New research confirms that The Pill, and other female hormonal contraceptives, increases a woman’s chance of becoming depressed (and suffer other mood disorders). Women know this obvious fact. It is a source of great consternation because married women, especially, seek a birth control method that isn’t permanent, but isn’t annoying or has harmful side effects. After all these years, there isn’t one.
The Pill’s physical side effects — high blood pressure, headaches, UTIs, etc. — are well known but also downplayed. Abortion and then The Pill are the foundational cornerstones of the Sexual Revolution. “Consequence-free” sex like men have could only happen if women could prevent pregnancy and enjoy free sex and then abort a baby should she find herself pregnant anyway. She could get rid of her “punishment.” Both the medical profession and the feminist movement have wanted to ignore the negative health consequences of hormone-based contraception and abortion.
The data, the science, is not on their side.
The Pill not only can harm a woman’s body, but her mind as well:
Women who used the combined birth control pill, a mix of estrogen and progestin, were 23 percent more likely to be prescribed anti-depressants than nonusers, and progestin-only pills raised the likelihood by 34 percent. With the patch, antidepressant use doubled; risk increased by 60 percent for vaginal rings and 40 percent for hormonal IUDs.
And for teens age 15 to 19 taking combined oral contraceptives, the use of anti-depressants spiked 80 percent.
Although those percentages may seem shocking, the absolute change is a small but significant spike. Among women who did not use hormonal birth control, an average of 1.7 out of 100 began taking anti-depressants in a given year. That rate increased to 2.2 out of 100 if the women took birth control.
It’s the first study to conclude there might be a link between birth control and depression, author Øjvind Lidegaard told The Washington Post. Mood swings are often listed as a known side effect, but not clinical depression.
“It’s not in your head,” one woman wrote on Twitter, sharing the study results.
“This kinda research/publication is exactly what i was looking for,” said another.
Women know well how The Pill and other hormone-based contraceptives affect them. Or, they think they know until they go to their doctors who tell them that The Pill is harmless. This doesn’t always happen, but it happens enough that women doubt themselves.
The study authors say they can come up with no other logical explanation, but in the absence of definitive evidence of causation, other scientific experts proposed counter theories for what might have caused the depression instead — among them, being lovesick and heartbroken.
“With having a million women, there are 101 things that are variable here,” Diana Mansour, vice president for clinical quality at the Faculty for Sexual & Reproductive Healthcare in London, told Metro UK. “There’s other things going on in their life like relationships, relationships breaking down and especially with adolescents — just being in a sexual relationship.”
Catherine Monk, an associate professor in psychiatry, obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center, offered a similar counter-theory.
“The possibility that this link between love, sex (contraception), and feeling depressed is strengthened by the fact that the contraception-depression link was strongest in adolescents, those who are at the developmental stage where trying to find a romantic partner is paramount,” Monk told the Huffington Post.
It did not take long for observations like these, published in stories about the study, to outrage some women online.
In a column for the Guardian, writer and birth control critic Holly Grigg-Spall called this rationalization “pillsplaining.”
“It seems that no study will ever be good enough for the medical community to take women’s experiences seriously,” Grigg-Spall wrote. “As soon as this research dropped, the experts lined up to deliver their usual mix of gaslighting and paternalistic platitudes.”
It’s apparently acceptable to blame women’s depression on the fact that they’re women, but it’s not OK to claim a powerful medication formulated from synthetic hormones could be at fault.
To me, and many other women, these Danish researchers are heroes and criticism of their methods … only highlights the incredible knots the medical establishment will twist itself into in order to deny there’s a problem with the pill.
The resistance in the feminist medical establishment is as much the problem. Feminist doctors take paternalism to a higher level. Where male doctors may pat a woman’s head, a woman doctor will deny, outright, another woman’s experience, telling her that it’s not possible that she’s feeling what she’s feeling.
What none of these commentators get to is why feminist doctors might be so attached to protecting The Pill. The answer is simple: Should research continue to come out that The Pill is not the side-effect-free, sexual liberator panacea that it’s been portrayed as, women are overtly back to where they’ve always been — at the mercy of their bodies and biological rhythms. They’re not biologically and sexually “equal” to men. The Pill was supposed to be the great equalizer. That has always been a fantasy.
Women bear the brunt of child making and therefore have great interest in their reproduction choices. There’s more at stake biologically. The Pill was supposed to fix a woman’s biological vulnerability. She could prevent having a baby, so it gave her birth control. It didn’t and never could, but there’s been a lot of defensiveness around admitting The Pill’s limitations.
|Method column (1)||% of women experiencing an unintended pregnancy within the first year of use|
|Combined pill and progestin-only pill||9||0.3|
Women still get pregnant on The Pill. Plus, there are significant health consequences for monkeying with the body’s hormone system. One of them is confirmed, now, to be depression. The Pill is not the great liberator it was hoped to be. For some women, it can be burden and trap.
A woman’s body cannot be hormonally “controlled” without side-effects. Like any drug, there are trade-offs. In the politicized world of medicine, it’s not politically correct to acknowledge this scientific fact. Until this research, women have been told that feeling depressed while using The Pill was all in their heads. Turns out, it actually is, but not in the way doctors thought.