Is teen depression caused by the contraceptive pill?
A study that has been carried out in Sweden has suggested that hormone-based contraceptive pills have been associated with an increased use of antidepressants in young girls. Although many teenagers and young adults reported depression when they starting taking birth control pills, the link is rather controversial.
Sofia Zettermark led the research at the University of Lund, to discover if there was a relationship between the two. She discovered that teenage girls who have prescribed birth control pills, or other forms of hormonal contraceptives, were more likely to use sleep medications and antidepressants than those who were not taking them.
She looked at 12-14 year olds and found that just over 4 percent of those who used hormone-based contraception also used psychotropic drugs as well. This went some way to back up previous research from 2016, which found that the use of antidepressants in teenage girls in Norway has drastically increased over the past ten years.
Zettermark did go on to say though that she found the relationship between the two types of medication weakened as the girls became more mature, and when she looked at 20 year old women, she found absolutely no link between the two.
The study also looked at the differences between different types of hormonal contraceptives, and the link between drugs used to treat mental disorders and contraceptives were greater between the girls who used non-oral contraceptives, such as a skin patch, implant, or vaginal ring.
We previously mentioned that it was often believed to be a bit of a controversial link between the two, and this is because not everyone has found the study to be all too convincing. Steinar Madsen, who is the Medical Director at the Norwegian Medicines Agency, believes that the study has weaknesses, and does not believe that it sufficiently rules out the possibility that the differences could be due to random co-variation. He believes that it is very difficult to correctly identify all of the differences that are found between the groups, saying;
“The big problem is that girls who use birth control are not the same as those who do not use birth control…The first group may have been in contact with the healthcare system earlier, for other issues.”
He also believes that they do not take into consideration the teens who may use contraception because they are in a relationship, which in itself could cause stress, and this could be why there is a link, adding;
“But it may also be that birth control pills interfere with the biology of teens to a greater extent than when they are older.”
In answer to his criticisms though, because of the type of study that Zettermark has carried out, however; it relies on data that has been provided from a register, which then makes it completely impossible to draw conclusions about the health of specific individuals.
In a final note, Zettermark does acknowledge that many women use hormonal contraceptives, and suffer no ill effects and that the results of her study should not discourage young women from using them.