Health Care

Birth Control Pills Affect Women's Well-Being

Birth Control Pills Affect Women's Well-Being

Confirming what women have known for decades, a new study has found that birth control pills can make women feel terrible.

However, these potential side effects aren't noted by any medical bodies, leaving many unaware of the risk. Now, this study proves that their quality of life is significantly affected if they take oral contraceptives. This means if 10 women not taking hormonal birth control develop depression, then 18 women on the birth control pill will develop depression.

"This might in some cases be a contributing cause of low compliance and irregular use of contraceptive pills", explained co-author Niklas Zethraeus of Sweden's Karolinska Institutet.

In this study, he says, "it is likely that most of the women starting oral contraceptive pills felt the same or even possibly better, and the small percentage of those who felt worse would be the ones to stop the oral contraceptives here".

"Despite the fact that an estimated 100 million women around the world use contraceptive pills we know surprisingly little today about the pill's effect on women's health", said Angelica Hirschberg, the lead author of the research.

This is recommended as the first choice for most women as it is considered to carry the least risk of blood clots - one of the most feared side-effects.

The Swedish researchers wanted to test this hypothesis and see how birth control pills might impact a woman's life.

After three months, however, the women who'd been taking the active pills estimated their overall quality of life to be lower than those who'd been taking placebos. They specifically scored lower - based on self-reports - on measures of well-being, self control, and vitality.

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No significant increase in depressive symptoms was observed.

"We do not want women to stop using oral contraceptives due to our results but if a woman is anxious about negative influence on mood and life quality she should discuss this with a doctor", noted Hirschberg.

Research is ongoing into the link between breast cancer and the pill.

Ethinylestradiol and levonorgestrel are ingredients that are both used in Microgynon and Rigevidon, two of the UK's most frequently prescribed contraceptive pills.

That hormonal birth control can affect a woman's mood is no surprise.

Since the changes were relatively small, the results must be interpreted with a certain amount of caution, researchers said.

The researchers also said that the findings can't be generalised to other kinds of contraceptive pills.

Now a randomised, placebo-controlled study may prove them right, finding those taking the combined pill do experience a drop in wellbeing.


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