A jigsaw heartThis article explores the effects that hormonal contraception can have on your mental health and mood.

You may have heard people say that taking the pill or being on other hormonal contraception has impacted their mood, making them feel irritable, low, or anxious. Some people find the opposite effect and experience improvements in their mood when on hormonal contraception. It is important to remember that everyone’s bodies are unique to them and people can have different responses to hormonal contraception.

It can be really challenging starting to take hormonal contraception. It has been found that nearly half of all women who start taking the pill discontinue their use of it within the first year because of the difficult side effects. The most common side effect which causes people to stop taking the pill is negative changes in mood. However, while one method of hormonal contraception may cause negative side effects, there are many others you can try which might work a lot better for you.

Below is a list of different contraception and various findings of their effects on mood.

Pills

Different coloured pillsThere are two main types of contraceptive pills – the combined pill or the progestogen-only pill.

The combined pill is often referred to as just “the pill”. It contains artificial versions of female hormones oestrogen and progesterone, which are produced naturally in the ovaries. When taken correctly the pill is 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. It is usually taken once a day for 21 days and then not taken for 7 days, during which you will bleed like a period. Then after the 7 days you can begin taking them again.

The progestogen-only pill, sometimes known as “the mini pill”, is taken every day with no breaks. If taken correctly, it is also 99% effective.

There is mixed evidence as to whether the pills have an effect on mental health and mood. In a study of over a million women in Denmark, it was found that current users of the combined pill or the mini pill were more likely to be diagnosed with depression and be prescribed medication for this for the first time than people who were not on hormonal contraception. However, it has also been found that some people who take the combined pill experience an improvement in nervousness and mood swings. Some other studies found that people were more or less likely to experience depression based on what particular artificial hormones was used in different brands of the pill or mini pill that they were taking.

There is a chance that taking the pill can have an impact on your mood. However, this can depend on the type of pill you take so if one doesn’t work well for you another one might.

Implant

ImplantThe contraceptive implant is a small flexible plastic rod that's placed under the skin in your upper arm by a doctor or nurse. Once inserted, it can prevent pregnancy for 3 years. It is more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. It can be taken out if you have side effects.

The artificial hormone that is used in the implant is similar to that used in the mini pill. If you don’t experience any negative side effects when using the mini pill, then it is likely that you will have a similar experience with the implant.

There is some research to suggest that implant users experience some negative effects on their mood, particularly in adolescents. So, it can be a good idea to try the mini pill first to see if the implant would be a good fit for you or not before getting it.

Injection

The contraceptive injection releases the hormone progestogen into your bloodstream to prevent pregnancy. It lasts for 8 or 13 weeks depending on the type you have and is 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.

A disadvantage of it is that it can’t be removed or discontinued like the implant or pills. This means that any side effects that you experience can continue for as long as the injection lasts (8 or 13 weeks) and potentially for some time after.

The results for the contraceptive injection’s effects on mental health are mixed. Some people report worsened mood while taking it and others report an improved mood.

Hormonal coil

The hormonal coil (also known as IUS) is a small, T-shaped plastic device that's put into your womb (uterus) by a doctor or nurse. It lasts for 3 to 5 years, depending on the brand. When inserted correctly, it’s more than 99% effective.

If you experience any negative side effects, it can be taken out at any time by a specially trained doctor or nurse. There is some evidence to suggest that the hormonal coil can have a negative impact on mood, particularly when used by adolescents. However, the hormonal coil can be used to alleviate painful periods. In which case, when periods become more manageable, this can have a positive impact on quality of life.

Non-hormonal options

There are many non-hormonal options available. Since these options do not influence your hormones, you are unlikely to experience side effects relating to mental health or mood.

Coil

The coil, or IUD, is a small T-shaped plastic and copper device that's put into your womb (uterus) by a doctor or nurse. It can last between 5 and 10 years and, when inserted correctly, they are more than 99% effective.

There are no hormonal side effects, such as acne, headaches or breast tenderness. However, your periods may become heavier, longer or more painful, although this may improve after a few months.

Condoms

CondomsCondoms are the only type of contraception that can both prevent pregnancy and protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). There are two types: external condoms, worn on the penis – sometimes called male condoms; and female condoms, worn inside the vagina – sometimes called female condoms.

When used correctly every time you have sex, male condoms are 98% effective. If used correctly, female condoms are 95% effective. There are no hormonal side effects. Some people may be allergic to latex which is in most condoms but there are other non-latex brands available.

If you want to look into these options further or see other alternatives, visit the NHS page.

At Keeping Well BLMK, we can provide a safe, supportive space for you to talk about what’s going on for you. We can also help think with you about how you might want to access support and make onward referrals if needed.

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Updated on: 14/04/2022