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SELF – The Weird Ways Birth Control Can Impact Your Mood

The interaction between hormones and mood is complicated and confusing. Sex hormones estrogen and progesterone — the target of hormonal birth control — have been thought to play a role in mood regulation and a large recent study has documented it. Comparing nationwide birth control data with antidepressant data, researchers in Denmark have found hormonal birth control to predict higher antidepressant use. I was asked to weigh in on how birth control can impact your mood for SELF, and I was very pleased to help out.


Licensed clinical psychologist Alicia H. Clark, Psy.D., agrees. “I have worked with numerous women whose birth control has appeared to suppress their mood,” she tells SELF. “When non-hormonal forms of birth control have been substituted, I have noticed a consistent trend in mood and energy elevation.” Now, she asks patients who complain about their mood if they’re on hormonal birth control for that reason.


The researchers are quick to note that most women who use hormonal birth control methods don’t get depressed, but say there is a possibility it can happen. Experts aren’t shocked at the link. Clark says hormonal birth control can always be risky for women who may be prone to emotional sensitivity because the sex hormones used in them—estrogen and progesterone—impact emotional and cognitive processing (which then impacts your ability to regulate your mood). Hormonal birth control tricks your body into thinking it’s pregnant, she points out, so it’s not surprising that it can negatively impact your mood. Indeed, some hormonal birth control options, including pills and the ring, list mood changes and even depression as a possible side effect.


At the end of the day, how you respond to birth control is a very personal thing. What works great for your friend might not be a great fit for you (and vice versa). If you suspect that your birth control is messing with your mind, talk to your doctor about alternative options. “No woman should have to endure cognitive and mood symptoms in order to maintain reproductive control,” says Clark. “There are other effective methods.”

Alicia H. Clark, PsyD

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