Teenagers, Depression and Birth Control

A new segment in a series about Healthy Living on Global TV in Saskatoon. 

October 10 is World Mental Health Day. With that in mind, Dr Jacqui Fleury, ND appeared on Global TV last week to discuss the relationship between teenage depression and use of hormonal forms of birth control.

Side Effects of the Pill and Teenagers

Generally speaking we are told before we go on the pill that the risk of pregnancy is so extreme that these side effects are of very little concern- to this extent this is true if the pill is just being used to prevent pregnancies. However, the pill and other forms such as IUDs and the patch are being used to correct menstrual irregularities, acne and mood swings.

Hormonal birth control has been associated with:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Mood Swings
  • Crying easily
  • Irritability
  • Being prescribed anti-depressants
  • Increased risk of suicide
  • Suicide risk that peaks around 2 months from beginning hormonal birth control.

Teenage Girls, Birth Control and Depression

Recent studies have shown that teenage girls starting the pill, the patch, and the IUD, were 80% more likely to develop depression.

This study found the risk of suicide peaked in the first two months from beginning hormonal birth control. Although the risk plateaued after a year, it still remained higher compared to those who never used hormonal contraceptives. The patch had the highest association of suicide attempts, with the IUD, vaginal ring and the pill following close behind.

So what can we do about this?

Awareness is key – teenage girls already have complex emotional terrain to navigate, and the key people in their lives may not make the connection between their recent changes in moods and the use of birth control. So it’s important to have someone who can watch for these changes and to try to make the connections before they are prescribed an antidepressant which could complicate things further for them.

Consider other ways to treat their menstrual irregularities and skin issues as the pill only masks the issues, and to save the pill for the years when the young woman is needing the pregnancy prevention. This is something Naturopathic doctors are very experienced in treating.

Watch the segment on Global here to find out more.

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