"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Do hormonal contraceptives increase the danger of depression? A neuroscientist explains how they affect your mood, for higher or worse

More than 85 percent are women – And More than 300 million people Use hormonal contraception for at the very least five years of your life – at any time worldwide. Although primarily taken for contraception, many individuals also use hormonal contraceptives. Manage different symptoms. From menstrual cramps and pimples to mood swings.

of the Up to 10% of womenHowever, hormonal contraceptives may increase their risk of depression. Hormones, including estrogen and progesterone, are necessary for brain health. So, how do changes in hormone levels with hormonal contraceptives affect mental health?

I'm a A researcher studying neuroscience Stress and emotion-related processes. I also study gender differences in vulnerability and resilience to mental health disorders. Understanding how hormonal contraceptives affect mood can assist researchers predict who will experience positive or negative effects.

How do hormonal contraceptives work?

In America and other Western countries, The most common form of hormonal contraception Is “bullet” – a mixture of an artificial estrogen and an artificial progesterone, two hormones involved within the regulation of menstruation, ovulation and pregnancy. Estrogen coordinates the timely release of other hormones, and progesterone maintains pregnancy.

This could seem counterintuitive – why do the natural hormones needed for pregnancy also prevent pregnancy? And why does taking hormones reduce the extent of the identical hormone?

When estrogen and progesterone reach a certain level, the body reduces their production.
Dharani Kalidasan/RI McLachlan et al. 1987 via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

Hormone cycles are strictly controlled by the hormones themselves. When progesterone levels rise, it prompts processes within the cells that stop the production of more progesterone. It is named Negative feedback loop.

Estrogen and progesterone from the each day pill, or other common types of contraception comparable to implants or vaginal rings, cause the body to scale back production of those hormones, reducing them to levels observed outside the cycle's fertile window. It does. It strongly inhibits the hormonal cycle required for ovulation, menstruation and pregnancy.

Brain effects of hormonal contraceptives

Hormonal contraceptives affect greater than just the ovaries and uterus.

The brain, especially an area called the hypothalamus, Controls synchronization. Ovarian hormone levels Although they're called “ovarian hormones.” Estrogen And Progesterone Receptors are also present throughout the brain.

Estrogen and progesterone There are wide-ranging implications On neurons and cellular processes unrelated to reproduction. For example, estrogen plays a job in controlling the method. Memory formation and brain protection against loss. Progesterone helps. Manage emotions.

By changing the degrees of those hormones within the brain and body, hormonal contraceptives can improve or worsen mood.

Hormonal contraceptives interact with stress.

Estrogen and progesterone also regulate the stress response – the body's “fight or flight” response to physical or psychological challenges.

The most important hormones involved within the stress response—cortisol in humans and corticosterone in mice, each abbreviated as CORT—are primarily metabolic hormones, meaning that blood levels of those hormones increase during stressful situations. I get more energy from fat stores. The interaction between the stress system and reproductive hormones is a crucial link between mood and hormonal contraception, as Energy regulations It may be very necessary while pregnant.

So what happens to someone's stress response once they are on hormonal contraceptives?

When exposed to mild stress—sticking your arm in cold water, for instance, or standing up to present a public speech—women using hormonal contraceptives A small increase in CORT in comparison with those not on hormonal contraceptives.

Stressed man looking at laptop with elbows and hands over mouth.
Chronic stress can worsen mood.
Vera Levchuk/Moment via Getty Images

Researchers observed the identical effect Rats and mice – Female rats and mice also suppress the stress response when treated each day with a mixture of pill-mimicking hormones.

Hormonal contraception and depression

Do hormonal contraceptives increase the danger of depression? The short answer is that it varies from individual to individual. But for most individuals, probably not.

It is significant to notice that there isn't a direct correlation between a rise or decrease in stress response. Vulnerability or resilience to depression. But stress is closely related to mood and chronic stress. There is a considerable increase risk for depression. By modifying the stress response, hormonal contraceptives alter the danger of depression after stress, providing “protection” against depression for a lot of and “increasing risk” for minorities. More than 9 out of 10 people Those who use hormonal contraceptives won't experience mood swings or depressive symptoms, and plenty of will experience improved mood.

But researchers don't yet know who will experience the increased risk. Genetic factors and previous stress exposure Increased risk of depression, and it seems. Similar factors Contribution to hormonal contraceptive-related mood changes.

Currently, hormonal contraceptives are commonly prescribed. By trial and error – If one type causes negative effects in a patient, one other type with a distinct dosage, delivery method or formulation could also be higher. But the “try and see” process is ineffective and frustrating, and plenty of people surrender somewhat than move on to other options. Identifying specific aspects that increase the danger of depression and higher communicating the advantages of hormonal contraception along with contraception can assist patients make more informed health care decisions.