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4 Psychological Side Effects of Birth Control

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The most common hormonal birth control methods are the oral contraceptive pill and the birth control shot Depo-Provera. Both contain synthetic forms of the hormones estrogen, progesterone, or both. The upside to birth control is preventing pregnancy.  But, to reap that benefit, you may have to deal with unpleasant psychological side effects. For some women, the psychological side effects are so debilitating that they quit using their birth control.

Uncontrollable mood swings

Of all the PMS side effects, mood swings are the most common. Do you feel very irritable, short-tempered, and out of control? Hormonal birth control can make your mood swings much worse, to the point of crying for no reason, feeling very bad about yourself, and feeling unable to enjoy life. Up to ten percent of women are unable to tolerate synthetic progestin, an ingredient in birth control.


In the days before your period, it is natural to have an emotional shift causing you to feel less confident about yourself, emotionally sensitive, and moody. However, when these symptoms change from uncomfortable feelings to depressive symptoms, such as an inability to get out of bed, feeling extremely unhappy about your life, and significant appetite changes, you need to be concerned.

Research measuring the clinical impact of oral contraceptives found that woman taking the pill are more likely to suffer from depression than non-pill users. Woman using birth control with low amounts of estrogen had more instances of depression than those on birth control with a higher estrogen dosage. 

Studies have shown that women with a history of depression symptoms can be worse when they are on birth control. If you have a history of depression and feel a significant change in your emotions leading up to your period to the point of suicidal thoughts, speak to your doctor about alternative birth control methods 

Change in sleeping patterns

It’s normal to have an off day here and there where you feel you can’t drag yourself out of bed. But if you feel like this every day, your birth control could be affecting your sleep patterns. A constant sleepy feeling could be caused by too much progesterone. 

Loss of libido

Birth control has been found to reduce sexual desire in women. Most combined birth control pills contain the female hormones estrogen and progestin. These hormones tinker with the way your body works. Many of these combined pills lower your testosterone. Testosterone is the hormone that makes you want to have sex. We generally think of testosterone as a male hormone, but women also have it, just not as much. 

The oral contraceptive decreases ovarian production of the female form of testosterone, called androgens, which ignite sexual desire. If you have low levels to start with, oral contraceptive can lessen androgens to a level that can suppress libido and sexual desire. 

Just because there have been links between birth control and mental health issues doesn’t mean that birth control will have psychological effects on everyone using it. However, if you are struggling with any of these side effects, get help from a medical adviser without leaving your home using telemedicine. Companies such as Nurx use technology that allow you to connect with a medical advisor online without a long wait at the doctor’s office.

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Michaela Jones is a well-being practitioner based in London. 

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