The introduction of the birth control pill Enovid in 1960 allowed women to conveniently and discreetly take control of their reproductive health. Unfortunately, the pill came with some serious side effects such as blood clots, a risk of stroke, and mood swings. While barrier methods such as condoms appear to have no effect upon moods, research offers mixed information as to how many women experience negative mood changes as a result of hormonal birth control methods.
According to the National Library of Medicine, barrier methods don’t have any impact on women’s moods. A 2003 Harvard Study of Moods and Cycles studied 658 women and found that16.3 percent reported negative mood swings after starting the birth control pill. The same survey found that 12.3 percent of women thought that their mood actually improved while on birth control. The majority of women in the study reported no mood changes whatsoever.
Barrier methods such as condoms and diaphragms often have a lower efficacy rate than hormonal methods and can be inconvenient, but since these methods have no impact upon moods or libido they are often recommended for women who have a sensitivity to other methods. Hormonal forms of birth control such as the pill, the patch, the ring and IUDs all carry labels on their packaging warning of possible side effects, including mood swings. Dr. Donnica Moore states that pills with a stronger progesterone component might cause women’s depressive symptoms to worsen.
Anecdotal evidence abounds regarding the birth control pill and its effect upon mood and libido. The Hormonal Contraception Update, published in 2005 by Paru S. David, lists mood swings and irritability as one of the main reasons women decide to discontinue hormonal birth control, with 5 percent of the women they surveyed stopping their use for this reason. Whether or not this side effect impacts a statistically significant part of the population appears to be difficult to answer given the mixed research results offered by the Harvard Study of Moods and Cycles.
The Harvard Study of Moods and Cycles discovered that women with a previous history of depression were more likely to suffer negative mood changes and depression when taking the birth control pill. Only about 25 percent of women with a history of depression reported this symptom so doctors continue to feel that hormonal birth control methods remain a valid option for all women, even those with a depressive history. Women who reported PMS and severe cramps and pain with menstruation as teenagers were more likely to report that birth control pills helped their mood as well as their symptoms.
Most women are unlikely to experience severe mood changes while on hormonal birth control, but if you feel that you are experiencing mood swings and other side effects, discuss it with your doctor. If you have a history of depression or mood disorders, you should disclose it to your doctor before taking any type of hormonal birth control pill. When on the pill, make sure you call your doctor if you notice that your mood worsens or you have feelings of depression.