The contraceptive pill is the leading form of fertility control – but at what cost?
Just after my 18th birthday, I started using Levlen ED – a low dose combined oral contraceptive pill which I used for regulation and control of my pre-menstrual symptoms.
After a short time on Levlen, my pre-menstrual symptoms decreased and my cycle was regulated. The side effects, however, were nothing compared to this small feat.
After six months on the pill, I put on 10 kilograms, was diagnosed with depression, prescribed antidepressants and was dealing with constant, chronic headaches.
A recent study from the University of Copenhagen has confirmed a clear-cut link between oral contraceptives and depression, especially among adolescents.
In the revolutionary study, over one million Danish women between 15 and 34 were tracked for 13 years.
The researchers found that women taking the combined oral contraceptive, known as the pill, were 23 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with depression. Similarly, those taking the “mini pill” were 34 per cent more likely.
Women seeking alternatives to the pill, such as the patch and the ring, were also shown to suffer an increase in depression, much higher than that of the pill.
Just like myself, none of the women studied had a previous history of depression – they were prescribed antidepressants after using contraception.
Mia Smithfield, 20, was on the pill for two months before her anxiety began to spiral out of control.
“The doctor told me I can’t go on any form of contraception because of my anxiety,” she said.
Tyla Creighton, 17, recently had the rod implanted in her upper arm as she considered it a better alternative for her.
In the first two months after the implant, she suffered more frequent menstruation, weight gain, and mood swings.
I swear all the pill does is make you fat hungry and depressed
— Meg (@_megankiely) October 6, 2016
Jessica Walker, 20, had to see a psychologist after taking the pill.
“It caused intense mood changes and it really affected my emotions,” she said.
Zoe Robertson, 18, became severely depressed after taking Levlen ED. “My doctor never warned me about this side effect,” she said.
These four interviewed by The Newsroom seem typical of the multitude of young women who have experienced negative effects from the pill and other forms of contraception.
“There’s a joke in this field that a male pill is always five to seven years away from the market – and that’s what people have been saying since 1960.”
– History professor Andrea Tone, McGill University
Clearly, shopping for contraception options for women is like looking at a list of bad side effects and choosing which ones you’d rather put up with.
After dealing with chronic headaches for months on the birth control pill, I asked my doctor what else I could try. He told me that, unfortunately, other options such as the implant and the shot would not suit me as, for someone who had developed depression on the pill, the alternatives carried the additional risk of suicidal thoughts.
So here’s my dilemma – should I live with chronic headaches on the pill? Or try another form of birth control and end up in a deep, dark hole? I mean, what else is there? Abstinence? Joining a convent? Being born a man?
Today in the news: the pill causes depression & Adult Swim is sexist. Sounds like the news JUST started listening to its GF when she talks.
— Eliza Skinner (@elizaskinner) October 4, 2016
After having products like the pill on the market for over 50 years, surely it is high time we had something that works.
We need a birth control option that doesn’t amp up your risk of depression, doesn’t cause chronic pain or result in dramatic weight changes.
Our birth control options should do just that: control our ability to reproduce without destroying other aspects of life and health.