplied by three. This is possibly because teens are already more susceptible to depression, the New York Times reports. "Doctors should ensure that women, especially young women, are not already depressed or have a history of depression" before prescribing hormonal birth control, the lead author tells Health.com. (Another study finds that most antidepressants don't work for kids and teens.)