You’re not ready to start a family and you’re researching your birth control options. The protection rates and ease of use of many of the hormonal birth control options are appealing, but you’re worried that tinkering with your hormones might affect your mental and emotional health.
There’s no simple answer to this question, as hormone therapies can affect women’s emotions in different ways, and sometimes not at all.
To help with your family planning decision, Dr. Fernando Otero and the team here at Women’s Clinic of the Rio Grande Valley review a few ways that hormone birth control methods can influence your emotions.
If you polled a group of your friends who are using hormonal birth control options, you’d find that their experiences are as varied as they are. Women react differently to hormone contraceptives, and it largely depends on their hormone sensitivity, which is something we can’t simply measure.
Some women experience no changes in their physical, mental, or emotional health when they use hormonal birth control, while others undergo changes that range from mild to severe.
We know this isn’t a terribly satisfying answer, but the fact is that we can’t really predict how, and if, you’ll react to hormonal birth control until you give it a try.
Improving mood and quality of life
Another confusing point to consider is that hormonal therapies can have very opposite effects on a person.
For example, about 90% of women say they experience some premenstrual syndrome symptoms, such as bloating and cramps. Of these women, some experience very severe PMS, which includes mood swings, anxiety, irritability, anger, and fatigue. One of the frontline treatments for moderate to severe PMS is hormone medications that even out hormone levels and lead to a significant improvement in mood symptoms.
So, hormonal birth control medications may work to improve your emotional health.
Hormonal birth control and depression
On the flip side, hormonal birth control options are also linked to an increase in poor emotional health, namely depression. As one study states, “Hormonal contraception is known to precipitate or perpetuate depression in some patients.”
Where the connection gets murky is whether hormonal birth controls affect those who are already predisposed to depression. Even more confusing, there are studies that illustrate the opposite effect — hormone contraceptives work to improve depressive symptoms. As an example, this older study from 10 years ago found that depressive symptoms were reduced among more than 6,600 younger women taking oral contraceptives.
Instead of referencing study after study, each of which comes to a slightly (or vastly) different conclusion, we’re going to end by saying that there’s no real way to tell. We do believe that hormonal birth control options can affect emotional health, but not always and not in the same ways.
If you’d like to sit down with us to discuss this further and figure out your next family planning steps, please contact one of our offices in McAllen or Edinburg, Texas, to schedule an appointment.