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Birth Control Pills in Teen Years May Cause Future Depression

Woman popping out birth control pills  

A new study from the University of British Columbia in Canada has just revealed surprising and potentially distressing findings: birth control for teens may be linked to depression.

The authors, Christine Anderl, Gu Li, and Frances Chen examined over 1,200 women in the United States. Their study aimed to test the relationship between birth control and depression, focusing specifically on women who started taking birth control during adolescence.

The authors concluded that there is a long-term association between teen birth control use and increased risk of depression for women years later. These findings of the study have huge implications, not only on teen mental health but also on women’s mental health.

Altering Hormones During Puberty May Impact Development

It’s well-established that women are twice as likely to develop depression than men. But could it really be so simple that birth control is causing depression? It’s unlikely that the answer is so straightforward.

Nevertheless, the study out of Canada found that teenage girls who took birth control were 1.7 times more likely to become depressed later in life, compared to women who started using oral contraceptives as adults ⁠— regardless of circumstances like class status, age at first sexual intercourse, smoking history or previous pregnancies.

What accounts for this significant statistic? The theory, as it stands, is that changes to sex hormones during puberty have an irreversible impact on brain development. However, birth control is still only correlated with depression and has not been proved to be a hormonal birth control side effect.

What Is In Birth Control Pills?

There are so many different types of birth control pills that it’s impossible to generalize what is in them. However, there are two basic types:

  • Combination birth control pills use two synthetic hormones: progestin and estrogen.
  • Progestin-only pills contain no estrogen and only use progestin for birth control.

These hormones control how different parts of the body work, including the reproductive system.

Further Research Needed to Confirm Findings

While the study raised some very important points and was large in scope, more research on birth control pills and teens needs to take place. The researchers were only able to show that depression and age of taking birth control were linked. Now, additional research needs to take place to explain this relationship and figure out what is causing the depression and what the safest form of birth control is for both teenage girls and adult women.

Alternative Methods of Birth Control Pills

Hormonal birth control pills are very effective at preventing pregnancy but they are not the only method. There are other, natural birth control methods like the fertility awareness method. This method can be an effective, natural birth control method if it is used correctly and consistently.

The fertility awareness method basically works by tracking the days when a woman is most likely to be ovulating and become pregnant. When used perfectly, only 1–5 women out of 100 will become pregnant over the course of a year if they use the fertility awareness method perfectly. However, with typical use ⁠— which is sometimes inconsistent, 12⁠—24 women out of 100 women will become pregnant within one year.

Other methods of preventing pregnancy include:

  • Using condoms
  • Diaphragm cups
  • Non-hormonal IUDs like ParaGard

At the end of the day, young women have to weigh their options. The recent study has introduced some new questions regarding hormonal birth control that should be looked into; however, birth control pills have a long history of preventing pregnancy ⁠— which can result in better access to education, increased earnings, control over one’s life and opportunities that can lead to better mental health.

Knowing exactly what factors contribute to one’s depression or mental health can be tricky. If you think that your substance use could be impacting your mental health, reach out to Next Generation Village today to learn about dual diagnosis treatment programs and get the help you or your teen deserves.


American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “Fertility Awareness-Based Methods of Family Planning.” January 2019. Accessed September 27, 2019.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Birth Control Pill.” Accessed September 27, 2019.

Anderl, Christine; Li, Gu; Chen, Frances S. “Oral Contraceptives Use in Adolescence Predicts Lasting Vulnerability to Depression in Adulthood.” Accessed September 27, 2019.

Uguen-Csenge, Eva. “Teen birth control use linked to higher depression risk as an adult, says new research.” CBC News, August 28, 2019. Accessed September 27, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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