No link between birth control and depression, study says

Story highlights

  • Meta-analysis of 30 years of studies shows no link to depression
  • New study looks at progestin-only birth control

(CNN)An analysis of 30 years of research finds no correlation between progestin-only birth control methods and depression, said Dr. Brett Worly, lead author of the new study and OB-GYN at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

"A lot of my patients want to know if their birth control will lead to depression," explained Worly. "This one concern sometimes keeps them from choosing a method. Based on our findings, it shouldn't be a concern for most women, and they should feel comfortable knowing they're making a safe choice."
    "This is an interesting finding," said Dr. Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz, a Los Angeles OB-GYN who is also board certified in integrative and holistic medicine, who had no involvement in the study.
    Gilberg-Lenz says additional data-based research is welcome. "The difficulty I have in clinical practice is that I have so much anecdotal evidence, and patients also arrive with their biases," she said.

    Progestin-based birth control

    Progestin-only methods include the "mini" birth control pill and longer-lasting forms of contraception such as an implant, or a shot of medroxyprogesterone commonly known as Depo-Provera.
    Progestin-only methods must be taken at the same time each day, and work by thickening cervical mucus and thinning the lining of the uterus, preventing the sperm from reaching the egg and implanting if it does. These methods also block ovulation, but not reliably.
    Progestin-only birth control is often used by women who want a longer-lasting form of contraception or who want to avoid taking estrogen due to a history of blood clots or cancer concerns.

    Combination birth control

    In 2016, Worly and his colleagues published the same type of meta-analysis on combined hormonal birth control, which uses both estrogen and progestin, and works by blocking ovulation. The study found that it, too, had no strong connection to an increased risk for depression.
    Worly's research appears to contradict a large study published in 2016 that found an increased risk for depression in Norwegian women taking hormonal birth control compared to women who didn't use contraception.